The word “trending” has driven me crazy for a long time. It’s become the go-to buzzword in the age of Twitter, particularly among the mainstream media which often credit “trending” Twitter activity as the reason for covering a particular story.

I now have a scientific reason to drop “trending” from our vocabulary.

As part of my client work and research into public sentiment in online chatter, I’m finding it’s now the rule that popular hashtags are propelled by anywhere between 15 and 25 per cent spam traffic and generally irrelevant noise. This is true of conferences, non-partisan hashtags and hashtags associated with online chatter on all sides of the political spectrum.

This last point is particularly important since I was recently asked to look into a rush of spam on the #cdnpoli hashtag. I was asked to investigate as many people felt it was a politically motivated act by a certain political interest group. However, I observed something very similar at a social media conference (nothing to do with politics) and a political event held by the same political interest group accused of hijacking #cdnpoli.

In fact, the research I’m doing on a recent event using a sample set of 3,000 tweets from a day’s volume of 12,000 shows there’s a good chance spambots and irrelevant noise could account for 30 per cent of that day’s traffic. So much for all of the back-patting I’ve seen for the hashtag “trending” in particular regions.

I for one won’t miss the word.

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