Trending Topics Exposed


I remember a colleague coming up to me with pride in his voice, saying that we managed to get our event last night on the Trending Topic of Twitter.

I applauded his enthusiasm but then asked him what did it mean for our company and the event?

He couldn’t really explain, apart from saying that theoretically a lot of people would be aware of our event, and therefore our company, because the hashtag made it to the Trending Topic.

I then asked him how does one get on Trending Topic on Twitter. He wasn’t sure but mumbled something about x number of retweets, y of them by users with huge followings.

This incident underscores the difficulty a rational mind would have when it comes to the question of how to measure for success on social media.

I come from an old school tradition that says that whenever a client pays us to help them communicate, whether using media relations or through paid, earned, shared or owned media, the communications must yield a result: it should either increase awareness of a brand or corporation, shift people’s attitude toward it or change people’s behaviour. All else is meaningless.

But because social media is so relatively new, many people do not understand that it is a tool, a channel like any others. Taking advantage of this misunderstanding, charlatans posing as messiahs of a new age have introduced all sorts of fancy terms and measurements so that they can make marketeers feel comfortable in hiring them.

So now in social media we have success measured in terms of reach, impressions and engagement. How these metrics will help a company or brand remain mysterious. Output is mistaken for outtakes and outcomes.

So its refreshing to see articles like this below that strip the mystique of Trending Topics as a measure of success. What do you think?

Trending’ on Social Media Is Worthless

By Brian Feldman  @bafeldman

In the wake of last week’s Parkland high-school shooting, right-wing conspiracy theorists are pushing the ludicrous story that the teenage survivors speaking out against gun violence are “crisis actors” — dupes hired to pretend to be victims of tragedy.

Earlier this morning, the top trending video on YouTube was one implying that David Hogg, one of the students pushing for legislative action on gun control, is an actor. What does it mean, exactly, for something to be “trending”?

YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter all make frequent use of the term, but none of them have a public or transparent definition — let alone a common one. When we sort through our feeds, “latest” has an obvious chronological sorting mechanism; even “popular” has a fairly clear and agreed-upon definition.

“Trending,” however, does not. It’s similar, but not the same as “popular”; generally speaking, it means “popular, in some relative, technically defined way.” That is, the “trending” sections of major platforms are, as of now, algorithmically determined, their contents selected by formulas developed internally at those companies and kept private.

Automated software determines what is trending, and it does so by examining the content according to a set collection of factors. YouTube, for instance, identifies trending videos by examining aspects like the view count, the rate of audience growth, and the age of the content.

A five-hour-old video is more likely to be trending than a five-year-old video; a video that goes from 100 views to 1 million is more likely to trend (yeah, it’s a verb now) than a video that goes from 250 million views to 251 million. Other factors might be considered as well.

A YouTube star with millions of subscribers and hundreds of uploads might be judged on a different acceleration rate than breaking-news footage uploaded by a guy with 19 subscribers.

Read more

2 thoughts on “Trending Topics Exposed

  1. I agree that it’s a good piece. Brevity is always good. Those same charlatans you mention poison the well for the rest of us digital experts. We measure our client’s success on social media in classic ROI terms, but within the context of the strategy employing this channel. We’re interested in new enterprise customers for your MNC and if social isn’t part of a sales funnel with a bottom line, why bother?

    Liked by 1 person

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