Where Twitter Trending Topics Really Come From

Posted by: Kerry Phouthavong

Trending topics on Twitter can assist marketers or business owners in targeting a certain audience about a particular subject. In a recent article by Ben Parr from, he explains how HP’s Social Computing Research Group’s study on trending topics helped to show where the topics really come from and why they are so important.

The article states that HP’s research analyzed 16.32 million tweets on 3,361 different trending topics between September and October 2010. HP discovered that Twitter’s Trending Topics algorithm cares more about the specific subject and reach of a tweet than who tweets it or how often it’s tweeted. Around 31% of trending topics are retweets and 72% of those retweets come from mainstream media outlet like @cnnbrk or @nytimes. The Telegraph, ESPN, @breakingnews and The Huffington Post all made the list of top retweeted users in at least 50 different trending topics.

“What proves to be more important in determining trends is the retweets by other users, which is more related to the content that is being shared than the attributes of the users,” HP concludes in its research report. “Furthermore, we found that the content that trended was largely news from traditional media sources, which are then amplified by repeated retweets on Twitter to generate trends.”

HP concludes that traditional media still starts the conversation around the most-discussed topics in social media, not the other way around.

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