Our founder Jo was recently interviewed on BBC CWR about trending on Twitter. Listen to the interview here (fast forward to 2:42:00).
A word, phrase, or topic that is mentioned at a greater rate than others is said to be a “trending topic” on Twitter. The number of tweets required for a trend can vary widely but it is estimated the average trend has an expected shelf-life of around 11 minutes. In general, a trend is determined by an algorithm that takes into account the number of tweets with a particular hashtag or keyword, as well as the velocity at which those tweets are being sent and the level of engagement (such as likes, retweets, and replies) that those tweets are receiving. Factors such as the number of verified accounts discussing a topic and the location of the users tweeting plus the overall popularity of the hashtag can also affect whether a trend is considered to be significant.
It is worth noting that Twitter adjusts its algorithms for determining trends on a regular basis, so the number of tweets required for a trend may change over time. Additionally, trends can vary from region to region, so the number of tweets required for a trend in one location may be different from the number required in another location.
The exact factors that the algorithm takes into account are not publicly disclosed, so it is difficult to say exactly how many tweets are required to make a trend. It is generally accepted that a trend on Twitter involves a significant amount of activity and engagement around a specific topic. There has been speculation that, on average, a topic needs more than 112,000 tweets to reach the top 10 and more than double that to be the top three. However, it is difficult to determine exact numbers or the largest topic to ever trend on Twitter because trends are constantly changing and there is no comprehensive record of all the topics that have trended on the platform.
Typically, some examples of topics that have trended widely on Twitter in the past include major global events, such as natural disasters, political elections, and sporting events; cultural phenomena, such as popular movies, TV shows, and music; and significant news events, such as terrorist attacks and celebrity deaths. For example, #gfvip, a hashtag for Big Brother Italy, stayed as a top trend for 58 days — this was the longest duration record of 2020, according to Jungle Marketing.
In 2022, it was reported that “#ImportedHakumatNamanzoor” was the largest trend on Twitter with more than 106 million tweets in total in a period of under 7 days, according to Tweet Binder’s data. The trend was started by Pakistan’s (now) former Prime Minister, Imran Khan after he accused the US government of trying to oust him. His supporters started tweeting with this hashtag and it became a global top trend across 25 countries.
And let’s not forget the massively impactful #MeToo. The Me Too movement was actually founded back in 2006 but it wasn’t until 2017 that it exploded into mainstream media. This was largely due to Alyssa Milano who posted a tweet about sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein which helped spread the phrase. The hashtag was used 19 million times in the space of 12 months and even had different variations of the tag, including French and Arabic.
Then there are the likes of Steven Barlett, Dragon and Co-founder of Social Chain, who turned his social agency into a global phenomenon by harnessing the power of the hashtag. Social Chain had access to hundreds of large social communities that cover varying interests from movies to sports. They used these profiles to talk about a given topic/hashtag simultaneously to create a ‘The Thunderclap’ and, in turn, trend their client to millions of potential customers. Clever.
But before you feel disheartened, we have also worked with clients that have trended with just several hundred people talking about them. It may seem obvious that having big, verified accounts discussing your hashtag helps but you can also trend with lots of localised, niche accounts flurrying to a topic. For example, #SavingBritishHedgehogs trended 17th during its first episode with the help of one Tweet which received 1.4k likes and 471 Retweets.
Next time you’re at a networking event, why not test it? Ask the delegates to all tweet using the same hashtag at the same time, will it trend? Maybe…