Why do I love Twitter? Trending topics. Local trending topics. Worldwide trending topics. You name them. Let's kick-start this article by providing some quick stats for Twitter provided by Twitter.
Apparently, Twitter has 320 million monthly active users. Big time brands, SMEs, celebrities & freelancers use Twitter as a powerful platform to host campaigns. A trending topic is highly-searched and drives a huge amount of traffic for a short time. What a worldwide trending topic gives you is exposure, not longevity. How it affects you and your brand is entirely up to you so you have to think thoroughly what you want to achieve with a successful trending topic implementation.
If you manage to get your topic/phrase/hashtag trend worldwide, you will reach millions of people in a matter of minutes. The best part is that you can make this happen without spending a cent. However, if you want a guaranteed worldwide trending topic, YOU CAN have it (with a $200,000 price tag).
In this article we are not going to cover the logistics of finding $200,000 for your trending topic. I am here to show you how I have started over 80 (I kid you not) worldwide trending topics in the last four years for free.
Long story short, I run a Twitter account that supports Jared Leto and his band Thirty Seconds To Mars. It is on its way to 50,000 followers and it has evolved to something greater than just another fan-page. People call me by my first name, I post things about my life, I share all kinds of content that I find entertaining and challenging, I ask questions to make people think. I built a community through the years that I am very proud of.
Building a following and getting that following to trust you can't happen overnight. So if you don't have a following to begin with, I can't come up with a way to get your hashtag trending. You need people to spread your message. You could have thousands of followers but if you don't interact with them, you will not be able to get them to help you. Why would they? It's not like they will gain anything. Unless...
You give them something to tweet for. My followers' main interests are music and film (by 95% and 70% respectively, thank you very much Twitter Analytics). My account focuses on them since Jared Leto, the lead singer of the band, is also an established actor (He won an Oscar in 2014, no big deal). Therefore, I trend things related to them and I ask for help from people who are interested in them (aka my followers).
The phrases I get to trend are usually announcements and suggestions for the band. There is almost always a specific reason we decide to trend something.
The "Don't click this" trending topic has a funny backstory. Actually it's the one trending topic I can't take credit for. That was all Jared Leto. When you clicked on that bad guy (because surely you would!), you would be introduced to Leto's livestream platform called VyRT. It's a great platform if you are into watching artists hosting exclusive events in real-time (You can have access with a ticket price). The reason I'm mentioning this is because once I got my Twitter username to trend no #1 on Twitter thanks to these tickets.
That was fun. I & another fan-page called ACall2Arms hosted a Twitter giveaway of VyRT tickets. We told people that all they had to do was tweet the phrase above and they would immediately enter to win a ticket for the VyRT platform. Boy, did it work. We trended worldwide within 10 minutes. The best part? I didn't even plan it. The second best part? It looks really cool having your Twitter handle up there.
Giveaways are always an effective way to get something trending. Ask your followers to tweet & RT a specific hashtag/phrase (that probably includes your organization/brand/company name) in order for them to win. You probably noticed the common link among the trending topics above. They are all phrases. They are not hashtags. That's my big secret. I can't back this up with research studies because this is not science. This is something that I have noticed along with my followers. Phrases trend MUCH EASIER than hashtags. Why? I wish I knew. Maybe it's coincidental but our rate of success when it comes to trending hashtags worldwide is relatively small.
My most valuable tip is to plan ahead and notify your followers about the exact time of your "trending" attempt. For example, if you want to host a Twitter giveaway on Thursday, announce it on Monday. Tweet something like "We are giving away a pair of xyz headphones on Thursday at 13:00 GMT. Make sure you are online & tune in!". Give daily reminders on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday, you want to make the reminders more frequent. Tweet a countdown and get everyone excited for 13:00.
If you don't manage to trend your hashtag/phrase within an hour, I suggest you give up. All the trending topics that I have started have happened within the first 45 minutes. Besides, the half-life of a tweet is 24 minutes which means that half of the engagement & impressions of a tweet happen within the first 24 minutes of its birth. Be (kind of) aggressive with your tweeting. Encourage people to help you and as suggested above, give them a reason to.
Another useful thing to remember is that retweets matter. Trending topics tend to appear from retweets, rather than a high volume of original tweets. This is why you need to let your audience know that they should ALSO retweet tweets that include your hashtag/phrase. This is crucial. I always remind my followers about it because somehow in this complicated Twitter algorithm, the retweets are definitely in there.
Don't be afraid to ask for help from social influencers. In my case, influencers are other fan-pages that have the same target with me: To get important information about the band trending. In your case, they might be ambassadors of your brand or big fans of your organization. Go ahead and message them beforehand, letting them know about your plan and talk about how you can work together to get the most out of your respective audiences.
Last but not least, you have to understand that a trending topic isn't generated based on the frequency that it's being tweeted. If that were true, "Kardashians" would be trending all the time. In fact, the trending topic algorithm has been massively improved since it was first launched. "Justin Bieber" used to be a trending topic for days. What matters now is how quickly a topic gets popular. "Obama" might be getting 10-20 mentions per second which is a great number but it doesn't trend. However, if Barack Obama makes an important statement, "Obama" will be getting 80-100 mentions per second. At this point "Obama" WILL trend because the specific topic receives extra attention.
What does that mean for you? It means that if your hashtag was getting zero mentions per second (maybe because it didn't exist before?) or a low traffic number such as 1-2 mentions per second and suddenly you created buzz around it, your mentions-per-second number would increase. This sudden increase would make Twitter pay attention to what you have to say. I have made trending topics happen with 20-35 mentions per minute (that's very low for a worldwide trending topic). It's not impossible to see your desired hashtag/phrase there. You can make it happen. Come on, try it.
I know you want to.