There are lots of reasons you might want to find trending content, including:
- Getting inspiration for your own content production
- Finding interesting, relevant content to share with your audience (i.e. on social media)
- Keeping up to speed on what sort of topics are (or are not) currently popular within your industry or niche
How to Leverage Trending Topics in Your Content Strategy
Before I start giving away my tricks of the content-finding trade, I’m going to explain why you should actually bother in the first place, and what to do when you’ve found it.
Staying on top of trending content gives you an edge. People are more likely to follow you and listen to what you have to say if you’re consistently sharing or producing quality content that your audience cares about. Bonus points for being among the first to share or comment on this content – you may be seen as a trend-setter or thought leader.
Buffer, the social media management tool, provides a kick-ass example of how to use trending content to your advantage.
Naturally, Buffer knows social media. But their content strategy was traditionally built around evergreen content. Trending content didn’t get much of a look – until they jumped on exactly the right topic and saw fantastic results.
If you regularly hung around the Twittersphere in 2015, you might remember the #talkpay movement. For the uninitiated, it was started by programmer Lauren Voswinkel of the diversity-in-tech site Model View Culture to encourage fellow tweeters to share their salaries with the world. Here’s an example of a pretty typical #talkpay tweet:
The movement garnered a lot of attention. By early May, about 1,300 people had published their salaries.
So what does any of this have to do with Buffer?
One of the company’s values is “default to transparency.” That means Buffer goes out of their way to publish everything from their revenue and pricing to the salaries of their staff. Clearly, #talkpay was ultra-relevant, and they saw an opportunity to contribute to the conversation:
After getting a positive response – and plenty of engagement – from the first tweet, they scheduled some additional posts around #talkpay resources.
Buffer’s #talkpay tweets ended up being some of their best-performing posts of all time. They generated around 11,000 clicks and more than three times the engagement rate of Buffer’s typical tweets.
So what can we learn here?
The internet is awash with examples of brands and organizations that tried to crowbar themselves into trending conversations, with horrendously inappropriate results.
But Buffer took the time to find the right conversation before getting involved. The #talkpay movement tied directly into the company’s values – they’re passionate about transparency, and they had the receipts to back it up. That allowed them to achieve great results completely organically.
You should do the same.
Just because Kim Kardashian’s Met Gala dress is trending doesn’t mean you have any right to jump in and have your say – unless you’re a genuine fan, a dressmaker, or you work in fashion (or for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute).
And don’t forget to read the room. Tone of voice is extremely important. Never try to put a lighthearted spin on a serious topic, or vice versa. Sure, you might get a lot of engagement, but not all social publicity is good publicity.
Use These 16 Tools to Stay Ahead of the Content Curve
Of course, finding content is the easy part. Finding content that’s actually “trending” – and by that I mean content that’s being widely shared outside of its circle of creators – is a little trickier.
We all want to be seen as trendy and relevant. You want to ideally find the content with the most buzz, the content that is just taking off. Get in on the ground floor, if you will. Share it too late, and you’re just another marketer riding the coattails of the current “it” piece. It’s a fine line.
If you’ve ever gone looking for trending content, there’s one tool that stands out from the rest. You’ve likely used it at some point, and if not, you’ve probably at least heard of it.
At its core, BuzzSumo is a content analysis tool that identifies trending content for any given search term or URL by tracking social shares.
You can search for the hottest content during the past 24, 12, 6, 3 or 1 hour(s), by country, category, language, keyword, author, domain, content type, and social platform.
It’s very useful and powerful, even in its limited free version, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of content discovery. Far from it. It’s just the most popular kid at school these days.
You could, of course, use BuzzSumo. It’s the gold standard, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But because of its popularity, you’re going to find the exact same trending content as every other digital marketer out there. If everyone else is also checking BuzzSumo to see what’s hot, you’re not exactly going to scoop the competition.
Instead, why not take the road less travelled? Here are 16 ways to find trending content that don’t involve using Buzzsumo.
Be trendy, relevant, and trailblazing.
Since the demise of the wildly popular Google Reader in 2013, Feedly has reigned supreme as the RSS feed aggregator of choice. It funnels content from various sources into one handy location that can be accessed via a browser or app. In other words, Feedly allows you to view content from all your favorite websites (provided they have an RSS feed) without having to navigate to each one.
If you’re not using Feedly (or something like it) on that basis alone, I strongly encourage you to start. There is no better way to keep up to speed with relevant content that you’re actually interested in. Subscribe, and the content comes to you.
