How Twitter Is Becoming One Giant Game of Whac-A-Mole
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.
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.|
1. WTT tracks the appearance of topics on the Twitter Trending Topics list and each week ranks the subjects with the most cumulative staying power. Explanations of trends are solicited from WTT users, Wikipedia-style; a community-voting system is designed to highlight the best explanations while burying lame or prank explanations.
2. For the purposes of this chart, we collect and process data until 12 midnight EST on Thursday night before each Friday's publication.
3. Ad Age works with WTT to consolidate multiple threads of chatter into one position on the chart when it's clear related Twitter conversations are basically all about the same topic, even if they use different keywords.
4. In WTT's proprietary trend-tracking system, points are awarded for both duration and rank in the top 10 trending topics on Twitter. The longer the duration, and the higher the overall rank, the more points are awarded. Measurements are taken in five-minute increments.
5. The crowdsourced trend explanations above are quoted as they appear on WTT, and therefore may have stylistic and grammatical quirks that don't adhere to normal Ad Age editorial standards.
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.