Before we begin, we should probably get one thing out of the way: any image that you are seeing on the social web, which is generating a lot of comments, shares or views, is technically trending on the social web. Since social media is so expansive and popular, content may “trend” a lot easier than it did before.
That isn’t to be confused with viral content, which has reached a status that is so pervasive that it is impossible to ignore. If you have seen more than, say, five people on your friends’ list share the same photo in the last couple of weeks, it is safe to assume the image is viral. If you see something shared on George Takei’s Facebook page, it is trending.
Now that we have stated those – probably not really exactly accurate – definitions of popular content on two levels, we can look at using trending visual content yourself.
Why Visual Content?
Using trending visual content is an easy way to take something that has already captured the interest of people online (so you know it will be popular), and taking advantage of that. For example, you can use a currently trending meme as a heading image for a blog post, which then shows up on your social media stream when you share it. People recognize that image, so they take notice right away.
Keeping an eye on visual trends (memes, popular cartoons, etc) has some solid education value: You get a feeling of what seems to trigger emotions (in terms of topics) and which different forms of visual content exist.
Here are some ideas of spotting visual trends, though keep in mind you can find trending images pretty much everywhere.
Learn To Love The Hashtag
Start by using the tools and tips in this article: How Trending Hashtags Work: Twitter, Google Plus, Vine
By looking at different relevant searches to what you are interested in, you can usually find accounts that consistently post good content. They are always worth a follow, so you can go back to them again and again.
My favorite tool for exploring related and trending hashtags has been Google Plus /Explore section. It is very trend-oriented and I am using it almost every time I am working on an article:
Take A Gander At Pinterest
Pinterest is a highly useful social platform for finding popular images. Not only can you get a feel for what is big, based on how often you are seeing them.
Pinterest search is veru trend-oriented. Whenever you search, you’ll see trending pins on top. You can also look in basic categories that relate to your industry or niche, or do a full search based on keyword.
I personally think the best use of Pinterest is not for finding trending images, but creating them. You can see what is popular and getting a lot of traction, and make similar looking photos based on those tropes. It doesn’t take much to find an emerging pattern about what does and doesn’t work.
Think Outside Of Photos
Not all visual content is photo based. Videos, infographics, comics and slideshows are just some of the other forms you can share with your followers. So make sure you are looking for those, media forms, and sharing them as often as possible.
Further reading: Best Ways to See What’s Trending On Youtube
If it is inspiration you are looking for, I enjoy checking out Slideshare, or comics. I find these two forms of content especially motivating. If I am feeling creatively tapped, I might check out something like A Softer World. For a laugh, I go to The Oatmeal. Any time I want some insight into my industry with a lighter touch, I try a slideshow.
You aren’t at all limited to photos, so go nuts.
Whether you are looking for inspiration, or you need a boost to your own marketing strategy, visual content is the way to go. If that content is already popular, you can get quite a bit out of it, even through a re-share.
Just try not to lock yourself down. You can find visual content that is worth looking at just about anywhere, even through a simple Google Image search.