How To Spot Trends And The Elusive Next Big Thing

By   |   April 19th, 2016   |   Reading time: 6 minutes Communications & PR

In the age of social media, it isn’t always enough to be part of the conversation. Leading communicators and PR agencies aim to be thought leaders in their fields by spearheading and driving conversation, not just taking part. It’s important to be able to spot emerging trends and potentially viral topics so as to stay ahead of the game.

Back in January, Black Tap‘s elaborate milkshakes took the social world by storm. After mouth-watering images popped up all over Instagram, the company picked up viral coverage from the likes of BuzzFeed, Business Insider and USA Today.

If this is the kind of viral trend you’re looking to scope out for a brand or client, read on.

By analysing how users are interacting with a topic, theme, or issue, you can identify ways to leverage this in social media feeds, campaigns and pitches. Here’s how NewsWhip Spike and Analytics can help.

NewsWhip Spike tracks two million pieces of content a day in multiple languages and regions. This allows for incredibly granular insights into what’s gaining traction in real time and where. With Spike, you can:

  • Search by keyword for specific topics, themes, and subjects
  • Track engagement in real-time across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, and Pinterest
  • Identify key influencers and authors around certain topics
  • Analyse how engagement changes over time
  • Use Spike’s watch list, alerts, and panel features to track the biggest stories as they develop.

NewsWhip Analytics lets users take a deeper dive into engagement, tracking it month on month across multiple platforms to see what’s generating the most interaction on social. This not only helps identify trends which can be harnessed in campaigns, but also allows PR and communications firms to strategise when pitching for clients. Demonstrating in-depth awareness of developments in different fields shows you have the expertise and knowledge to implement successful campaigns.

So, without further ado, how can Spike and Analytics help you spot trends in your sector?

Step 1: Identifying key topics

The first move is to identify the current major points of conversation in your industry, or that of a client or prospect. For example, you may be pitching to someone in the baking industry. Which baked goods drove engagement on social over the past few months or weeks? Through a keyword search in NewsWhip Spike, you can see what topics are generating the most conversation on social in real-time. Are cupcakes the next big thing? Cookies? Cakes? Using the different time view options in Spike, you can see which topics and goods are being mentioned most often, by whom, and where.

Spike Instagram food trends

The key metric to consider here is social velocity. Ranking stories in Spike by social velocity shows what’s gaining the most momentum on social right now. If a piece of content has a high social velocity score, it’s a sign that social users are rapidly engaging with it. This can be an early indication of virality, and in turn whether you should be using it in your communications. Start using Spike now and see what content is driving engagement in your sector.

This is an important first step when looking to identify trends. By narrowing down what exactly people in a certain sector are talking about, you can discern the topics worth harnessing in your campaigns. By understanding a sector’s current talking points, you’re also showing expertise for client pitches and campaigns.

Step 2: Consider different platforms

It’s important to consider multiple platforms when trying to identify the next big thing. Depending on the particular sector or topic, audiences may be highly active on one channel but barely register on another. As an example, Instagram offers a natural home for food and fashion content – both areas in which audiences savour rich visuals. Facebook on the other hand rewards a diverse range of content, from parenting to politics to science. Depending on your field, or that of your client’s, monitoring audience engagement on different channels is pivotal.

Using step 1 above, you’ll have identified different topics worth monitoring. You can use NewsWhip Spike to see which social platforms have the most active audiences for those topics. Spike lets you compare and analyse stories on six platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, and LinkedIn. As a comparison, let’s use the baking example again. Here’s what a 24-hour search for “cake” yields in Instagram, versus the same search in Facebook.

Cake instagram trends

cake trending facebook

Food and drink photos can generate more engagement on Instagram than other platforms. This suggests that monitoring Instagram for emerging trends might be more fruitful for photo content, while Facebook is seeing success for food video content. Spike allows you to get a very granular view of this engagement. Clicking on “more info” underneath a story or post will bring up a graph, showing how interaction with the piece is evolving over time.

oreo cake pops trending facebook

Engagement which continues to increase steadily can be an indication of a possible trend.

You can save these searches as individual panels on Spike. This allows you to easily track engagement across different platforms and publishers. By setting up Spike alerts, you’ll be notified of the highest-performing stories for different panels, enabling you to immediately note the most successful stories.

Step 3: Get the long-term view with Analytics

So, you know your topics and channels, and you’ve set up your alerts. But how do we get a deeper, more long-term view of key stories and trends? This is where NewsWhip Analytics comes in. If Spike shows you the tip of the iceberg, Analytics lets you dive right into the abundance of data underneath.

You can track engagement across multiple platforms over several months or even years. By comparing content and interaction month-on-month, you can identify which topics are growing in popularity, which ones are declining, and which platforms are generating the richest engagement. This in turn helps identify long-term trends, and in turn, what might be the next biggest thing.

To continue with the baking example, let’s say you want to find out what topics have been driving engagement over the past few months. Enter a category search in Analytics; in this case, for food and drink. This lets you analyse food content for any time frame since 2014.

By looking at the biggest stories, you can see what topics resonated most with social users. Compare that with older or more recent content to see how the trend has evolved over time. Are certain goods or items coming up more and more frequently? What are the biggest stories each month, and what kind of goods do they cover? A keyword search for that item will bring up more information, and also lets you see the leading authors and influencers.

publishers food drink trending analytics NewsWhip

In this way, you can compile concrete data on emerging trends and so identify what the next big trend might be. This data can then be used to plan communications, campaigns, and pitches, and inform your social strategy.

By following these tips, you can spot the next viral trend and stay ahead of the competition in your field.

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