Newspapers occasionally print banal stories about twitter. These stories sometimes include observations about top trending topic and the impact on the news agenda.. Even proper newspapers do it. BUt how easy is it to manipulate?
The answer is that it is surprisingly easy.
For example, for a large chunk of today the top trending term in the UK on twitter was "Martin Amis". This ranked ahead of "fabio Capello" almost until the point he started his press conference.
Twitter trends are used to gauge what people are tweeting about and inform a news agenda by suggesting that people are talking or concerned about certain topics.
So – how did "Martin Amis" become the top trending term in the UK? His new (rather fine) book was published a while ago (his best since London Fields for me). He wasn’t on the telly. he’s not been in the media.
Last night I started a hashtag on twitter called "#swapwordinafilmwithmartinamis . Catchy eh? This hashtag was a response to a previous one involving sheds – but aware of young martin’s love of word swap games with Christopher Hitchens (google it if you don’t believe me) I thought it would be funny to use Martin Amis. The first tweets were a warm up (the trend can be traced from here) but a series of Carry on tweets, "Carry on Martin Amis" "carry on Again Martin Amis"; "Carry on up the Martin Amis" prompted the inspired "Run Martin Amis Run" from doktorb. And then things started getting silly.
Aside from the potential for Barry Cryer-esque innuendo "The Magnificent Seven Ride Martin Amis" &c. you could also have the more bizarre for example "Martin Amis and the Chipmunks2: the Squeakuel" by Gary Younge, or "My big fat greek martin Amis".
And during the night Martin Amis became a leading trend on twitter. That’s fine at night in the UK – but during the day as the hashtag was revived there were at times ten tweets a minute about Martin Amis – placing it number one in the trending items.
Many made me smile. Some made me laugh. And there is something satisfyingly Lyttletonesque about the whole thing.
But basically for the while this morning it was a group of 4 or 5 people making each other laugh. And this became a trending topic on twitter.
Makes you think
ETA (at 9.30 pm) Martin Amis has been the number 1 trending item in the UK for the past 2 hours – during a world cup match. 2nd most popular item: Howard Webb.
As the late great peter butterworth’s missionary said in Carry on Up the Khyber "They’re all mad you know"
ETA (10.45 pm) And at this point Martin Amis is now the third trending item in New York city. Madness.
ETA (11.40 pm) And as Martin AMis becomes the number 1 twitter trend in Canada the big question is asked "Is Martin Amis the new Justin Bieber?"
ETA (midnight 15) And Martin Amis is now in the top 10 of worldwide trending topics.