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What’s trending online and how can you find out?

What’s trending online and how can you find out?

Understanding latest trends can have a huge impact upon the direction of your business. The ability to identify changes in consumer behaviour at an early stage, for example, may allow you to alter approach before competitors do so. In today’s connected world, it might be argued that data of all sorts has never been more widely available. Yet, those providing reliable sources of data remain very much in demand.

In this research piece, we set out to understand the best sources of information online relating to trending. What are people talking about right now? How have the subjects of discussion and the nature of those discussions changed over time? How can you get access to reliable insights?

As we carried out our investigations, we started with a very open position: nothing was ruled in and nothing was ruled out. We didn’t select tools on the basis of costs and neither did we accept information from service providers at face value. By the same token, we listened to advice from others, but we were determined to substantiate any advice that we were given.

Starting with Twitter

We opted to start with Twitter, a network that enables pretty much anyone in the world to post their thoughts (as long, of course, as they limit those thoughts to 140 characters or fewer!)

On logging in to a Facebook account, we are presented with the latest trends. Examining the data provided within our own account, we were able to see that:

  • Around 10 trending hashtags were represented on the screen
  • Of these, the top “trend” was actually an advert. We were, for example, presented with a hashtag that was seeking to promote Smirnoff, the drinks brand
  • Some of the hashtags were associated with additional information, demonstrating how many Tweets related to them. However, this data wasn’t always present
  • By default, we were being shown “tailored trends”

There is an option within the account to alter the trends data that is being shown. This allows the user to select a country, or a specific city and then to pick up trending hashtags, which we presumed reflected Twitter use by those within (or close to) the target area.

Although this was of interest, it was noted that the selection of available UK cities was surprisingly limited. Indeed, the closest city to our office location was approximately a 45 minute drive away.

It would, theoretically, be possible to change location on multiple occasions and then to pick out top trending hashtags for various cities. In reality, however, this would be a time consuming exercise.

Conclusions: the basic Twitter interface

We found that the available data within Twitter was limited in terms of its value. Although a snapshot was being provided, there were relatively few hashtags listed and no real ability to break down the data easily. For example, it would not be easy to extract trends for different time periods, or to quickly identify information for a selection of locations.

So we set off in search of more data!


A quick Google search brought us to, a website dedicated to Twitter trends. This website, on an Indian domain, appeared to offer rather more information. The default screen shows top worldwide hashtags, broken down into specific periods.

This means, for instance, that you could see the top hashtags from an hour ago, or from 8 hours ago. In doing so, there was a clear advantage over the standard data provided within Twitter’s standard interface.

It was also possible to view a trend tag map, which we could see would have the potential to add value.

This looked more promising. Read the next part in our series on trending to find out more.

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