How Do Trending Topics Pick Up Steam

The Holy Grail of Twitter awareness comes in the form of the 10 Trending Topics that appear on most peoples home profile screen (unless you have it filtered by city in which case your topics are going to be slightly different from the worldwide default).

If you’re looking to use Twitter’s Trending Topics to give your latest campaign a little push, you might be out of luck. These topics reach the eyes of millions of users, but could be one of the hardest clubs to infiltrate in the entire web.

But let’s at least take a look at what gets them started and who is responsible for making them take off.

General Popularity
When you are talking about Trending Topics you are talking about a global (albeit very United States-centric) consciousness. This is not a small community concerned with a single topic, Twitter attracts every type of online user and as such their Tweets are equally as diverse.

Until an algorithm change by Twitter earlier this year you could expect that whatever was a popular thing worth mentioning would be a trending topic; and it would stay that way for a long time. Credit goes to Justin Bieber, who rose from the Internet-celebrity ranks to become a bonifide superstar in the real world. But once he was there you couldn’t scrap the teen heartthrob off Twitter’s sidebar.

With Twitter’s algorithm change the topics are forced to be of recent popularity and topics that have trended before are rarely seen again. But that doesn’t mean that popular culture still doesn’t hold a permanent stake on the trending list.

Popular News Events
With Twitter’s main purpose being an online extensive of real-world conversations it is no surprise that popular news events will naturally become Trending Topics.
And even with Twitter’s demographic statistics, National news stories are still a major concern for all groups. You can bet news to be a constant on the Trending list.

Large Networks
The most curious Trending Topics are the hashtags that seem to spring from nowhere and elicit action from other users; the #CoolestMovieLine and #MyGirlfriendLikesMy type hashtags.

These tags seem to appear naturally and really get people involved in the conversation; a marketers dream come true! But just how do these work?

If you click on any such hashtag and search through the people that are tweeting them on Twitter you can scroll back to the beginning. You can see the first group of people who started using the tags. And more often than not these people will share a lot of similarities; they might show the interest in the same things in their tweets, they will be high volume tweeters, they will have a decent amount of followers, and they will usually be black. But who are these people?

They are huge networks of people that really grabbed hold of Twitter and made it their own. As first adopters interest waned, this group chose it as their new favorite Internet community. They made lots of friends, they participated A LOT. And the Truth or Dare style hashtags were their idea as well. And unless you are part of the group (which could take a lot of time being involved in the Twitter community) you aren’t going to influence their hashtags.

Twitter Celebrity
The question of how to become a Twitter celebrity is often answered with, “Be a real world celebrity first.” Consequentially the question of how to start a Trending Topic can be answered in much the same way, “Be a Twitter celebrity.”

There are countless examples of Twitter accounts with 100,000 and over followers simply starting a trend by asking for their followers to play along. It is that simple.

Frank Anderson is a social media and tech analyst. He also works on email exchange hosting with


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