How do some people seem to know about the next big thing way ahead of everyone else? Because they know how to recognize early signs of change. They also know which trend spotting tools to use.
What is a trend, and why should you be spotting them?
A trend is a general tendency or direction in which something’s going to move, develop or change. It’s defined by a shift in mentality or behavior that then influences a significant number of people.
It’s important to be on the lookout for the newest trends so you can plan more effectively for the future and introduce more successful initiatives to your business. By focusing on what will happen next, you can make more informed decisions in less time, saving a lot of energy and money in the long run.
Think about these trend-spotting ideas.
I frequently remind coaching clients that the only constant is change. Believe it. Assume that change is coming and look for it. Change can be either social — as in the rise of socially responsible business — or technological, as exemplified by the growth of mobile commerce.
Sometimes change can be both. Social media is a great example of that.
Don’t forget the cyclical, up-and-down, back-and-forth nature of business while you are looking. Change doesn’t have to be permanent to provide a viable opportunity for business creation and growth.
For example, when the real estate crisis hit in 2008, construction activity shrank, and many people were forced to make do with what they had. But trend-spotting entrepreneurs were able to adjust their plans depending on the market.
In another example, savvy interior designers marketed their services to those who wanted something new but couldn’t find or afford a new home.
See it coming
The basic tools of the trend tracker are seeing, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. In other words, every sense that can be used to get information about the world should be employed in looking for upcoming changes. Start by reading and watching everything you can.
That should include general interest news outlets, trade publications, blogs, government reports and casual conversations overheard in elevators. Be especially alert for problems people are talking about.
Trend spotting tools… your sources
Just as it took multiple sources—bloggers, Facebook, word of mouth—to realize that the time is ripe to visit Colombia, spotting a trend in other industries is much the same.
As you put together a list of blogs, news sites, social media channels, and other sources, here are some tips to help you hone in and filter extraneous content:
Follow trustworthy thought leaders
When selecting your sources for news and information, find reputable resources you can trust. These are people who are experts in their field, brands whose information you find to be reliable and valuable.
I follow some marketing bloggers who have been in the business for years. Most of them I’ve found through other people I follow or trust. When their blogs are too gimmicky or inauthentic, I stop reading. Be selective and filter out the noise.
Look outside your industry
In addition to watching what’s going on in your niche, it often pays to expand your horizons. Our world is so interconnected; true trends pop up everywhere. Keeping an eye on developments in other fields can sometimes be key in predicting changes closer to home.
Once you’ve started a list of potential sources and brands you want to follow, it’s time to optimize your trend-spotting with a few tools. Consider using trend-tracking tools to help you zero-in on trends that are worth investigating further.
You won’t be the only entrepreneur looking for business ideas on these platforms, but you can use them to dig deeper to validate hunches.
Trend spotting tools … Google News and Alerts
This first point is two tools. Google News allows you to create a stream of news stories for a specific keyword, person, or brand while Google Alerts will notify you every time that keyword is mentioned on the web.
To harness the Google News tool, follow these simple steps:
- Go tohttp://news.google.com
- Click the black down arrow on the right side of the search bar to pull up Advanced Search options
- Enter a search term you want to track
- If relevant, include where in the article you want to search for the term, a date range, and any specific periodical sources or locations.
- Your search will pull up recent news stories related to the search term
- For further filtering options, click the “Search tools” button to adjust your news source (Blogs or All News), time frame, and whether relevance or date should sort the results.
You can keep track of these alerts in your feed. To do this, copy and paste the URL from your search to add it as another content source. That way, whenever a new article with your search terms is published, you’ll see it in your Feedly reading list.
For detailed instructions on how to set up Google News sources directly in Feedly Pro, check out this tutorial.
To use Google Alerts, do the following:
- Go tohttp://www.google.com/alerts
- Enter a search term
- Click on the “Show options” dropdown
- Specify any restrictions you want on type of sources, language, region, and some
With Google Alerts, you can opt to get immediate notifications. Alternatively, you can add the stream of alerts to an RSS reader, like Feedly, and check in on your own time.
To do this, where it says “Deliver to,” select “RSS feed.” Then click the “Create alert” button. Next, click on the RSS feed icon to view the feed URL for your Google Alert. Copy this URL (it will start with http://www.google.com/alerts/feeds…) and paste it into your search bar in Feedly. Press enter, and you’ll be able to add the feed to your reading list.
For minute-by-minute trends, Twitter may be the best source of breaking news. Although Twitter can be a noisy world, with Twitter Lists, you have the power to filter the input down to what matters to you.
Create lists for Twitter accounts of people or brands who share your interests, or who are thought leaders and influencers in your field. That way you can stay on top of their updates without the feed getting cluttered by irrelevant tweets.
To create a Twitter list, follow these steps:
- Click on your profile image in the header (once you’re logged in to Twitter)
- Click on “Lists” from the dropdown that appears (alternatively, you can type in http://twitter.com/yourusername/lists to get to the same page)
- Here you should see any lists you’ve already created or subscribed to
- Click the “Create new list” button
- Type in a name, description of the list, and select whether it should be public or private
- To add Twitter accounts to the list, go to each user’s profile page
- On the user’s profile page, click the gear icon and select “Add or remove from ”
- From the pop-up box, check the box for the list you want their tweets to show up in
- Repeat the last three steps for each Twitter account you want on your list
For your own, hand-picked blogs and websites, you can use Feedly to quickly and easily curate a reading list. Here are a few tips for getting your Feedly primed for trendspotting:
- Use the search bar on the top right or the Add Content button to find and subscribe to new feeds by pasting in an URL.
- Use theChrome extension or a Feedly bookmarklet to add feeds to your reading list from any web page.
