Twitter has established itself as one of the leading social networking communities. A large part of its popularity comes from the ability of users to quickly share news and opinion among friends (followers).
Trending Topics are a crucial facet in this rapid proliferation of information. Featured at the right-hand side of the Twitter homepage, these are a collection of the ten most frequently used words or phrases by the majority of users at any one time.
Twitter creates this list by analysing the frequency of keywords in each message (called ‘tweets’) posted on the site. If a certain keyword is used by a proportion of different members in a set period of time, it is included on the Trending Topics list.
This list allows users to quickly discover, and contribute to, the most popular conversations taking place on Twitter at any one moment. Sometimes, users place a hash tag (#) in front of the keyword. This allows users to easily distinguish a topic.
Here is how the process works:
A single message (or tweet) is posted by user A. It includes a keyword or phrase (e.g. theEword),
Followers (user B and user C) of user A either repost this original tweet (called a re-tweet or RT) or individually respond to the topic being discussed. Users B and C both post the name, theEword.
Followers of user B and user C either repost the original tweet of user A or respond with their own thoughts. The same keyword (theEword) is used in the majority of these messages. As users B and C may have different followers, the topic is exposed to a large number of unique users.
This process continues until the topic gains a place on the Trending Topics tab. Depending on the circumstances – the popularity of other subjects and the time of day – it is estimated that around 2,000 tweets will result in a Trending Topic.
Some other things to take into consideration:
Trending Topics are not static – the list of the most common topics can frequently change during a 24 hour period. Topics can re-enter the trending list for a number of reasons. A news story may return to the Trending Topic list if a previously unrevealed detail comes to light and is discussed.
One subject can have many different trends. The recent death of pop star Michael Jackson featured on the Trending Topics page for a number of different terms, including ‘R.I.P Michael’, ‘MJ’,’ Michael Jackson’. The suspected manner of his death – ‘cardiac arrest’ – and location – ‘Los Angeles’ – also featured in the top ten Trending Topics.
Twitter has its fair share of memes – internet in-jokes shared between users of a specific community. These often feature in the Trending Topics. Some examples of recent Twitter memes include, #Music Monday (tweets about new bands users enjoy listening to) and #FollowFriday (encouraging users to post names of their friends others may like to follow).
Spam is a growing problem on Twitter. Spam comments occasionally make it onto the Trending Topics page. This is done when a user repeatedly tweets one specific keyword.