How to make a trending topic on Twitter ? And how not to

I’m not really comfy with this title honestly, but guess it conveys what its supposed to, right ?No ? Okay let me try and make things clear and possibly put things into perspective.


Trending topics are a huge addiction on Twitter. Period. They’re like shots. You have one, and you want more, you can’t just stop at one. Okay, wrong example, but the thing is Trending topics can get you intoxicated.

Trending topics are user created hashtags that gets popular and if the volume is right get featured on Twitter’s list of most discussed topics. That’s a raw an unpolished definition.


Hashtags were popularized during the San Diego forest fires in 2007 when Nate Ritter used the hashtag “#sandiegofire” to identify his updates related to the disaster.

Trending Topics is sort of a wrong name for the thing in my opinion. It should  rather be “Most discussed hashtags” or “Active discussion topics” or something, that’s more sensible and meaningful. Trending is probably the second nature. Like the “most discussed topic, which is getting some traction globally” – makes things more clear isn’t it ? Unfortunately, Twitter thinks “Trending Topics” is a more cool name, and I have to agree. So, when does a hashtag become a trending topic, and when does it make it to the top ? What can one do to make a topic trend on Twitter ? Let’s find out.

1. You cannot trend a topic if you tweet more frequently.

This is tested and proved from my experience. Many people think that if you tweet more about a hashtag, like adding a hashtag to every tweet of yours, you can make that hashtag trend. Wrong. Hashtags depend to a certain level on frequency but that’s not all, they have to be diverse and collective. That means if you have five friends, and they add a hashtag to all of their tweets, its very unlikely that hashtag trends.

2. More than number of Tweets, its the number of people tweeting about a hashtag that matter.

That’s the most simple version of it. The most important factor for a hashtag (or topic) to trend depends on how many people are tweeting about it. And of course, the whole equation is relative to the number of people active on Twitter. But talking about things in perspective, its better to have 100 people tweet about a single hashtag less frequently, than 5 people tweeting the same hashtag more frequently to make it trend. The frequency becomes secondary nature here, but the volume or number of people tweeting is the primary focus.

3. More people, using the same hashtag, more frequently at a steady pace

That’s the formula if you are looking for one. Think about it, its natural is it not ? Let’s say we have an event like an Oscar night, and even without someone trying, its likely that more people from around the world tweet about it at the same time. That’s a natural trending topic. An artificial one (someone trying to game it) cannot possibly match the volume of a natural trending topic.

Here is one of the best service you can use to buy retweets and start a trend on Twitter

4. Size doesn’t matter but Time Zones does.

If you’re outside the U.S, you’d already know what I mean. Certain times are favourable for region specific natural trending topics. Let’s say an event that’s taking place in the U.S in the morning, will have a chance to trend naturally as more and more people start tweeting about it in the day time there. At the same time, its night/ dusk at other parts of the world, and it might not be wise to artificially trend a topic at that time, as naturality favours the U.S twitter users. Similarly, for an event that’s happening let’s say in India during the afternoon would have a good chance to trend, with less effort that at night (in India).

But, how can I trend my own hashtag ?

That’s the question everyone asks. So you have a conference, or a tweetup, and you want to trend the hashtag, your buddies came up with. Here’s what you can try doing.

1. Select a time zone that’s favourable.

See what the trending topics are at the moment, is there a major event around the corner, or is there a major product release from Apple ? If there’s one, you might want to postpone your tweetup. If not, select the best time for it, let’s say if you’re in India, around afternoon might give you the best mileage.

2. Gather a group of interested people who can support you.

If possible, an influential guy on Twitter. Get him interested to your topic, or if he is not, convince him your cause and get him to tweet a few tweets for you around that time with the hashtag. Most people agree if they see something in return, like letting them start the hastag and getting the credit for it, while all you want is the topic to trend after his tweet.

3. Make it fun and open the hashtag to others to take away.

One mistake most people do (especially at conferences) is that they speak within their circle, not letting others join and leaving them to guess what’s going on. This might piss off people. Make it fun, ask questions, and allow more people to participate. Remember, the more the merrier.

4. Run a quiz, host a show.

This is a good strategy if you can pull it off well. Its easy to screw up but if you get the basics right, its easy to make it a success. It also depends a lot on what you can offer. You can either run a quiz, where one nominated person (or many) asks questions and seeks replies with the particular hashtag. If you can’t find people interested, add in some value by giving away a prize that fits your budget and is equally a pulling factor for others. For geeks things like an iPod, or a Gift voucher can work. Remember, its not about what you give but how you present it.

You can of course come up with something better than a quiz, just think about the ways to get more people interested, and break out from your circle, give people something to chew on and enjoy.

So there you have it, some clues on what makes a trending topic on Twitter, and what does not. Many a times people set out to trend topic without knowing how to, and we see this everyday. Hope this guide help them.

Additional resources.

Here are some sites and tool that help you with organizing, starting and making popular a trending topic on Twitter.

  1. What The Trend – A site tht lets you create and monitor hashtag trending topics on Twitter.
  2. Monitter – Lets you track trending topics on Twitter with custom columns and numbers.
  3. Trendistic – Live Twitter trends monitoring and analytics.

