When I view the home page on Twitter I always take a peek at what topics are ‘trending’. It’s often the quickest way to find out what people are talking about. Of course what people talk about can be amazingly trivial and uninteresting.
Take a look. Right now I just peeked and saw Chad Pennington (a Quarterback for the Miami Dolphins), apparently tore his ACL playing off-season basketball. One comment on the oft-injured QB was that even without football he can find a way to put himself on injured reserve. Earlier this week there was a trending topic ‘RIP Jackie Chan’. I took a quick scroll down the list and many people were aghast that the news (totally untrue) was shocking but most people did not believe it.
GoDaddy’s CEO Bob Parsons was also a trending topic today – he posted a video of he and some team members on safari in Africa shooting and killing an elephant, the elephant was alleged to have been trampling a sorghum field thus impoverishing local farmers and causing starvation. This will no doubt be all over the news in the next few days with people calling for boycotts of GoDaddy.com.
What makes a trending topic? Obviously the things that people are tweeting about. And (by some counts) with more than 100 million Twitter users that’s a pretty large sample (granted most users actually tweet rarely). So what makes a trending topic is having a substantial number of people Tweet about something that they find interesting and want their followers to see. You can select trending topics to be segmented by country, or even by city. Take a look at what’s trending in Brazil or Turkey for example.
Not all of the trending topics are trivial however. I first saw the news of the tsunami in Japan as a trending topic on Twitter. I immediately searched for more news. The speed at which people tweet an event is mind-boggling at times. I can’t imagine being that plugged into everything that is going on that I would be able to (or want to) be an early tweeter of what will be a trending event.
At the same time trending topics on Twitter do act as a representation of some collective consciousness of what people are thinking about. I find that very interesting and I am betting it will get even more interesting as more people jump into the Tweetstream.
Non-social media users like to make fun of Twitter and readily admit that they don’t get it, and don’t have time for what they consider to be nonsense. As a marketing guy I find the maturation of Twitter and Twitterites (it would be good to settle on one name for those that Tweet I admit) to be a good study of the way human beings interact as well as how communications are evolving.
And I am somewhat relieved but sad to learn that they caught the missing Bronx Zoo Cobra – who which by the way has more than 200,000 followers. And many of the tweets from the @bronxzoocobra were both clever and hilarious. It’s good to laugh at work sometimes.