Are You Using Trending Topics Incorrectly?

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Photo via Sureash Kumar at freeimages.com

You see them as soon as you log on to Twitter — a small group of subjects and/or hashtags on the left side of your screen. You may not know why they’re there or what to do with them.

Trending topics are powerful. They are a convenient way to see the day’s news, all gathered in one place, before, perhaps, even the local news reports on it. (This is not to say all the news on Twitter is always accurate.) They also allow us to collectively snark on or praise awards shows or popular TV shows. Trending topics let us experience our world collectively, and isn’t that what social media is all about?

More important for you, though, is the fact that trending topics are a way for you to have your tweet noticed. If you type a trending topic after your 140 characters–and if you’ve composed a well-written tweet–there is a nice chance it’ll get retweeted by others. Think of it as a highlighted piece of text in a book. And once more people notice you, that, of course, can lead to more followers and maybe more business.

So, does this mean you should use a trending topic with every tweet?

Absolutely not.

People who click on trending topics expect to see tweets that have to do with that topic. Throwing a trending topic on a tweet about something else you want to bring attention to just makes you look like a spammer, and you’ll quickly lose credibility — the kiss of death on Twitter.

So don’t be that person. And just in general, use trending topics wisely. Here’s how:

  • Understand the topic. Read an article or two about it before you start tweeting so you can bring an informed perspective.
  • Be careful. Humor and politics can gain you more followers, but they can also be misinterpreted and/or alienating. If you’re a comedian, sure, go ahead and be funny, or if that’s part of your brand. (I use humor in my tweets, but I always try to be wise about it.) If you’re a political/activist type of non-profit, yes, certainly express your views. But if you’re running a big business account, you want to avoid humor and politics in tweets in general, and especially in trending topics. And even if you’re using humor and politics, make sure you’re not going over the line. Write the tweet out first, then come back to it in an hour, before deciding if you still want to post.
  • Save trending topics for your very best tweets. If your tweet isn’t especially interested to read, you’ll waste your time posting it under a trending topic.