My attention was drawn to a tweet last week from a website called Trendsmap. It appeared to declare that a Twitter user name (@username) was trending, I was confused initially, how can a username trend on Twitter? So I looked into it further, yes the name was trending but not on Twitter it was trending on the Trendsmap website which has it’s own process for defining trending topics. Still a scoop for the person concerned but sadly nothing to do with the Twitter algorithm.
What are trending topics on Twitter?
Trending topics tell us what people are talking about the most on Twitter, we can pick up breaking news stories or have fun with #tags. The new tailored trends can even limit these results to the people we follow. Getting a #tag or your own to trend on Twitter will draw attention to your cause, it’s a great way to raise awareness of a topic and for that reason can be valuable for marketers. A good trending #tag will peek the interest of people who may not have otherwise been aware of your brand.
Just in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, trending topics appear on the left hand side of your stream on the web app, they pick out the most talked about terms on Twitter. Right now for example ‘Christian Bale’ ‘OCD’ ‘Madge’ & ‘#30thingsaboutme’ are trending in Ireland.
You can change the settings for your trending topics by clicking ‘change’, this allows you to choose the location that you would like the trends to be relevant to (for example Ireland) and it also offers you ‘Tailored Trends’. These are a new way of calculating trending topics from those you follow on Twitter, a really handy way to find out what is relevent to your audience.
How are trending topics calculated?
The trending topics on Twitter algorithm is quite complex, Twitter don’t give us all the secrets behind the algorithm but just enough for us to understand how it works. Topics trend on Twitter when they are being talked about most, right now. They can be compared to the ‘breaking news’ section of a media website. They essentially are the most talked about topics on Twitter but with some exceptions.
Trending topics are determined by volume of tweets by multiple users so by including a hashtag repeatedly in your own tweets you won’t make it trend. It takes a volume of people using the tag for that to happen.
To continue trending over a period of time new people have to start using the phrase or tag, so unless you can consistently persuade new users to tweet about your topic it will soon stop trending. A misunderstanding of how this works meant that many accused Twitter of censorship at the height of #occupywallstreet protests last year. In fact Twitter wasn’t censoring, the tag had just peaked user wise and wouldn’t trend again unless a significant number of new tweeps started to use it. A trending topic cannot become a trending topic again unless it is picked up by a new group of users.
You will notice that @usernames don’t trend on Twitter. For example, although ‘Christian Bale’ is trending on Twitter today and it would be possible for christianbale and #christanbale to trend the username @christianbale would not make it into the trending topics list.
So what is Trendsmap?
Trendsmap is the site that was tweeting people telling them that their @username was trending. It is unclear how they calculate trending topics but it does seem to be a lot less complex than Twitter, all phrases, topics and usernames seem to have the potential to trend using the website. It is a gauge of how popular you personally are becoming compared to other users in Ireland at a specific moment in time. Although it’s a compliment to be told you are trending this way it doesn’t have anything to do with trending topics.
The cynic in me wonders if they just use this to attract the attention of influencers on Twitter who in turn drive traffic to their website so that they can sell advertising, however I could be being unfair. What do you think?
More reading on trending topics