What makes a topic trend on Twitter?

When I saw that #cewevents was a Twitter trending topic during the Cosmetic Executive Women (CEW) Product Demo for their Beauty Awards on March 6th, as the head of Kaplow’s analytics department, the first thing that jumped out at me was that it made the list alongside Rand Paul. Paul made history that day with his 13-hour filibuster and over 1 million tweets about it. The #cewevents hashtag was not tweeted 1 million times, which made me curious…what are the factors behind a trending tweet?

Some seem to think that there is a science to becoming a trending topic. Just this past November, a team at MIT developed an algorithm to predict trending topics. According to Twitter, the trending topics you see are due in part to your location and the topics that the algorithm feels you are interested in based on who you follow. Other trending topics that accompanied #cewevents, aside from national and local news, leaned towards style and beauty. So we know that we successfully reached the ideal target to see the #cewevents hashtag.

CEW 2013 Beauty Awards tops twitter

There were 460 tweets on March 6th using the #cewevents hashtag, peaking at the start of the event at 6pm, which accounted for a third of the total tweets. The users who tweeted were split evenly in terms of influence level, with more influential users tweeting during the 6pm spike and the hour leading up to it.

Growing use of the #cewevents hashtag immediately preceding the event likely played a hand in it trending. Even the MIT researchers put the prediction time for a trending topic at only an hour and a half in advance. It is believed that sudden increases can help a topic become trending, regardless of the actual number of tweets. This may help explain why our 460-tweet trending topic was on a list with others that had half a million to a million tweets; the ramp-up and the jump may have been a comparable ratio.

Here are the key lessons to keep in mind for trending topics:

  1. Know your audience. Craft your hashtag and tweets to contain keywords that will be relevant to a topic your target Twitter user is interested in. If the hashtag/keywords are tweeted by a user similar to one that the target might follow, there is an even greater chance that it will end up as a trending topic for them.
  2. Organization is key. The same amount of tweets spread out throughout the day are not likely to lead to a trending topic, but might if they are concentrated to a small window of time (as in the CEW example, the event was only an hour).
  3. Influence matters.  This was a unique situation where there were other brands tweeting about the event alongside beauty bloggers with loyal followings.
  4. Promotion has a place. The most popular tweets of the night were from @CVSBeautyClub, running a gift card promotion alongside the CEW event.


This is a follow up to the original post CEW Trends on Twitter!

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