More to the point, it’s also an excellent tool for identifying trending content.
To get the most out of Feedly, you need to be following a healthy number of publications (or in this case, feeds). To start following feeds, click “Add Content.” You’ll find it at the bottom of the menu to the left of the page.
From here you can search for and add feeds by specific publications & blogs (RSS feeds), topic, or a specific URL:
You can also browse popular feeds by categories arranged by industry, skills, fun, or trending:
Results are organized by either Feedly Score, Followers, Articles Per Week, or Relevance, with Related Topics listed down the right-hand side.
You can also create keyword alerts so you never miss a trend or breaking news story involving the brands, industries, subjects, and categories that matter to you and your followers. You can set alerts for a specific news site or language, and narrow your search parameters using the operators listed at the bottom.
Once you’ve picked a few and populated your Feedly, there are a couple of ways to browse through the content.
Selecting “All” under Feeds in the left-hand menu will show you all new content from all the feeds you’re following, in all categories. They will be organized in simple chronological order.
Alternatively, you can select a particular category or a particular publication you want to read content from.
It’s these options that serve to make Feedly a great tool for finding trending content.
Whether you click on a topic or a specific publication, the top of the page will display the current three most popular articles for that topic or publication.
To see more popular content, either click the article (whether you read it or not is up to you) or click “mark as read and hide” (the little x). Then, refresh the page.
You can choose how to organize the posts by clicking the three dots in the top right, selecting from either Most Popular, Popular + Latest, Latest, or Oldest.
You can also use the Feedly Popularity Count to identify posts that are popular or trending upward. Look for the number just beneath the title. The higher that figure, the more popular the piece.
You can also find the popularity count listed when you click All, category, or a particular feed from the menu. This allows for quick and easy comparison.
Feedly could provide you with all the fresh, hot content you need. It’s that good. But don’t stop there.
Self-proclaimed or not, Reddit’s title as the “Front Page of the Internet” is very much deserved.
If you’ve never really gotten on board with Reddit, I get it. It’s not the most user-friendly or intuitive of platforms, and getting the most out of it takes time and practice. You not only need to learn how the platform works, you also need to know where the active subreddits – forums dedicated to a particular topic – that align with your interests are hiding.
Once you’ve gotten past that hurdle, however, Reddit is a goldmine of content inspiration.
Unlike other platforms, content submitted to Reddit is prioritized based on two things:
- Score (up and down votes by Reddit users)
The homepage gives you quick access to popular and trending posts under tabs that include hot, new, and rising, with each filtered by individual country or everywhere and/or when it was submitted.
You can read a detailed explanation of how Reddit’s algorithm works here, but in short, the higher the score a submission has and the more recently it has been added to the site, the higher up on the page it will appear.
This simple combination makes Reddit the perfect platform for finding trending content since (at least on active subreddits) only content that is trending at that exact moment in time will be visible to you.
So how do you use Reddit properly?
When you first join Reddit, you won’t be subscribed to any subreddits until you manually add them. Enter a topic or keyword in the ‘Search Reddit’ field at the top, and you’ll be able to quickly subscribe to those that appeal to and interest you.
You’ll see relevant communities (subreddits) you can subscribe to, as well as individual posts related to your search term. Change the ‘Sort By’ (Relevance, Top, New, Comments) and/or ‘Posts From’ (Past Hour, Past 24 Hours, Past Week, Past Month, Past Year, All Time) to zero in on exactly what you need.
Alternatively, you can view all the subs you’re subscribed to, unsubscribe from irrelevant ones much more quickly, and search for new ones on the subreddits page.
Bonus tip: It’s not only content submissions that are subjected to a voting system. Comments are voted on, too, and are organized by default in accordance with the results of this system (you can, of course, change the order to view the comments chronologically).
To find subreddits you want to subscribe to, you can use the site’s search function. Alternatively you can view “popular” or “new” subreddits on the “subreddits page,” or you can use external sites like Redditlist or Snoop Snoo to find suggestions for trending and growing subreddits.
Once you’ve populated your Reddit account with subreddits that are actually relevant to you and your business, the front page of the site will be packed with trending content suggestions.
Pick and share the best of the best. It’s just that easy.
It may not be for everyone, but BuzzFeed can give you an excellent snapshot of the trending topics of the day. The site is currently ranked as the 294th most popular globally and 96th in the United States by Alexa, and welcomes over 200 million monthly unique visitors, a global audience of 650+ million, and 163+ million readers in the USA.
