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How to Track a Trend Back to Its OriginWhen something is trending online, savvy brands perform due diligence before hopping on board. And the savviest of all track a trend back to its origin with social listening. There’s just too much at stake otherwise. Let’s see how it looks and why you should strongly consider doing the same.

Your Investigation Starts Here

Being nimble and taking advantage of trends is important, and examining what lies beneath these trends is equally so. The trending list on Twitter is tempting for marketers:

US and UK trends to track back to origin

Some items may appear an amazing fit for your brand. But consider who is talking about it and in what context. Was the trend started by an influencer, event, or maybe a fluke?

Tracking conversations back to their source(s) offers important intel around how to proceed. In NetBase, brands have many ways to approach trend analysis:

US and UK trends to track back to origin

The “What’s Trending?” template, for example, helps brands analyze a topic or category conversation. It offers insight around:

  • Comparing specific themes versus the total conversation
  • Displaying emerging terms and other items
  • Identifying the sentiment drivers for segmented conversation

US and UK trends to track back to origin

Once you’ve identified new things, terms, and other emerging items related to your brand or category, it’s time to dig deeper and see why a trend is happening. And also, if it has staying power.

In your trending widget (shown above), you’d see a table listing up to 50 of the conversation’s trending items, along with a “trend score,” indicating whether an insight is trending up or down. A score of 0 to 1 means that the insight is trending downward; a score between 1 and 100 means that the insight is trending up. These scores are based on multiple factors, including:

  • the change in conversations volume
  • percentage of change over the last (user-defined) period

This way you can detect new and emerging insights, as well as sustained insights, and reemerging insights. And you’ll definitely want to be alerted to those.

But who is fueling the trend – and why? We’re serving that up next, with a side of audience understanding . . .

Audience Understanding with Trend Analysis

Brands can not only identify who is talking about a topic, but also the unique characteristics of an audience – all from a trend analysis!

In the example below, the insight “neck brace” emerged as the top insight for a category topic on makeup. The viral post relates to an eyeliner that holds up to anything—even a car crash:

Brands can not only identify who is talking about a topic, but also the unique characteristics of an audience – all from a trend analysis

In another makeup example, when a cosmetics company analyzed conversation around its new foundation, it surfaced the word “oxidation” in word clouds conversations occurring on health and beauty blogs. Folks were mislabeling the act of foundation turning orange on their face as “oxidation.” But the key here was that it was happening – a lot. And the conversation was trending upward.

Brands can not only identify who is talking about a topic, but also the unique characteristics of an audience – all from a trend analysis

By capturing this trend early, the cosmetics company was able to connect with these same health and beauty bloggers, inform them that oxidization is not what was happening, and offer a solution to their needs (a foundation that was a better skin tone match).

That’s the beauty of trend analysis informed by Next Generation Artificial Intelligence – your intel doesn’t stop at identifying the trend. Brands are able to see precisely who is talking about a trend, and also who they’re talking to, how engaging the conversation is and related conversations.

Brands are able to see precisely who is talking about a trend, and also who they’re talking to, how engaging the conversation is and related conversations

This can all inform an offshoot that a brand may not have considered otherwise, and one that is already generating interest with their target audience.

General Insight for a Narrow Focus

Capturing insight behind the trend is important because it saves you from wasting time. And who has time to waste on social?

Sometimes a trend is far too general to be worthwhile. Take #TuesdayMotivation for example. Although it has well over 30,000 tweets, unless your audience is particularly focused on that conversation, your tweet will just get lost in the noise.

To continue our cosmetics example – if your audience was sharing makeup tips as part of their Tuesday Motivation, joining that conversation could make sense. But you’d want to see that connection in your research before pursuing it. You’d want to explore both popular items associated with it and the sentiment drivers powering it all:

In the debate over how much Louisiana should pay river pilots, a retired judge will make the call

This trend is focused around inspiration, life hacks and keeping things simple, so if your product or service had something to offer in any of those realms, a Tuesday morning promo or conversation starter could make sense for your brand. An eye shadow hack? Long lashes that your followers aspire to? Dig in to see if it could work – maybe with an influencer’s help.

Important takeaway: Don’t discount those popular trends before exploring them. Even those that seem too good to be true. There are some amazing opportunities awaiting brands online and trusting your social insight is super essential when it comes to distinguishing between an opportunity and a time suck.

And the ability to move fast when an opportunity presents itself is what will separate businesses that fail from those who succeed in the coming years.

Be Ready to Dunk in The Dark

Oreo’s dunk in the dark tweet is a case in point. It was amazing – and still referenced online (obviously) for its masterful creativity and reaction time. There was a massive power outage at the New Orleans Superdome during the 2013 Super Bowl and Oreo shared this:

Oreo’s dunk in the dark tweet

It was a measured risk, as it could’ve been taken as a callous call-out if the event caused those in attendance to panic, but Oreo obviously had eyes there alerting them otherwise or solid social sentiment informing their efforts. And that’s a good thing, because when a business calls a trend wrong, it can go very wrong . . .

The Bitter Aftertaste of a Misunderstood Trend

Entenmanns saw #notguilty trending and didn’t realize it was in reference to Casey Anthony being found not guilty of murdering her young daughter. They eagerly jumped on the hashtag with an expected kind of tweet, expressing no guilt around eating sweets:

Entenmanns saw #notguilty trending and didn’t realize it was in reference to Casey Anthony being found not guilty of murdering her young daughter

And there are plenty of other examples of this happening. Don’t be that brand. Track it back to its origin, explore who is talking and the surrounding context and make your decisions about participating in it (or not) then.

Or you may even want to wait a little bit for that cake to cool. Lots of trends are still pretty popular days later. The trend half-life is longer than one would expect. So, once you’ve identified a trend you may want to create content around, you can set alerts to track where it goes (if anywhere)

Or you can always keep tabs on trends by tuning in each day to take the temperature in your category, of course. That’s a surefire way to have informed conversational context as well. This way nothing is startingly new to you, and you’re aware of something that’s changed a bit sooner than you would be otherwise

It’s elementary once you turn your social insight toward sorting it out, of course. But even Sherlock would struggle without the right tool. Reach out for a demo and we’ll show you the NetBase difference.

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