From Belfast Telegraph column 19 January 2010
The best way – and probably the only efficient way – to keep track of Twitter comments and conversations is the hashtag “#”. Like all good social media, the idea of including a hashtag subject within a comment was developed not by the people who founded Twitter, but by the people who run it – the Users.
The web site What The Trend which tracks Twitter conversations have reported the top trending topics for last year < whatthetrend.com/zeitgeist >. The Zeitgeist is usually defined as “The Spirit of the Times” and What The Trend claims that helps you find out what's trending on Twitter and why. For each trend, they give a quick explanation of why it's trending. These explanations are edited by the users of the web site.
The Iranian Election is rated as Number 1Trending Topic for 2009 with the hashtag #iranelection as Users around the world changed their Location Status to Tehran (to help confuse the Iranian secret police) and news from the protests was posted on Twitter giving the protesters a voice they had previously been denied. More prosaically #musicmonday (and later #mm) is 2 and comments about Michael Jackson’s death is at 3.
In the top 20 we wade through topics relating to film, technology and entertainment. There is, as you would expect, a US bias but the UK does make several impressions on the Zeitgeist. The top media name was #bbc , and the most mentioned living person was Susan Boyle – without the hashtag. The top fictional character was Harry Potter. The top sports are US based until you reach #Wimbledon at 66 and the top and only football team (that’s soccer, not US football) is #Liverpool at 69. #UKsnow (short lived but big impact) was at 88.
So what are the likely Twitter Trending Topics for 2010? What will inspire the Twitteratti? What event will engage the Slactivists? “Predictions are always difficult, especially about the future” said the wise one time baseball player and manager, Yogi Bera.
There are some topics and trends that we can expect. Look out for the return to the Twitter Zeitgeist the hashtag #UKsnow which is already making a comeback. Keep an eye out for #UKVote or something similar in the next few months. And highest regards for the person who manages to come up with a shorter hashtag than #WorldCup2010. A good hashtag should really be no more than 7 or 8 characters.
I’ll make one prediction that may come to pass in one form or another. Should the economic conditions remain the same – or get worse, and if predictions of a rise in unemployment are realised then one potential outcome is a new use for Twitter. Users will post links to their online CVs and like 21st century Yosser Hughes from Boys From the Black Stuff will tag their posts #gisajob.