Trending on BuzzFeed? Trending.
Will it be a good source for every topic and industry? No. But for others, you’ll be able to quickly identify hot content by checking out the Trending page from time to time, and the Top Posts the Week along the right-hand side.
Depending on your niche, this could be an untapped well.
4. Ahrefs Content Explorer
Another offering that is similar to BuzzSumo in its functionality, Content Explorer by Ahrefs allows you to search for content by keyword, timeframe, and a variety of other criteria.
An Ahrefs paid account includes several powerful tools in addition to the Content Explorer, with plans starting at $99/month.
Enter your search term, and the tool lists the trending content based on Ahrefs ‘performance metrics’: social shares, organic search traffic, and referring domains. But it goes a lot deeper than that, too. You can filter by language, word count, backlinks, date published, and more.
The Ahrefs suite packs some excellent tools into its offering. The Content Explorer is just one of many. You’ll also get access to their Rank Tracker, Site Explorer, Alerts, Keyword Explorer, and more.
SmartBrief collates, creates, and sends more than 200 niche email newsletters each day to over six million professionals and thought leaders. It is by no means unique in this endeavor, but it was one of the first – and is arguably one of the best – niche newsletter creators.
The competition in the niche newsletter sector means that to stand out and retain subscribers, you have to be very good at what you do. SmartBrief serves millions of individuals, working in partnership with professional societies, non-profits, corporations, and leading trade associations while curating from thousands of sources.
While talking to Digiday, Adam Rich – co-founder and editor-in-chief at Thrillist (which began life as a newsletter) – described the struggles involved in designing newsletters people actually want to read.
“Newsletters are a super hard game. A big part of the understanding my editors operated under was, it had to make sense to digitally tap someone on the shoulder. We were interrupting them, and it had to make sense.”
In order to live up to these standards, SmartBrief uses a mix of machine learning and human editing.
“SmartBrief uses machines to pick 20 to 25 articles per day, then uses its human editors to cull the list to 10 to 12, which they then summarize for each newsletter. With its team of 26 engineers (of a staff of 140), it has been focusing on a/b testing of headlines and article summaries; learning about their subscriber life cycle; and improving its curation platform.” Lucia Moses, Senior Editor at Digiday
This kind of collaboration between cutting-edge technology and people is what will separate the most successful from the rest of us as technology continues its push into all aspects of our personal and professional lives. With SmartBrief, there’s a lot of work going into ensuring the content subscribers receive is precisely what they want and need to be reading.
To find and subscribe to newsletters that are going to be meaningful to you, click the blue “Get Newsletters” link on the homepage. On the next page, you can browse and select newsletters by top-level category.
I’m going to choose “Marketing & Advertising.”
From here you can browse the current top news within that industry, and choose specific newsletters under that umbrella. To subscribe to a newsletter, you’ll want to click on it, and then hit the blue “Subscribe” button on the right or bottom of the page:
You can choose to either subscribe to all newsletters within a certain category or subcategory, or just those newsletters that are most relevant to you. If you’re unsure which ones you might actually care about, you can view a recent example by clicking on its title.
Once you’ve chosen what you want, you just need to enter your email address (you can also enter your company name and job title, but only an email address is necessary) and click “subscribe.”
You can also check out the most popular categories and stories on the website itself, as well as view their Trending list along the right-hand side of any subcategory page.
6. Social Pilot
SocialPilot is essentially a social media marketing product similar to Hootsuite. It’s not an exclusive tool for discovering content, but its Content Curation feature provides you with a refined list of content – ready for you to share to your social accounts.
If you like determining ‘trending’ content based how many influencers have shared it online, then SocialPilot is your perfect content discovery destination. For every piece of content, you can get a sneak peek into what your favorite bloggers and authors are posting.
To get the most refined curated content list, try searching for:
- Keywords: content marketing
- An author: ‘Joe Pulizzi’
- A profile: @jaybaer
Every post in your content list shows the number of influencers who shared that content.
The ‘sort by’ option helps you refine the list further on the basis of ‘publish time’ and ‘relevance’.
There is a catch, though. You can unlock these features only in paid plans, starting at $30 per month. The free and basic plans come with a simple ‘category’ search where you can filter the list based on categories like business, health, marketing, and so on.
Still a good resource, just not as robust as the full feature set.
But wait. There’s more. SocialPilot also has an ‘RSS Feed automation’ feature – just add the RSS Feed of a blog or website, and the content will be automatically shared to your social accounts. No need to keep checking your favorite blogs and sites for updated content!
