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Blog - June 29, 2012

Twitter Trending 101 #ftw

Posted by Meg Kerr in social media, Twitter, trending, viral

“Viral”. It’s a magical word in the hallowed halls (and by “hallowed halls”, I mean vaulted open concept loft space) of Mosaic’s Creative & Interactive headquarters in Liberty Village. I’ve been asked many times, without a hint of irony, to ‘make something go viral’ - as though ‘making something go viral’ is tantamount to making, say, an instant coffee in the Aramark machine. But I digress – the point I’m trying to make is that virality, however you define it, is often a key measure of success when it comes to social campaigns. One social network where this is relatively quantifiable is Twitter; trending topics are social marketer gravy. Naturally, we were pretty happy that our WestJet #NYCASAP hashtag was trending in Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton and nationally.  On the heels of this social success, we thought it was fitting to share some interesting “insights”: on how, from a technical standpoint, to trend on Twitter:


1.     Tweeting more frequently won’t make you trend: While hashtags do depend on frequency, they also have to come from a diverse number of accounts.

2.     Number of people tweeting about a hashtag matters more than the number of tweets: As you can gather from point number one, what matters to Twitter is diversity. For example, it’s better to have 200 consumers mention your hashtag once than to have 5, say, influential bloggers mentioning it repeatedly.

3.     Slow and steady wins the race:  It’s better to have a large group of people use the same hash tag over a relatively long period of time – this way, you’re more likely to catch on gradually and grow momentum globally.

4.     Time zones matter: In a time zone where there is lower Twitter penetration? That could be beneficial if you’re trying to trend – for example, if you’re in South East Asia and trying to trend something while North America is sleeping.

To reiterate, these are some technical parameters for trending. However, there are a lot of tips and tricks brands use to get a hashtag trending (can you say,  “retweet contest”?). But for true, organic trending (and, from a broader perspective, virality in general) one of the key components is simply share-worthiness – by that I mean, is the content or conversation something that a diverse group of users will feel compelled to share? As marketers, our ultimate challenge is not to choose the perfect hash tag or post at the ideal time of day, but rather to have a strong enough understanding consumers’ motivations to create content that is deemed valuable enough to share. 


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