Avoiding trends is a great way to keep our closet free of outdated clothes. Avoiding trends on social media, though, is a huge mistake. Social media trends give us instant stats that we can use to for fine-tuning, content ideas that will get noticed now, and even links and social recommendations that help our brand climb to to the top of the pile.
Twitter, Google+, and Facebook all use trending information, though how they use it and what they offer us is different.
Trends And What’s Hot On Google+
Google+ began adding trends in late 2011. Trends are only visible on Google+ after we do a search, and they are not related to our search. They will appear in the right side bar.
It seems strange that Google+ has buried trending topics by keeping them off of the main page making them available only after we look for something. There is potential in Google+, though, as with all things connected to Google, that what is trending on Google search itself might eventually integrate with how Google+ features trending topics. Right now, we can use Google Trends to see what’s hot in Google search at any given moment.
Google+ profiles offer individual users the option to include What’s Hot in their feed. Users can control how much of this they see by going to their What’s Hot page using navigation in the left sidebar, and adjusting settings. They could turn it off entirely if they wanted to. That end-user control, mixed with a bit of mystery, makes What’s Hot a bit of a Wild West; Google doesn’t tell us how they determine what makes it on the list. At face value, it features posts that are getting a lot of shares, comments, and +1′s. While we can’t control our content to the extent that we make it viral, we can increase the likelihood of getting shares, comments, and +1′s by using a strong visual element, strong written content, and working to increase the number of people who have us in their circles.
Trending Topics on Twitter
Twitter has shown trending topics for a while, and offers them some customization. Users can choose if they want worldwide trends, United States trends, or even trends specific to a list of selected cities.
Twitter’s trending topics are constantly changing, and provide real-time information on what Twitter users are talking about now. However, they don’t show what people are necessarily looking for, only what is being tweeted. Because Twitter bases the trends on a very simple “most talked about” basis, the trends can sometimes be gamed. Justin Bieber, anyone?
Facebook Groups The News Feed By Topic
Facebook groups posts in user’s news feeds by topic. Whether or not the posts are tagged, Facebook collects them under one roof and presents like-posts in one grouping:
You may notice some of your News Feed stories are now grouped together by topic. We want to show you the most relevant and interesting information, and this test is designed to show you trends among what your friends are saying.
Any time multiple friends or pages in the user’s news feed post on the same topic, they are collected into a grouping of collapsible content, a kind of story. This story will read “[Friend's name] and [X] other friends posted about [page name].” The name of the Page will be linked automatically.
While Facebook likely did this to help organize an otherwise cluttered feed, it really gave brands a great opportunity. For free, our link is provided through the natural conversation on Facebook. We don’t have to do anything for this to happen, and it keeps mention of our brand on the news feed longer. It also shows a user that several friends have talked about our brand, which builds trust. If we’re active with our brand on Facebook and can get users to share our posts, there is a good possibility that we can help create a story around our content and gain more fans for our page.
Making The Most Of Trends
From a content-creation standpoint, we can see what people are talking about and either join in the conversations and possibly be added to additional circles, or we can create content ourselves and find new audiences as people find us through trending topics.
Facebook, Google+ and Twitter work with trends differently, and though Google+ offers us the least amount of control as content creators, we can still use these same techniques to some extent for each of them.
Plan ahead, and think of upcoming events (holidays, Super Bowl, World Series, Inauguration, etc.) that we can post content about. If breaking news — local, national, or world — happens, get in on the conversation at the ground floor. Find a way to connect our page to the trend, and both start a conversation while getting in on it. Planning ahead is probably the best way to take advantage of what trends have to offer.
Using the tools Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ provide, watch the trends regularly. Look for topics that we can weigh in on, topics that can connect to our brand or might be of interest to our fans and followers.
Use hashtags and other key words so we are included in trends. Make sure we give our posts every chance of being included and found by an audience eager to find out what’s happening right now on a specific topic. Think how each social media system uses and looks for trends, and create content accordingly.
Understand how trends work for Facebook, Google+, and Twitter, and use that to our advantage. For once, siding with the popular kids might be OK.