Image: Ryan McGuire, Gratisography


  • How to find out what’s trending — on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, Google, and Reddit
  • What’s the best hashtag to use?
  • Who shared this story?
  1. Do not assume that opinions expressed on social media are any kind of indicator of public opinion. As this important research by Pew back in 2012 found, this is far from the case.

✳️ Google Trends

Relaunched and massively improved, Google Trends — while not strictly social media — contains a wealth of interesting data on what people are searching for around the world.

Just a couple of the datasets pulled together by Google Trends on the UK’s Brexit vote

Which hashtag should I use?

✳️ RiteTag is a useful free tool where you can search for the most popular hashtags on any subject. For each hashtag it gives a breakdown of basic data and graphs and shows other associated hashtags (click on “connections”)

Who shared my/this story?

Buzzsumo is a particularly good tool for getting info on how many shares there are for a story, and where they came from — but is a paid-for service. More info on Buzzsumo below and there are free tools that give basic info, as follows:

What’s Trending…? Facebook

✳️ CrowdTangle

Update: In January 2017, CrowdTangle became free to any journalist or publisher producing “original content”. To register for an account click here.

A coupe of the most popular posts on Facebook as the results from the Australian election came in

✳️ Facebook Signal

Facebook Signal is a free service, designed by Facebook specifically for journalists. With CrowdTangle becoming free in January 2017 (see above), it will probably start becoming less useful (as CrowdTangle is a much more powerful took) but here’s the info on how it works in case.

A screengrab of the trending section of Facebook Signal on 11 June 2016
Hillary Clinton had the lion’s share of conversation on Facebook on 11 June 2016….
… the week before it was a different picture
Some of the top trending posts on Facebook on the UK’s EU referendum on 11 June 2016

Newswhip Spike

NewsWhip is another very powerful a tool to monitor and discover trending stories and video — across the web, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and YouTube. It’s subscription only, but you can sign up for a free 14-day trial in just a few clicks.

This shows the Facebook posts with the most comments on Facebook in the UK over the month leading up to 2 July

Buzzsumo Trending

Buzzsumo’s trending section shows links that are trending on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, and is a feature Buzzsumo added in 2015.

If you want results from any period less than 24 hours, you need to pay for a subscription

Storyful Trends

Storyful added a trending section to its subscription-based Newswire service, in 2014, which identifies emerging trends, and now also powers many of the trends displayed within Facebook and Facebook Signal (see above). They also handle the verification and licensing of videos.

What’s Trending…? Reddit

Update: CrowdTangle (see above) became free for journalists and publishers in January 2017, and also covers Reddit.

What’s Trending…? Twitter

Unfortunately (but predictably) most of the best tools in this area are paid-for. They are listed lower down, and many include a free trial too. But, first, a few tools that are helpful and free:

✳️ Trendsmap

Want to know what’s trending on Twitter around the world? Or in a specific country or city? Trendsmap shows this at a glance, and it’s free to do a basic search.

A Trendsmap view of part of Europe on 9 June 2016, ahead of the EU referendum in the UK and Euro 2016
Screenshot taken on 9 June 2016… (before the big vote)

✳️ Twittstorm

This is a very handy little tool that shows what’s trending on Twitter in Tweets per Minute.

Screengrab taken on 9 June 2016 of a search for “Brexit”

More free tools for Twitter trends

✳️ is selection of popular tech-type links being shared on Twitter.

Paid tools for analysing Twitter trends


Spredfast is a great tool for analysing how a story is being discussed on social media — where the spikes in conversation are, the best hashtags, what the top posts, images, and links are, and the most influential accounts related to any given term/search.

A summary view of a search for “Trump” on Twitter in week leading up to 2 July 2016…
Top hashtags related to Trump over the 90 days leading up to 2 July 2016
This shows the top tweets about Hillary Clinton in the 90 days leading up to 2 July 2016


Dataminr is a breaking news alert system based on Twitter, specifically designed for journalists.


Socialbakers is the place to go if you want to find the biggest and/or fastest growing social media accounts in a given country, or a given sector. Some of the basic results are ✳️ free, but for in-depth analysis you need a subscription.

The top Facebook accounts in Brazil, for example

✳️ More from the Social Media Reporter ✳️



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Cordelia Hebblethwaite

Commissioning editor for @bbcideas — short films for curious minds. Via @BBCNewsnight, @JSKStanford, @BBCTrending and more. Wrote