- Type a topic (example: social media) into the Feedly search bar to look up suggested sites from other Feedly users
- With Feedly Pro, you can use the Power Search, including hashtags (example: #socialmedia) to help you find specific stories related to that topic.
- Notice the popularity rating of the articles coming through your feed to see which ideas are getting more traction
- To discover new sources, you may not have known about; you can check out theShared Collections from other users who have recommended similar content
So, you have a website selling footwear, and you need to discover the best time to market boots. So, you’ll need to know when in the year the demand for boots starts to go up. Here’s what Google Trends says:
As you could probably have guessed there are great peaks in the winter and troughs in the summer for boot sales, but what it does indicate is that people start their searches earlier than you would think: July and August. So that’s when your marketing efforts should start as well.
You can also see that June is a rubbish time to be selling either boots or shoes, so perhaps you should focus your efforts on selling sandals.
Google Trends also suggests related terms (Wordtracker’s Keywords tool also does this, of course).
And you can search by image, product mentions on the web. Or you can choose to narrow it down by country, restrict it to a specific period or search by category.
You can, for example, find out how popular searches for DVDs are in the category ‘Technology’ rather than in ‘Arts & Entertainment’ if you’re interested more in recordable DVDs than movie DVDs.
Yahoo Search Clues
Next, let’s look at how useful Yahoo Search Clues is at trend comparison:
We can see from this graph that Coolpix (the compact digital) is overall very slightly more popular than the Digital SLR D300 but their graphs over a year are largely similar. The split between male and female searching for the terms is broadly similar with a slight preference by male searchers.
The smaller camera appeals to an older demographic than the more complicated DSLR. And the biggest market for these cameras is the United States.
From this information it’s possible to decide which groups to target in advertising or marketing campaigns – with Coolpix we would have to decide between:
Targeting a new, younger demographic to bring in a new type of customer
Or concentrating marketing efforts on older customers to whom the product already appeals.
YouTube Trends Dashboard
The YouTube Trends Dashboard is a great tool for tracking the popularity of, unsurprisingly, video content:
If you wanted to narrow down the search results to those most popular with or most shared by 13-17-year-olds in the UK, this is where you would do it.
And if you wanted to compare what the young ‘uns are viewing with those videos popular with the more mature, perhaps even in a different country, you can do that, too.
BuzzFeed organizes the most shared pieces of content on social media. Sign up for their main daily RSS feed or select a section you want to subscribe to, for example, Viral, Sports or Movies.
Getting a handle on the type of content being shared will help give you some ideas as to the kind of content you should have on your site.
The social search engine Topsy features a Twitter analytics tool which you can to use to compare up to three subjects where you can look at up to a month’s worth of trending links. Topsy only includes ‘significant’ tweet mentions, i.e., mentions that have been retweeted or include a link.
The data comes from Twitter, and Topsy only includes ‘significant’ tweet mentions, i.e., mentions that have been retweeted or include a link.
It’s obvious which is getting talked about the most.
Twitter Trends is the list of often hashtagged (#) terms you’ll see on the left-hand side of your Twitter account. You can track trends by location (there’s a choice of 150+ locations), or there’s an option to have ‘tailored trends’ – these are trends that are focused on your location and who you’re following. My tailored trends today are telling me that Nokia’s HERE maps have been launched on iTunes:
WeFollow and FollowerWonk
Find out what the influencers in your particular industry are talking about by finding out who those influencers are. In WeFollow add a tag, and it will suggest who are the top influencers in that niche. Mind, it’s user-generated. They gather their statistics from people who have submitted their Twitter name to them.
FollowerWonk also makes it easy to find influencers:
Click the ‘Search Twitter bios’ tab, and ‘more options’ then complete the details that you’d like to include in your search. You can sort by influence rating and some followers among other options.
Think with Google
A very useful newsletter to sign up for is Think with Google
Since Google are the ones with all the data, the marketing insights they pass on are surely worth a look. A current example on the site is a report on how and where users interact with their smartphones:
Last but not least is yet another Google tool, Google Instant: i.e., the drop-down menu that you see when you carry out a search on Google
Typing in “travel 2013”, for example, throws up some very interesting ideas on how you could be marketing your hotels, what to write about on your blog or which holidays to feature on your travel site. And it may even suggest terms that you hadn’t thought of before (for more long tail suggestions, try Wordtracker.
The bottom line
To be effective in this new era, we as marketers need to see our jobs differently. No more just focusing on metrics like clicks, video views or social media shares. We must successfully integrate our function with other business functions to create entire brand experiences that serve the customer all the way through their experiences throughout the business.
We can do better. Much better. But first, we need to stop seeing ourselves as crafters of clever brand messages and become creators of positive brand experiences.
Need some help in capturing more customers from your marketing strategies? Creative ideas to help the differentiation with potential customers?
Call today for a FREE consultation or a FREE quote. Learn about some options to scope your job.
Call Mike at 607-725-8240.
All you get is what you bring to the fight. And that fight gets better every day you learn and apply new ideas.
When things are not what you want them to be, what’s most important is your next step. Call today.
Test. Learn. Improve. Repeat.
Are you devoting enough energy improving your marketing, branding, and advertising?
Do you have a lesson about making your marketing strategy better you can share with this community? Have any questions or comments to add in the section below?
Mike Schoultz is the founder of Digital Spark Marketing, a digital marketing and customer service agency. With 40 years of business experience, he blogs on topics that relate to improving the performance of your business. Find them on G+, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Digital Spark Marketing will stretch your thinking and your ability to adapt to change. We also provide some fun and inspiration along the way. Call us for a free quote today. You will be amazed how reasonable we will be.
More reading on marketing strategy from Digital Spark Marketing’s Library: