What is Trending on Social Media?


The term “trending” refers to topics or keywords that are popular on social media at a given moment. Trends are highlighted by platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok to encourage discussion and engagement among their users. Trends are determined by algorithms that analyze activity, including hashtags and keywords, to identify the most engaging topics. Trends can be global or local to a particular community or location. They can also be specific to a certain time period or event, such as an anniversary or holiday. Trends are not to be confused with fads, which are temporary and short-lived, such as the ice bucket challenge from 2014.

Trending can have a significant impact on a brand or creator’s online visibility. Getting in the list of trends can bring new viewers to a channel or website, and increase search engine optimization (SEO) results. However, the popularity of a trend can also be used to promote negative or controversial ideas, which may not be ethical or healthy. Consequently, there is a fine line between following the crowd and creating content that is not only entertaining but relevant.

To appear on the “Trending” list, a topic must have a sufficiently concentrated spike in user activity to signal to the platform that it is worth highlighting. This means that a sudden interest in a topic must be sustained over a period of days or weeks for it to remain in the trending list. If a topic is in the trending list for too long, it may be dropped from the list. This is done to keep the list of trending topics as up-to-date as possible, and prevent spammers from using the feature to game the system.

Aside from political events, holidays, and cultural phenomena, most trends stem from viral content, online campaigns and challenges, or other social media activities. The most successful trends can have a long-term impact, becoming engrained in the public consciousness and even returning as a fad from time to time. Trends can be difficult to spot at their inception, but usually boil down to a cyclical process by which styles or tastes are adopted and shared by a critical mass of users.

Many social media platforms have their own curated trending sections, such as Instagram’s “Explore” tab, X’s “Trending” topics, and TikTok’s FYP. These are often influenced by location and personalization to ensure that the most popular topics are displayed. YouTube, for example, displays trending searches on the homepage and in its Explore tab based on a user’s geographical region. YouTube’s Trending page is also influenced by the views and watch times of videos uploaded by a creator. This can lead to creators taking slights like being left off the trending page as a sign that their content is not being valued.