Marketers are always on the lookout for the “next big thing”.
And rightly so.
But from emerging social platforms to shareable content, trends arguably come and go faster than ever. Finding out what a fad is and what is worth pursuing often feels like a gamble.
Despite popular belief, it doesn’t take a crystal ball to stay ahead of the curve and predict marketing trends. It’s not about stupid luck either.
All you need to do is improve your trending skills.
This guide outlines actionable steps to help you identify and capitalize on trends in your industry before they blow up.
What is trend spotting anyway?
Trend spotting is the process of predicting trends before they go mainstream and analyzing whether or not that trend is relevant to your business.
Social marketers are natural trend spotters. This is especially true when you consider how much time we spend analyzing data, talking to customers, and adjusting our strategies.
Trend spotting on social media is equally important and challenging as capricious social algorithms create an ever-changing social landscape.
Marketers and brands who launched TikTok early on are an example of effective trend spotting. As an example, consider the platform’s skepticism in 2019 about its rapid approach to one billion active users in 2021.
Remember, being a trendspotter is much more than being a kind of “cool dealer” focusing on popular content or viral marketing.
For example, one particular meme (think: Baby Yoda) might be a fad, while brands that use memes and humor effectively in their marketing represent a larger, long-term trend.
You can almost think of trendspotting as a proactive form of market research. While both depend on monitoring data, ideally trend spotting is an on-going process, while market research can be done as needed to inform of a specific project, campaign, or change of direction.
The advantages of trend spotting speak for themselves. When you find yourself on the ground floor of a new network, marketing campaign, or content form, you have more time to sort out the issues and fix your strategy.
In short, the ability to spot trends represents a significant competitive advantage over companies that are catching up.
What Kinds of Trends Should Marketers Be Following?
Trends can vary from profound changes in your company’s strategy to smaller events that are specific to your industry or company. Let’s look at some examples below.
Social media trends
Again, social media is a great place to spot trends.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes are not only active on social networks, but consumers too. If you want an idea of what’s trending and popular with the public, you’ve come to the right place with your social feeds.
Some examples of trends that you can identify through social media are:
- Types of content are the people who share and engage with them the most
- Which social platforms and marketing channels are growing (or shrinking)?
- Types of Ads that Consumers Engage in
- Emerging products, brands and influencers
Below are some socially specific trends from the latest Sprout Social Index. These insights are crucial not only for companies looking to refine their social strategies now, but also want to understand what trends will grow in the future.
For social media and beyond, so many marketing trends are specific to certain industries.
For example, marketing priorities for SaaS companies compared to those in the games industry are apples and oranges.
If you are looking for an example of companies that rely heavily on trendspotting alone, the beauty industry is the place for you.
In such a highly competitive environment with a socially savvy audience, beauty brands are constantly struggling to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to new platforms, content formats, and ad types. While some brands aren’t even test-driven Instagram roles or even TikTok, others like Pravana are already up to speed on the latest trends in social beauty.
Competitive research is critical to identifying industry trends while observing how others in your industry address their own audiences.
For example, what types of campaigns are running? How is it growing compared to your own? This shows how qualitative and quantitative trend spotting is when you observe both audience conversations and engagement metrics.
Obviously, customer trends are important as they affect your customers.
For example, by following feedback, reviews, and best-selling products, you can be informed of trends that could affect future promotions.
If nothing else, it will make it easier for you to identify which products people like (see Birchbox below) and discard the ones they don’t like.
“How do you recognize a trend? whatever? “
This is important. From launching a new social platform to running a new campaign, there is a certain amount of investment and risk associated with a given trend.
Part of trend spotting is being able to do some kind of cost-benefit analysis to make sure you’re spending your time on campaigns that are actually generating returns.
Again, tracking a trend needs to be based on data and analysis, not just gut instinct or trying to jump on a viral train.
5 Actionable Ways to Improve Trendspotting
If you want to become a top trendspotter, you’ve come to the right place.
The good news is that trend spotting is a skill that you can actively develop and refine over time. Below are five steps to do just that.
1. Talk to your customers more often
Frequent conversations with your customers can inform you not only about what they want and expect from you, but also about which functions and products they are generally interested in.
Of course, you need to read between the lines to identify customer trends. Social media is the perfect place to search your customers’ brains without having to hit them with a survey or questionnaire.
Surveys, product recommendations, and other closed questions can also trigger conversations between your customers to find out where their heads are.
It is also important to put your conversations with your customers in context. This includes questions, comments, and concerns raised through social media.
When you use social media management tools like Sprout, you can identify customer-wide social media trends on a single platform.
2. Set up social listening for industry keywords and hashtags
Piggyback on the final tip: You can spot emerging industry-wide trends by listening to your customers and competitors talking.
For example, you can use social listening to find the keywords and terms that your target audience uses most often. This includes brands, product names and sentiment-related keywords (e.g. “good” or “disappointing”).
Instead of trying to manually listen to hundreds or thousands of conversations, a social listening tool does the job for you. Here is an example for how to recognize an industry trend with Sprout:
Through Sprout’s audio report, you can discover related topics that are often mentioned with the terms you are following. This can help you discover the positive and negative discussion that your customers are participating in, even if they don’t mention you directly.
3. Conduct a thorough and ongoing competitive analysis
Trendspotting often feels like a race between you and your closest competitors.
So keep an eye on the type of campaigns your direct competitors are running and what their growth is like.
The idea here is not to think about what your neighbors are doing, but to compare and contrast your marketing approach. You may find yourself following completely different trends. On the other hand, you could be pretty much in step with each other.
Either way, you can use tools like our competitive analysis template to help you find your greatest ways to stand out.
4. Identify your own “trending” content
Do you remember what we said about trend spotting as quantitative?
If you want answers on what types of content or campaigns are moving the needle, you’ve come to the right place with your own social media metrics.
Let’s say there is a certain type of post or content (think influencers, UGC) that generates a lot of engagement. Conventional wisdom has it that you should consider creating more of this. You may be able to spot trends and common themes in your top performing content.
5. Actively speak to other influencers in your industry
After all, you can’t spot trends when you’re a total island.
From digital events and webinars to Twitter chats and beyond, join in on industry-specific conversations and see what others are observing.
You can learn so much about your industry simply by following influential players in your field. #DTCTwitter is a shining example of this:
Don’t forget to read blogs (like this one), newsletters, and case studies that are relevant to your business. If you want to be a trend spotter, you need to keep up to date.
What are you doing to improve your trend spotting skills?
Following trends can be downright overwhelming for marketers these days.
Trust us. We understand
By developing a trend spotting strategy using the steps we outlined (and tools like Sprout!) You can make it so much easier to keep track of what’s going on in your industry.
When talking about trends, make sure you are up to date on the latest trends in social media by reading the latest Sprout Social Index.