How Twitter Is Becoming One Giant Game of Whac-A-Mole

The Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter This Week

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This week's Top 10 Trending Twitter Topics chart -- produced, as always, with our editorial partner What the Trend -- is dominated by sports (the Australian Open, the NFL), celebrity (Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber) and hashtag gaming (#StuffThatPissesMeOff). But arguably plenty of non-hashtag tweeting is also a form of gaming -- an elaborate, absurd form of Whac-A-Mole that Twitter is playing with its users, in which Twitterheads entertain themselves by evading the mallet.

Bieber! Look out!!
Bieber! Look out!!
Ever since Twitter changed its Trending Topics algorithm last year to reflect topic that are surging in popularity, rather than topics that are continuously popular, die-hard fans of certain pop-cultural figures have been investing a lot of time and energy in figuring out alternate ways to get their beloved to trend. This week, for instance, everything from "#thankgod4gaga" to "LADY DADA" to "#StefaniGermanotta" hit Twitter's Trending Topics -- all for Lady Gaga (Stefani Germanotta is her real name), who will soon release the first single from her upcoming album "Born This Way."

And Justin Bieber -- who many suspect is the reason Twitter changed its Trending Topics algorithm in the first place (he'd almost started to seem like a permanent feature of Twitter, making Twitter seem a playground for lovestruck tweens) -- has perhaps the cleverest strategy for retaking Twitter's Trending Topics. He's got a 3-D documentary movie coming out Feb. 11, "Never Say Never." As What the Trend trend analyst Liz Pullen explains, "Bieber -- or whoever tweets for him -- has a campaign of having a different countdown hashtag for every day until his movie is released." For instance, yesterday the tag was #15days, as in Bieber's tweet "In #15days boys will have no dates on VDay, history will be made, haterz will become lovers & people will realize NOTHING is impossible." The day before it was #16days. The day before that it was #17days. "I have to say," say Pullen, "it's brilliant. And so unlikely that it's the idea of a 16-year-old."

Regardless of whose idea it was, the strategy has succeeded in getting Bieber-related terms to keep popping up in Twitter's Trending Topics even as Twitter's algorithm suppresses the appearance of his actual proper name. And, of course, even before Bieber himself tweets the new countdown term, his rabid fans know what it is and start tweeting it in earnest at the stroke of midnight, wherever they may live, causing it to surge more and more, hour by hour, as new days are born across global time zones. If Bieber were just encouraging his fans to tweet, say, #NeverSayNever, Twitter's algorithm would soon knock it out of the Trending Topics. But Bieber's crowdsourced marketing army knows to tweet something new -- slightly different, but basically the same -- every day, which fends off Twitter's giant Whac-A-Mole mallet.

Given that kind of social-media marketing savvy, I'd be shocked if #14days from now Mr. Bieber doesn't have a blockbuster on his hands.

How is this chart made? See Notes, below.

Trend Peak Position This Week Points Crowdsourced Description
1 #ImProudToSay 1 4,561 People are stating what they are proud to say.
2 Andy Gray Firing 1 3,625 Sky Sports presenter Andy Gray has been sacked from his position after his sexist remarks about a female linesman. People continue to discuss the fallout from the incident.
3 #StuffThatPissesMeOff 1 2,990 People are tweeting what just sets them off.
Subtrends include: #thingsthatpissmeoff, #stuffthatpissmeoff,
4 Justin Bieber 1 2,789 Tweets about pop star Justin Bieber, particularly in regard to his upcoming movie, "Never Say Never."
Subtrends include: POWER BIEBER, #17days, #16days, #15days, Bieber Fever
5 #HowAreYouAThug 1 2,541 People are tweeting oxymoronic statements in relation to the question "How are you a thug?" by stating something contradictory at the end of the tweet.
Subtrends include: #HowYouAThug
6 Lady Gaga 1 2,458 Tweets about pop star Lady Gaga. Stefani Germanotta is Lady Gaga's real name.
Subtrends include: LADY DADA, #thankgod4gaga, #doyoulikenutellagaga, #leakitgaga, BrazilInNewGagaTour, #bornthiswaylyrics, #StefaniGermanotta
7 Australian Open 1 2,392 Tweets about various players and matches.
See whatthetrend.com for a complete list of subtrends.
8 NFL 1 2,339 Tweets about various teams, players and games
See whatthetrend.com for a complete list of subtrends.
9 #IFantasizeAbout 1 2,322 People are tweeting thing they fantasize about.
10 Jack LaLanne 1 2,170 Exercise and fitness legend Jack LaLanne passed away on Jan. 23 in his home in California from respiratory complications from pneumonia. He was 96.

For more information about What the Trend, visit the WTT FAQ. And check out WTT's Week in Review, compiled by its in-house editors and covering an expanded general list of Top 20 trends (including hashtag trends) here.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" media columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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