“Trending Topics” on Twitter – An Analysis

One thing I do not confess in the “About Me” section of this blog is that I am absolutely obsessed with the television program 24 and have been ever since its inception. Tonight was the series finale ending eight seasons of the program. Last night, as many of you probably know, was the finale of Lost. I, of course, have had my eye on Twitter both days and was positively shocked: Sunday and today “Lost finale” was a “trending topic”… 24 did not appear on the trending topics list once.

This sent me into my own sort of shockwaves. I did not understand how a show as beloved and obsessed over as 24 could not be a trending topic on Twitter. I was tweeting about it. I searched the #24 hashtag after the fact and other people were and are tweeting about it, but not enough for it to be labeled “trending topic.” This show was ranked #6 in Empire magazine’s 50 Greatest TV Shows Of All Time… I still, clearly, am in disbelief.

My shock sent me immediately to Twitter searches. I had to get to the bottom of this. By then, I had already performed multiple searches on Twitter for 24 and, as stated above, had found a lot of conversation about the finale. I then thought, “I wonder what people are saying about Lost that keeps it a trending topic?” So, naturally I clicked on the “lost finale” trending topic. Turns out Twitter was taking any tweet with the word “finale” in it and was sending it to this trending topic, with many of said tweets referring to the 24 finale NOT the Lost finale. Another finding, as per usual with trending topics on Twitter, was that people were just tweeting out all of the trending topics in a row, entirely throwing off the actual trending topics of the moment. I am coining this a “Twitter Bomb” much like the “Google Bomb” – when people search the same phrases just to get that topic a better SEO. In this case, people tweet the trending topics to get their posts read by the masses who are following the trending topics.

This then lead me to perform some research on “trending topics” and how, exactly, they are identified. Mashable reports that Twitter recently altered its trending topics algorithm to make “topics that are immediately popular, rather than topics that have been popular for a while or on a daily basis, (the trending topics) to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world.” While this may be true of the algorithm, Buzzgain states that two factors determine whether or not a topic is trending on Twitter: 1) The number of people tweeting and 2) the hour of the day. It asserts that between 6 p.m. and midnight, it takes roughly 1,900 tweets from about 922 users for a topic to become a trend.

Clearly, there are some issues with the “trending topic” function on Twitter. Mashable and many other sounding voices in social media have discussed the flaws of the “trending topics” on Twitter before, but what is your take on the trending topics function? Do you find it useful?

Courtesy of Claire Beardsley on Flickr

As for 24, the finale was excellent and while I was not 100 percent satisfied, I hear it was much better than the Lost finale – from those who are tweeting about the 24 finale NOT that of Lost.


3 thoughts on ““Trending Topics” on Twitter – An Analysis

  1. Okay Lauren, I’m going to choose not to resent you for your rude comments about an amazing TV show (“Lost”) because I found the content of your post about trending topics very interesting. Haha.

    It’s really wild that “trending topics” aren’t necessarily what’s actually being talked about. Does Twitter have some sort of disclaimer for this on the website? How misleading!


    1. Sarah,

      Haha! I meant no offense to you Lost fans; I just love 24 (clearly) and was at a complete loss as to why it was not a trending topic. Twitter does not have any kind of disclaimer, and the trending topic function is just bizarre in general. Sometimes, the topics are things of interest and others are just ridiculous. Sometimes they make me feel a bit silly for liking Twitter as much as I do, but then I remember it does have its proper uses. Thank you for your comment! 🙂


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