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Trending topics online

By Fiona Dixon | 20 October 2014

Keeping up with news and information in today’s digital world can be a daunting task. Anyone who uses social media for marketing or communications needs to know what is happening in the online world, so that they can engage their audience, discuss hot topics and attract people to their website or business.

Trending topics cover anything and everything - news, current affairs, sports, politics, advancements in science and technology, and the world of celebrities, fashion and gossip. Staying abreast of trending topics in areas relevant to you or your business will help you develop relevant content that your followers will find interesting.

So, what is the best way to monitor trending topics? There are several ways that you can do this, but the most reliable information about trends is likely to come from the most used social media sites and search engines.

Google is the world’s most used search engine, and provides the useful tool Google Trends, which enables us to see the topics that are being searched most frequently on the Internet. Google Trends’ charts, highlighting top trends, can be customised for your needs, showing global or national trends or what is happening in relation to specific topics.

Twitter’s popularity makes it another useful source of information about trending topics, letting you view trends that are specific to your interests or location. For example, according to Trendsmap, which maps real-time local Twitter trends, today’s popular searches in Brisbane include “Iraq”, “Abbott”, “Bishop”, “burqa” and “Ebola”.

Buzzfeed is a US news and entertainment aggregator website. Content includes everything from news to the ubiquitous animal pictures and, as it is arranged according to popularity, this site also provides a good overview of trending topics. There are many other tools, such as Swayy, Google +, Zite and Reddit that can be used to find trending information.

It is also important to monitor your own social media, responding to questions and comments, and interacting with your audience. By using social media to converse with your customers, rather than merely as a tool to push advertising, your customers are more likely to engage with you and create the buzz you’re looking for.

I am also fascinated by what makes some online topics so much more popular than others, and have been enjoying Jonah Berger’s book, Contagious: Why things catch on. Berger discusses the reasons that certain ideas or online content becomes popular or “goes viral”. He claims that it is not advertising that “sells” online ideas, but people listening to their peers. Online material that takes off is likely to include a number of attributes, including social currency, evoking emotions, and having practical value. Berger explains the importance of these (and other) concepts in his very readable and thought-provoking book.

Contagious: Why things catch on is available at State Library of Queensland. We also have a number of other books, ebooks and online information on this topic, available through our One Search catalogue. So now you can enjoy keeping up with trending topics, and understand why those topics are so hot!

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