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13 Ways to Track Trends on Social Media

Max Freedman
Max Freedman

Understanding social media trends enables you to respond accordingly, thus improving your social media marketing strategy. Here's how to monitor social media trends.

Because trending topics change rapidly, it can be challenging to keep track of what's hot on each social media platform. However, catching a trend at the right time can offer a big boost to your social media marketing. To do so, you need every tool at your disposal, and you should know what social media trending topics are and how to find them. This guide will give you the tools to track and respond to social media trends.

Just as trending topics are constantly in flux, social media trends themselves continue to change. Here are some social media trends experts expect to see in 2020 and beyond, according to a survey conducted by social media management tool Hootsuite:

Brands strike a balance between public and private engagement.

This trend means that more companies will start messaging people directly or privately on a social platform. Public social media content and posts will still be part of the equation, but consumers shouldn't be surprised to see their favorite brands reach out to them directly.

Employers take center stage in a divided world.

Big-name companies are expected to use their social media content to detail new policies that will benefit their employees. A great example from 2019 is the 181-company "Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation" tweet that showed how the signatories would work to give back to their communities and customers.

TikTok shakes up the status quo.

TikTok is a relatively new social media platform that's popular particularly with Gen Z. You should consider embracing TikTok for Business, as the video-based social media platform continues to swell in popularity despite a September 2020 attempt by the Trump administration to ban it. (That ban was subsequently blocked by a U.S. District Court judge.)

Social marketing and performance marketing collide.

In 2020 and onward, a marketing strategy that harnesses the power of a social media platform's built-in audience will involve social media ads that encourage clicks, leads or sales. In other words, the goal is not social media engagement through likes, shares and followers, but conversions.

The social attribution gap closes.

Sales attribution has long been a key challenge of using social media engagement as part of a marketing strategy. Through UTM codes with tracking parameters, experts expect companies to make significant strides in attribution so that companies know where their sales are coming from.

To identify and track topics that are trending on social media, you should know which social media sites have the most users. Here are the six most popular social media sites, with approximate active monthly user counts, as of February 2020:

  1. Facebook: 45 billion
  2. Instagram: 1 billion
  3. TikTok: 800 million
  4. Reddit: 430 million
  5. Snapchat: 360 million
  6. Twitter: 330 million

It may come as a surprise to not see Twitter ranked in the top five, but don't make the mistake of entirely discounting Twitter. The platform's 330 million active monthly users are still a powerful crowd, and every social listening expert knows the power of a Twitter trend for marketing.

Now that you know what social media trends to expect and where to find them, you may be wondering how you can follow a specific trending topic. There's no shortage of online tools for finding trending social media topics and harnessing their power to improve your marketing strategies. [Read related article: 5 Practical Tips to Improve Your Social Media Marketing]

These 13 tools for tracking trending topics represent only a sampling of the available options, but they are among the most reputable.

1. Google Trends

Google Trends is the best way to monitor trending topics on an expansive level. Because Google Trends uses search data, it will give you a much broader picture of what is trending than you'd see by analyzing data on a single social network, and that data may help you make more informed decisions on what you promote, engage with and follow. You can set up a Google Alert for any keyword you want to watch, so you will always know what is happening.

2. TweetDeck

TweetDeck is a free Twitter monitoring tool that allows you to track certain hashtags and keep tabs on their popularity. It's also an overall Twitter management dashboard that displays your timeline, messages and notifications all in one place so you don't miss anything.

However, you cannot use TweetDeck to monitor other social media platforms, and it's not as versatile as dashboards such as Cyfe and Hootsuite.

3. Hootsuite

With a wide selection of tools and a great method for searching across several social media platforms, Hootsuite allows you to monitor trends all day, every day, whether just one trending hashtag or a variety of social media trending topics. Be sure to check out Hootsuite's webinars to see some of the lesser-known features available to pro users. You can read our review of Hootsuite here.

4. Cyfe

This all-in-one social trend dashboard allows you to build your own tools. It offers widgets that can create just about anything you need for social media, business, marketing or research. Cyfe is a great way to clear the clutter while tracking a ton of trending hashtags and keywords within one dashboard.

5. Tumblr

By the time you see a meme or other trending content on Facebook, it may well have been circulating on Tumblr for weeks, or even months. Though not as popular as it once was, Tumblr is a great source of internet content – especially in the pop culture realm – right when it has been posted, and you are sure to see it first if you keep your dashboard filled with a good selection of active blogs.

6. Reddit

Reddit is another great place to see things early on. But unlike Tumblr, which is more meme-based, Reddit shows trends in different categories. A trending story about technology sometimes drops there first, and Reddit's "Ask Me Anything" discussions are a great way to engage directly with experts. You can also look at Trending Reddit to see what is hot at any given time.

7. Facebook for Media

If you are a journalist, Facebook for Media is an option for you. It is open only to those who can provide proof of press passes. The dashboard generates a feed of trending topics, hashtags, conversations and users. You can see the popularity of a hashtag or conversation over time and use that information to follow hot stories that might be relevant to you. Facebook for Media integrates with Instagram search, creates quick leaderboards, curates content and data, and more.

8. Geofeedia

Do you need to see what is trending in different locations? Try Geofeedia, an analytics tool that tracks what is happening in different locations across the globe. You can find patterns based on those regions and act on trends as they happen. You can also track a trend's progress from one region to another to establish a timeline for future use.

9. Social Mention

Social Mention allows you to track trends across multiple social platforms. Just search for a keyword or phrase, and Social Mention will tell you the networks where that search term is  the most popular, along with other metrics, such as whether the sentiment associated with the trend or term is positive, negative or neutral.

10. Top Hashtags

Top Hashtags monitors the hashtags that are trending on Instagram, and you can search to see how popular hashtags are even if they aren't on the top lists. The tool is easy to use and very informative. [Read related article: The Secret Guide to Instagram Influencer Marketing]

11. Personalized Facebook ads

When there are so many topics trending on social media, delivering a personalized trend to a customer can make your brand stand out. Personalized Facebook ads can help you determine how to develop a customized trend for a customer.

However, personalized Facebook ads are different from the other tools listed here. Whereas the other tools help you identify social media trending topics, personalized Facebook ads may better indicate a second round of personalized trends for a given user. Let's say your social media trend research points to an ongoing internet conversation about the benefits of leather jackets for the fall season. Given this info, you can use Facebook's personalized ads platform to target users who might be interested in your company's leather jacket offerings and customize your ads to best appeal to them. Then, based on the level of engagement you see with these ads, you can figure out what trends most strongly appeal to your targeted user.

12. TubeBuddy

It can be easy to forget that YouTube is also a social media platform. TubeBuddy allows you to perform keyword research on the platform so you can determine how to shape your company's next YouTube video. If you want to connect your brand to something trending in pop culture, TubeBuddy can be especially useful, because pop culture is among YouTube's most watched content categories.

13. Feedly

While Feedly may be best known as a popular news reader, your company can also harness its power to identify social media trending topics. Feedly points to which blog topics are resulting in the most conversation, and you can use this data to inform your company's next blog post. As with any content, be sure to share your blog post through social media.

Ann Smarty contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.

Max Freedman
Max Freedman,
business.com Writer
Max Freedman is a freelance writer who covers best business practices for business.com and culture for publications including The A.V. Club, MTV, Paste, FLOOD, and Bandcamp. He lives in Philly and doesn't miss his native New York.