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A guide to trending topic (TT): what it is, algorithm and case study

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Discover the meaning of trending topic and how to take advantage of it in your marketing strategy

You have probably heard more than once a TV presenter euphorically announce that his programme "is trending topic in Spain". But what does it mean? This concept (abbreviated as TT) was created by Twitter to establish the trending topics at a specific time and place. In other words, they are the most commented phrases and keywords among users of the social network. Among them, we can also find hashtags, terms preceded by a hash (#) called "tags" in Spanish. Following the popularisation of this term, it has begun to be used outside Twitter by the media or other social networks, but its main field of action is found on this platform.

Thanks to trending topics and its algorithm (which we will talk about later), Twitter is the most instantaneous social network of all. It is closely related to current affairs and news, and companies are using this quality to stand out from their competitors. Likewise, marketers can take advantage of this tool to create a social network strategy that is more connected to users and current affairs or to launch their own trending topic. We will go into these topics in more detail later, but before..

how can I check trending topics?

Initially, Twitter offered a list of the top 10 trending topics, but the number has long since been extended to 30. In this way, the trends on this platform serve as a reliable representation of current topics, ordered according to their importance at the minute. Of course, in addition to consulting the general list, you can click on each trending topic to read the most recent tweets published by users on the subject, as well as the most popular ones so far. Let's look at all this in an image:

Guía sobre el trending topic (TT): qué es, algoritmo y caso real

If you have a Twitter account, you can access it from the "Explore" tab (or, if you're on mobile, from the magnifying glass in the bottom bar). If you don't have a profile, try this link to consult the list. Even so, we recommend having your own account if you're looking for a more rewarding experience with this tool. In fact, Twitter designs a personal list for each user of the trends most in line with their interests (available in the "For you" tab). In contrast, "Trends" shows the official list in real time. In the settings icon, located at the top right, you can explore trends from other countries, regions or even the whole world.

Complementary tools

In addition to the conventional method, there are various options for consulting the list of trending topics and analysing their behaviour. Let's take a look at some of them:

  • 50trends. This website expands the Twitter list and establishes the 50 trends of the moment in any part of the world. It also offers graphs with the evolution of each trending topic by hours, which allows you to discover which ones are growing, which ones are maintaining their position and which ones are losing positions.
  • trends24: Similar to 50trends, but with a more intuitive and visual interface.
  • trendinalia: In this case, it organises the trends by days according to the time each term remains on the list.
  • trendsmap is a more professional tool with several payment options, although the free version offers the most viral tweets per day, a map with the most commented topics in each part of the world during the last week and a list of the Twitter profiles with the most followers.

how does the trending topics algorithm work?

For a topic to reach trending status, it must first meet the demands of the Twitter algorithm. Although its recipe is not public, we know that there are several elements that it takes into account:

  • When the first tweet was created- Twitter benefits those topics that go viral quickly, so the first tweet should coincide in time with the rest (especially if the trend is a hashtag).
  • The account that made it: the number of followers of the profile that first launches a hashtag is also important.
  • The number of users participating: it is clear that a topic is not trending if there are no people talking about it. The key is that many users comment a lot at the same time. In this way, it is common to find television programmes or sporting events on the list of trending topics.
  • The variety of tweets: Compared to its beginnings, Twitter offers many possibilities when it comes to publishing a tweet. You can include words, images, videos, GIFs, polls, links... It is important that the interactions around a topic are varied so that Twitter recognises your interest.
  • The number of retweets: In addition to tweets, retweets are also very useful, i.e. the number of users who share a tweet on their timeline with their followers. This is another way of showing Twitter that the topic is relevant.

I want my brand to be TT

Having a clear understanding of what Twitter expects from a trending topic, we can try to launch our own trend as part of a marketing strategy. Even so, in the event of not achieving a TT, all the activity generated would work to create a community with your followers, viralise your brand and reach new users. But, first of all, you have to establish a plan following these recommendations:

  • Create a new hashtag. To make the process easier, invent a never-before-used hashtag made up of between 10 and 21 characters. It should be as simple as possible.
  • Choose the perfect time. During the day, the flow of content on the network and the number of topics varies depending on the time zone. Thus, in the morning, trends are less active than in the afternoon. Take into account the most important events and take advantage of the quieter slots.
  • Propose campaigns and attractive dynamics that encourage users. Seek maximum interaction through marketing proposals that awaken the interest of your followers and other users. An example would be a sweepstakes or a contest whose prize is a product of your brand or a discount coupon.
  • Remember the elements that Twitter's algorithm values and add them to your campaign organically. You have to find the balance between simplicity and completeness.
  • Hire influencers: A good option would be to use influencer marketing to collaborate in the TT and achieve greater impact.

Case study: PcComponentes

At this point, we are ready to analyse a successful case. To do this, we have chosen a campaign by the company PcComponentes from September 2021. Their strategy is clear: to be TT, gain followers and expand their audience. To do this, they launched a prize draw for a computer worth around 1,500 euros. Users could participate by retweeting, following two different accounts of the brand and writing a comment with the chosen hashtag: "#YoTambienQuieroUnPcCom". What was the result? They reached the top of the trending topics in just four minutes.

This is an account with a large number of followers, an original hashtag, an attractive proposal, many users commenting at the same time and a call to action: retweet and comment. Moreover, they published the tweet at around half past one in the afternoon. Beyond the success achieved, very conditioned by the product to be raffled, a good idea would have been to encourage users to write more tweets if this increased their chances of winning. Therefore, now that you know how trending topics work, you can prepare your own strategy and make the most of it.

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