What does ‘Trending’ mean and what is a ‘Hashtag’?
What is 'Trending'?
Before the development of social networks, trending would've referred to physical items and sounds that were gaining a sudden, and perhaps unnecessary, increase in popularity. In the 1990s, this could have included Beanie Babies, yes those small stuffed toys which are still gathering dust in your loft, the Spice Girls and that awful dance craze, the Macarena. However, the term can also describe the most popular conversation topics, often within major cities, countries or the world.
Quite often, they arise as a result of a major event, such as the election of Pope Francis, the death of a famous figure, television programs, including the current series of Masterchef, or by the fans of sporting teams and musicians, especially One Direction and that gracious human being Justin Bieber.
Rightly so, in my opinion, trending topics on social media are most associated with Twitter. But Google+ also provide a similar list of the most talked about subjects, plus up and down arrows which indicate whether or not users continue to engage with those issues. In addition, YouTube publicise the most shared and most viewed videos in the world, although it appears that it can't be accessed from their website, whilst Facebook and Pinterest also promote the most popular news articles and images.
What is a 'Hashtag'?
Twitter was also responsible, I would suggest, for the now continuous use of #hashtags within social networks. Generally, hashtags are used to highlight a keyword or acronym which other users may utilise for search purposes. One good example that I can provide is if I were to write an opinion about a change to housing benefit on a Thursday evening, I would most probably use the #bbcqt hashtag at the end. Furthermore, when I was seeking curry house recommendations in the capital a couple of months ago, I used the hashtags #London, #Clapham and #Tooting to increase the visibility of my post. Subsequently, I secured three suggestions, although I didn't actually listen to them in the end.
Hashtags must be used carefully though, especially by corporations. Last Christmas, the coffee chain Starbucks asked customers to post messages on Twitter and spread the cheer of Christmas, just weeks after the company was criticised for its tax arrangements. Inevitably though, the campaign was hijacked by messages including 'Hey Starbucks, Scrooge was nicer to his employees than you are!' and some others which although highly amusing, aren't repeatable. Previous to this, the supermarket chain Waitrose asked people why they chose to shop with them, using the hashtag #waitrosereasons. This also led to some hilarious replies, such as 'Clarissa's pony just will not eat Asda straw' and 'it was the best place to pick up unicorn food and 24ct gold toilet paper'.
The lesson from this is simple: have a think before you publish.