Work smarter. Not harder.
You probably know Medium as primarily a blogging platform. Developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams (initially as a Twitter-integrated tool that would enable users to expand on the 140-character tweet), Medium allows anyone to share ideas and information by writing and publishing content to the platform.
Medium allows users to write about virtually anything, and the platform is designed to reward content and its creators purely on merit, rather than the size of their audience.
“The ethos of Medium is inherently democratic; it seeks to give a voice to people who have something interesting to say, even if they don’t have thousands of Twitter followers, an active blog, or friends in the right places. Medium is built to reward content for its quality, not for the pedigree or popularity of the author.” Chloe Mason Gray, founder of One Hour Behind
It also boasts an incredible user interface that works seamlessly across desktop, mobile, and app, and includes some nifty features like an estimated reading time:
Of course, we’re not here to talk about Medium’s marvelous merits as a publishing platform. Let’s talk about how it can be used as a content discovery tool.
Discovering the most popular content across the entire platform is easy. Just click “Popular on Medium” from the homepage menu along the top, or scroll down to “Popular on Medium.”
Discovering trending niche content is also really easy on the platform – once you know what to do.
If you do what comes naturally and simply use the search bar, you will be presented with popular stories – from all time periods. For instance, when I searched for “Marketing,” the default shows me the most popular story ever on Medium for that subject – a post from March 2015. The article has over 11500 “likes” and 173 responses.
If, however, you search by tags – which are located to the right of the search results – recently trending content will be given priority.
Medium is a popular and trendy site in its own right, so the content that’s popular there is by definition “trending.” Find it. Share it. Use it. And don’t forget to publish your own stuff there, too.
Pocket is a handy little service that allows you to save any article, video, or web page to read, watch, or review later. Collect from all over the web, then peruse at your leisure from one convenient dashboard later.
The popularity of Pocket is very good news for you and your content curation. Check out the Explore page, click on ‘Trending’ along the top, and you’ll see what content is most popular (i.e. being saved the most) by Pocket users.
Additionally, you can search the platform by keyword, and Pocket will even identify hot content with a teal ‘Trending’ sticker.
How’s that for fast and ridiculously easy?
9. Trend Watching and Trend Hunter
In content and in healthcare, sometimes, you need to see a specialist. There are several sites and services devoted to discovering trends as they happen. Trend Watching and Trend Hunter are two of the best.
While not exclusively tools for discovering content, both services provide a wealth of invaluable insight – for a price – into developing trends and consumer expectations across a wide spectrum of industries.
If you’re looking for a “big picture” report of what customers are looking for and interested in, and emerging trends in an industry as a whole, you’ll find plenty from either provider to keep you busy. These are premium services, but if you’re ready to invest in your business and your marketing, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more informative tool.
ContentGems pulls in popular content for your choice of interests (which are automatically saved to your account). The free account doesn’t offer much to set it apart from similar tools like Lumanu; it only really comes into its own with a paid account (which lets you save multiple filters – free accounts only let you save one).
There’s also an “Individual Pro” plan that allows up to 3 filters for $9/month.
Both Lumanu and ContentGems are excellent alternatives to BuzzSumo. Which one you use (if either) really comes down to personal preference.
To get started, create your account from the homepage, and then take advantage of ContentGems’ massive database of sources via filters that include keywords, social signals, and many other criteria.
You can expand your search by entering additional keywords, or narrow it by using the “must not contain” box (highlighted in red in the picture below) or the “must contain” box (highlighted in green).
With a paid plan, you can also filter by source, and create specific interest settings (including minimum word count, minimum popularity, and type of content).
Once created, you’ll automatically get articles delivered to your dashboard based on your settings.
Bonus tip: Although a free account will only let you save a single “interest,” you can update this interest as many times as you want.
The content that you find can be plugged into your social media profiles, email newsletters, website, or blog with seamless integration.
ContentGems labels itself a content discovery engine, and it delivers on that claim.
Quora is essentially a Q&A community, but what makes it unique is how diverse and intriguing the questions are, and the level of detail users put into their answers.
Create your account, choose a few relevant topics, and optionally enter your personal areas of expertise to get started.
It’s a goldmine of inspiration if you’re ever stuck for content ideas, but it’s also a useful platform for finding out what topics are trending for a particular interest or industry right now. You can access that information on the left of the homepage by clicking on individual interests.
