Bernie Goldbach at the Clonmel Chamber | Photo of a past trending event
Now, three disclosures. First, I teach Social Media to third level students in Ireland and each year several of them make some money by knowing how to engender conversations through tactics I'll share in this blog post. Second, because some event organisers have spotted my attendance at trending events, I often get invitations to attend paid events for free. This means I've been part of three trending topics arising from Irish conferences in 2012. Third, some people don't like watching their Twitterstreams fill up with hashtags so they might use a variety of tactics to clean their timelines of unwanted hashing, they might unfollow the hashers or they might block you. All three have happened to me, suggesting if you're part of a trending thing, you might shed reach or influence.
1. A trending topic on Twitter is a phrase or hashtagged item with a measureable amount of velocity for its region (or time zone).
Twitter built its algorithm on hashtags worth trending by referencing real-time natural events such as fires, explosions, attacks or natural disasters. In a mathematical model, these events have a point of impact, measured in terms of time, place and audience. So if you have an event with a kick-off time and it starts with a bang that's observed in three or more ways by a connected community, you might have the makings of a hashtagged trending topic on Twitter. I'll explain more.
2. The prime determinant of a hashtagged trending topic is the velocity of its occurrence in a sample of geographic tweets.
I'm repeating myself because my students need the repetition to grok the concept. You need to know the difference between "speed" (like the ability to launch three tweets a minute, something Twitter might discard, you spammer) and "velocity" (the vector of speed as measured on the hashtag's communal mention). An effective hashtag gathers speed as it's mentioned by several people in the same geographic region. Twitter's sample points are geographic so if you have a large virtual audience and a large physical audience tweeting the same hashtag, the virtual audience's tweeting actions don't contribute to the sum of trending actions for the region (but they would be additive for a global measurement).
3. Astute active collaborators make it easy to trend a topic.
If you're known as a "live scribe", you've the skillset that folds into a trending topic posse. This means you can live blog and produce a succinct post about the event you're attending, share the post in other social networks, and reference it via a short and snappy customised URL. And you can do that at least once an hour.
If you are blessed with an interactive audience, one watching and conversing with you as you tweet about the hashed event, you're an "astute active collaborator". If you can work a local list with direct AT-replies to people who will respond with the hashtag in their tweets, you're qualified to be part of the trending topic posse. If your active friends in the same geographic country are curious enough to ask about the hashed topic on the public timeline, you might be able to generate the velocity Twitter needs to call something a trending topic.
Astute and active collaborators do more than tweet--they spark retweets with hashtags as well as new hashtagged tweets that link to related collateral. Collaborators can live blog, produce live audio, share photos of the event on popular networks, embed video into tweets, and link the event hashtags to slideshares. They're generating content just like a reporter would cover breaking news on the steps of the criminal court. They know the people reading their tweets appreciate shared links as a labour of love.
4. Essential collateral for a potential trending topic.
a. The programme needs a compelling item with a hero shot. This might be a keynote speaker with a recognisable name, a lovely face walking the venue, over-sized characters shaking hands, a big head on a screen, a comic act kicking off the event. Many of these things pique the curiosity of readers and can spark a conversation that builds into a trending topic.
b. Pre-cooked links. You need a series of links to agenda items, bios, photos, sound clips, short videos, newspaper items, and contact details. If readers click into those items, they get colour and background. Some may act on what they see, doing more than retweeting a hashtagged link.
c. Well-composed imagery (photos, word clouds, artwork) tells stories worth tweeting. The imagery can be years-old on Flickr. It should also be snaps shared on popular apps like Instagram and Picplz. You need to leverage the apps your hipster friends use as their most frequently-used aps.
d. Several easily findable pieces of web content should exist when people search for the hashtag on their phones. You can pre-cook the post with the hashtag in the title of the post. You should also lay the hashtag in captions on photo-sharing sites, on Facebook and on Foursquare.
5. Share as a Protip.
I have five other observations about how we made trending topics at three events I attended in early 2012 that I will share in a half-day workshop about Protips for Effective Social Media in LIT-Clonmel on Tuesday, May 22, 2012 with the Clonmel Chamber of Commerce. I'll make an Audioboo of my sharing session and hope others who make hashtagged topics trend on Twitter will continue sharing as well.
Tweetadder helps manage the noise and identifies collaborators.
What The Trend lets you create and monitor hashtag trending topics on Twitter.
Monitter tracks trending topics on Twitter with custom columns and numbers.
Trendistic offers live Twitter trends monitoring and analytics.