43 Responses

  1. That is a great one.
    Now it makes sense why we saw some of the Indian hashtags were trending :)

    I noticed a typo – budget

  2. Yeah, great post .. I thought if some one tweets more with same hashtag, the hashtag is trending .. bad on me :( and btw #rahulmahajan is trending now worldwide #fail :D

  3. suganindia

    cool tips , but i wonder did you ever make a topic to trend on twitter ?

  4. Well that was really useful. Though i am not a frequent twitterrer this would help my other friends really well .Thanks Mani (i hope u wont bother me calling u by the name) :)

  5. Great post ! Hope i can make a trending topic some day :)

  6. Nice info Mani..thanks for sharing

  7. Mani,

    I cannot completely agree to Point 1, maybe by the time you tested, Twitter changed their algorithm. In March, or April (the night before easter in 2009 precisely), me, @cheth @dharshana and @venksh started talking about Adsense on twitter with the hashtag #AdsenseTalk.

    We talked about 2 hours before we went trending. Those where the days when we would go mad, with about 3 tweets a minute or more, using multiple apps just to be safe.

    Some other guys joined it too, and we got retweets, but the major share (90% +) of the tweets was from four of us.

    It was great to see our little hastag on the list. We got many many followers and it was fun. The biggest of which was we found @rmilana and formed the club now known as #CoffeeClub

    I think 5 massive tweeters can make a hashtag trending if they tweet in the low activity time (night time in US). You will get some RT’s anyway.

    We should try the tips of this post at a barcamp or blogcamp, it could be a lot of fun :)

    • suganindia

      yup you can do it on a topic of common interest the easy way , it goes viral as many r concerned on adsense , but i’m sure you can’t do the same on an old,rare,regional topic unless you are a celebrity :)

  8. I use hashtags, currently about 2 or 3 with each post. I try my hardest to find hashtags that have a bit of relevance and consistency to them. Like the article says a hashtag that has plenty of tweets by the same person is a no, no.

  9. This is great post, man! Keep up the good work :)

  10. aku seneng tenan karo blohmu iki pakde

  11. Alia

    any one have an idea on the code of generating trends from tweets ,, or algorithm how to make it

    i need help on that ,, thank u

  12. ,hi
    ,i want to ask you
    how can I know what is the trending topic in my country (KSA) or city even though it is not listed in twitter site?
    is there any provision of listing trending topics
    ??? for all countries, like Google trends

  13. very interesting info thank you

  14. Have made a strategy and been part of 3 hashtags tha have trended so far. It takes some planning and tactics and some tweeple with some big influence. Some good tips here Mani! Adding you to my @mqtodd/mediatechnology list

  15. Great post. I was a trending topic in my area two weeks in a row – once for a radio program I was on and we generated lots of buzz, and next for a conference that I organized. We showed peeps how to tweet live, gave them the hash tag and encouraged tweeting all night at our “Meet and Tweet” and the following day a the conference. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure about the formula, but could only speak of results, now you’ve given us the formula! Thanks:).

  16. Brett

    Not sure I totally agree. I find it highly unlikely that in Boston, #itsabaddaywhen is a more-often-used hashtag than #bruins when they are in a playoff game, or #redsox when they are playing the Yankees on FOX. Yet, #itsabaddaywhen was a trending topic during both, and the sports teams were not.

    I think it is a combination of what you discussed, AND some guy at Facebook who manually selects, or perhaps there is a random-generator that selects.

  17. Very helpful post! I was looking for information on the phenomenon of trending topics. Thanks!

  18. @Monster99 on twitter was trending hes the barber of the MLB

  19. Niki

    How do you know if a topics been blocked by twitter?

  20. I want to try one called…

  21. Jesse

    Ok…so if you look at TTrends, some use # and some don’t. The # trends tend to be at the top of the list which seems to indicate that using # makes it more difficult? The trends without # – ADAM LAMBERT – ALL SEEM TO USE CAPS AND HAVE SPACES BETWEEN WORDS. What is your opinion on this?

  22. Thanks for the tips. Would like to trend #100TimesFace Value — and this may help!

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  24. Nadia

    I want #17Feb #Libya to trend world wide on 17 Feb to supprot the Libyan Revolution

  25. Scott Sprich

    Very informative post. I think creating interesting hashtags that people want to talk about and pulling the results into a post for your website, adding more content, is a great way to drive traffic. I ran an experiment on a hashtag yesterday #stupidthingspeopledo. I grabbed a bunch of responses, picked the best ones, elaborated on their comments with vids and pics and posted the results to my site. Then I shared the results using that hastag and alerted all the people I quoted. The only issue is reposting frequency, because I don’t want it to seem spammy or have others miss it as more tweets come in. Have you seen anyone doing experiments like this with success? Thx.

    • I think that’s a good strategy. More content is always good. And the community normally pays back in which ever way they can to quality, compelling content. About frequency – its a great idea to schedule the tweets so that you spread it out evenly.

  26. Just created a hashtag #NFSMW and need to keep it on trending!

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    At @ReleaseAcc We want to create some attention to put pressure on @Twitter to release those inactive accounts. We are using the Hash Tag #ReleaseInactiveTwitterHandles Let’s hope if enough people retweet the following:

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  28. Kill the Hydra

    Thanks for this blog post! I was a bit miffed about the whole hashtag and how to go about attempting a trend, but this definitely cleared it up! Thank you!

  29. Summer

    this is great, im trying to get people now agree to trend something for a favorite celebrity at a certain time. these are great tips i will certainly need them