What Does it Mean to Trend on Twitter?

By Benny Taylor

Twitter trends identify the people and events Twitter users are talking about.
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The Twitter microblogging site operates an algorithm to determine which topics are the most discussed via Twitter users at any given time. The most popular topics are known as "trending topics." Significant world events, international sports results, and news about popular celebrities are among the items that commonly "trend" on the Twitter site.


Twitter is a widely used social networking site that allows users to post short text "tweets" of up to 140 characters. Twitter works by allowing you to "follow" other users, who may be friends, celebrities or companies. In turn, other Twitter users can choose to follow you. When you log on to Twitter, you see a feed, which shows you the tweets of all the users you have chosen to follow.


It is common for many Twitter users to be tweeting about the same topics at the same time. Twitter's trending algorithm identifies these popular topics by detecting when words or phrases are being frequently mentioned in tweets. Twitter then lists the current top 10 topics on your Twitter home page.

You can click on any of the topics in the "Trends" list to view a feed of all the recent tweets containing the trending topic. This includes tweets from all Twitter users, not just those you have chosen to follow.


Twitter users commonly use "hashtags" to participate in trending topics. To use a hashtag you include the name of the topic after the hash (#) symbol within your tweet. For example, during an international sports event such as the World Cup, Twitter users will append "#worldcup" to the end of their tweets to show their tweet is related to the topic. The tweet then appears as part of the feed if people click on the "#worldcup" topic on the Trends list.


Twitter sorts trending topics by geographical region. By clicking the "Change" link near the Trends list, you can choose to view worldwide trending topics, or to view the topics trending in a specific country or city.


Companies and individuals sometimes try to manipulate the trending system to promote products or simply spam Twitter users. Twitter warns that they may ban users abusing the system or block their tweets from appearing on the news feed. Check the Twitter rules if you intend to use the site as a marketing tool.