You can tailor your Quora experience for whatever you need. Enter a keyword in the search field, then click on either ‘Search’ to see some of the latest and most popular questions, or ‘Topic’ to follow a particular keyword and ensure you’re alerted to trending topics for each one.
12. Google Trends
Google Trends is primarily used for monitoring trends in Google searches. It shows you the popularity of a keyword relative to overall search volume over time.
It also lists the most popular stories online, at any moment in time. To access this information, simply scroll down the page until you see the “Recently Trending” header. To view more, scroll to the bottom and click ‘More Trending Searches’.
Click one, and you’ll see related queries and a few of the top sources.
You can also select ‘Trending searches’ from the menu on the left (click the three vertical lines).
You’ll be taken to the Trending Searches page that allows you to see what’s trending for the day, in the past 24 hours (real-time), and by location.
Click on any result to get more information.
Instant trending content. Always fresh, always up-to-date, and straight from the horse’s mouth (who knows more about trending content online than Google?!).
13. Social Media
This tip doesn’t involve using content discovery tools, and there’s no need to worry about the value a paid account offers against the free version.
You simply need a little bit of time and patience.
Essentially all this involves is picking one of the big players in your industry, heading over to their Facebook and/or Twitter and/or LinkedIn page, and scanning through their recent posts.
At first, you’ll want to get a feel for the sort of engagement their posts receive on average. You’re then looking for posts with engagement that surpases these averages – those are the topics that are really resonating with the industry and people that are following it.
For example, within a couple of minutes I managed to figure out that Mashable’s tweets average well under 50 retweets and likes.
That tells me that people love this story about Duke the Pyrenees being elected for his third term as mayor of a Minnesota town.
Quick tip: Watch out for updates that have been artificially inflated by using paid promotion on Twitter or Facebook.
You can also check out the “Trends for you” feature on the left-hand side of your Twitter homepage.
Facebook killed their Trending menu on the right-hand side of your feed this past summer, so don’t bother looking for it. Things worked out though, because LinkedIn added a ‘What People Are Talking About Now’ section on the homepage for your account. Just look to the right.
Click ‘Show more’ to, well, see more.
Play around with the settings on each to get a tailor-made delivery of the stories and content that matter to you and your audience.
14. NewsWhip’s Spike
A 360-degree social media monitoring service, NewsWhip includes Spike as a paid upgrade.
What separates Spike from some of the other tools listed here is that it’s primarily a predictive service. It tracks and monitors channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, analyzing data to identify pre-viral stories. With it, you can find the next big thing before everyone else.
You can also find trending content in real-time, giving you the best of trending now and trending tomorrow to share with your followers.
Yet another paid option, but one with an affordable $49/month price tag, TrendSpottr is both predictive and real-time.
TrendFeed is a content discovery and curation tool that allows you to find the trending content from hundreds of feeds. Signal handles the predictive side of things, tracking and analyzing the social web to find emerging trends and influencers. And Alerts lets you keep on top of brand mentions, breaking news, emerging trends, and hot content. Taken together, they’ve got you covered from every angle.
Want a super-fast, super-easy bonus resource? Head on over to Trendsmap to see topics and hashtags that are trending on Twitter in real-time.
By combining discovery, collaboration, scheduling and analytics in a single tool, ContentStudio has emerged as a heavyweight in content marketing.
Its powerful modules house content discovery, social media management and analytics
Discovering trending content is any niche or industry is a breeze with ContentStudio.
ContentStudio is a one-stop shop for all your content related needs. Whether it be content discovery, composing, planning, automation or insights.
You can quickly search for highly targeted content using different types of search queries as shown in the image below.
For broad content discovery around a specific topic, you can use curated topics. ContentStudio uses a tier-based topic classification technique, currently supporting almost 500+ curated topics covering a wide array of interests.
If that doesn’t meet your needs and you want to build a refined content feed then create a custom topic feed using the query builder.
It has a free plan that allows you to create one custom topic feed and perform up to 10 searches a day. But the paid plans starting from $47/month provide you with unlimited searches and unlimited saved topic feeds.
ContentStudio is elegantly poised to fulfill all your content discovery needs. Using sophisticated social search analytics to discover topic relevant content and powerful content distribution modules, it’s worth calling it a ‘Swiss army knife’ of content & social marketing.
These are 16 solid methods for finding trending content that don’t include BuzzSumo. What would you add to the list? What tools or methods have you tried in your content marketing? Leave your thoughts in the comments below:
re-posted with special thanks to Mr. Sujan Patel