Twitter Advice – Trending Topics, Algorithms and a few Helpful Tips

Ever since the conception of Trending Topics, Twitter has long been accused of tampering with them, given the inordinate amount of coverage given to some subjects, while others are ignored or treated with solid indifference. Recently, these concerns have been raised in the direction of the Occupy Wall Street protest which have now spread to cities worldwide.

But how does Twitter regulate Trending Topics – if indeed they do? And how could they be made useful? The truth is, Trending Topics are rarely useful for marketeers, as they are too closely monitored by Twitter and users alike. If a company or Twitter user is abusing trending Topics for their own gain, they are unlikely to get away with it. This is the mistake homeware giants Habitat made when they started their twitter account up in 2009. By piggybacking on such furniture-led news items as #iPhone and #TrueBlood, followers and marketing professionals quickly earmarked them as spam spreaders and although their brand has since changed the way they use social media, their initial mistakes are often used as a clear example of what not to do.

This is just one way in which Twitter can be used incorrectly though. For a relatively simple platform, there are many in-built expectations and rules drawn up by users themselves, which brands and companies are expected to adhere to. Twitter itself often comes under fire for “censoring” tweets, often when news items do not appear in the Trending Topics section, but what needs to be understood is the complex way in which the Twitter Trending Topics algorithm seeks out and sorts the topics Twitter users are most engaged in. According to Twitter: “Twitter Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously. The Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The Trends list captures the hottest emerging topics, not just what’s most popular.” (For more information, visit wearesocialpeople who have a concise report on Occupy Wall St’s non-trending topic status)

For companies to use Twitter to their greatest advantage, the best advice is to ignore Trending Topics entirely. If you want your brand or business to build and run a successful Twitter account – and that’s successful, not merely useful – it’s much more difficult than just pandering to what’s popular. On Twitter, brands have personalities, and they take a personal interest in their customer’s problems. There are accounts that deal simply with minor complaints and tips (@PlusNet @ebuyer @BTcare), accounts that actively encourage follower interaction (@DorsetCereals @channel4food @Sainsburys) and accounts that simply entertain – the Twitter equivalent of a talk radio show (@BetFairPoker is the greatest example of this – an account specialising in surreal stories and very rarely about Poker at all has attracted 1200+ followers in the past year). A combination of these tacts could work for you, but Twitter users will spot a try-hard from miles away. Here are five of our finest tips:

1. Asking for RTs is seen as very needy, and goes against most Twitter etiquette. Try to avoid this when possible.

2. A #FollowFriday is an endorsement – remember to thank people for sending one your way! However it is not necessary to reciprocate unless you feel the other party is worthy. They shouldn’t be put out by this – it’s just the way it works.

3. Repeating the same sort of information more than three times a day is spamming, and will lose you followers. Unless your followers really like you, they won’t stick around to listen to a broken record for long.

4. Too many hashtags in a tweet is off-putting and fast becoming unfashionable. Stick to one if you can, and two at the very most. A hashtag only counts once per tweet – even if you repeat it (as in #RedNoseDay #RedNoseDay #RedNoseDay) it will still only count as one entry toward Trending Topics.

5. Tw- prefixes are generally not welcome. Twiends, tweeps, tweeple, tworld, hints and twips, twheard it on the grapevine – people are not enjoying these terms anymore. Twitter has been widely used for four years now, and none of these terms (except perhaps ‘tweeps’) have made it into the mainstream vocabulary. Drop them.

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