Creating a hashtag and seeing it show up on the "Trends" sidebar on the Twitter page represents a big win. Trending topics are the most popular topics, and Twitter defines what's trending by taking a short-term look at which hashtags are used most often by the most users. Although the Trends list can include sponsored hashtags, those without deep ad budgets can still bring their hashtag to trend with some careful planning, good writing, and a lot of good luck.
Creating a trending topic can be one of the most valuable marketing strategies in a company's arsenal, but it's not just a numbers game. While viral action may come spontaneously and unexpectedly, more often than not it is the result of many hours of careful planning, development of highly relevant and well-written content, and the recruitment of as many partners in advance as possible.
Recruit Key Influencers
The most exciting and well-written Twitter content will fall flat without key influencers and evangelists on your side. Before beginning the campaign, discover the key influencers in your space. Opening a restaurant for example, requires the restaurateur to forge social media relationships with food bloggers and critics. This is perhaps the most difficult part of the process, as these influencers are besieged daily with people wanting their attention. Offer them entertaining and compelling content with a unique message to give them a reason to help your cause. Recruiting influencers must be an organic process, though -- using fake accounts, bulk follows, or requiring app users to follow a Twitter account to download it are all considered spam by Twitter, and these techniques must never be used.
Build a Twitter Team
Some hashtags reflecting extremely popular movements still don't become trending topics, because Twitter's trending topics are more of a reflection of the "right now" than they are long-term trends. As a result, it takes a little coordination between all of the influencers, evangelists and other parties to make a hashtag gain traction. Take time to communicate strategy with partners, develop a schedule and common messaging tactics to be used by everyone involved, and provide partners with ready-made tweets.
Write Compelling Content
Beginning with an easily remembered (and easily typed) hashtag, take time to carefully craft a large collection of highly relevant tweets before beginning. The perfect combination of informality, paired with messages prepared with good marketing strategy in mind, yields the best results. Keep in mind, just because it's only 140 characters doesn't mean that tweets can be carelessly and quickly written. Take time to craft professional messages that are fun, direct and to the point.
Even the most carefully planned strategy will fail if the content is not compelling, though. Create a hashtag that a broad audience can relate to, that is funny or entertaining, and that encourages participation.
Ride a Trend's Coattails
Only a handful of hashtags out of thousands makes the Trends list, and it may be easier to ride the coattails of an existing hashtag to get the same results. This strategy involves seeing what is trending, finding hashtags that are relevant to your goal, and adding that hashtag to your tweets. An example is the popular San Diego Comic-Con, which was trending under the #SDCC hashtag, and the way that the @LEGOBatmanGame took advantage of this highly relevant trend by adding it onto its own tweets. The results paid off in terms of more follows and views.
Understand the Twitter Algorithm
Like most social media algorithms, Twitter's algorithm is a black box, the inner workings of which are not disclosed to the public. What is trending however, is determined automatically by the algorithm which examines hashtags and how frequently they appear at any given time. More focus is on bursts of activity rather than long-term presence, and this factor means success requires advance planning, coordination with partners, and a carefully crafted message that begs to be shared.
- Edelman. Follow the Fellows: How to Trend a Hashtag.
- The Daily Dot: Twitter's New Anti-Spammer Rules Affect You, Too
- NPR: How Twitter's Trending Algorithm Picks Its Topics
- Forbes: How to Get Your Hashtag Trending
- Ignite Social Media: How twitter's Trend Algorithm Works.
- SproutSocial: How to Use Hashtags on Every Social Media Network
- Photo Credit Robert Churchill/iStock/Getty Images
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