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Top Twitter Trends of 2009

Now that Twitter employs a Chief Scientist, we will benefit from the ongoing interpretation and publishing of Twitter behavior and activity to better understand how Twitter is constantly evolving.

In a discussion with Robert Scoble recently, I suggested that Twitter also consider hiring a digital anthropologist or sociologist, to not only analyze and comprehend data, but also effectively observe cultures and shifts within this burgeoning online society in order to participate in and ultimately shape its transformation.

As shared in Twitter’s post announcing this year’s top trends:

Twitter’s Trending Topics helped us understand what was happening around the world showing us that people everywhere can be united in concern around important events; excited about a new movie; or geek-out about a major new technology.

Twitter is indeed a human seismograph, a reflection of current events as well as a real-time indicator of our focus and attention. Whether we agree or align with Twitter’s trending topics, they do in fact represent popular interest at any given time. In 2009, Twitter’s data concentrated on one particular topic that also demonstrated how diversified cultures, societies, beliefs, and politics can converge into one global community.

Among all the keywords, hashtags, and phrases that proliferated throughout the year, one topic surfaced repeatedly. Twitter users found the Iranian elections the most engaging topic of the year. The terms #iranelection, Iran and Tehran were all in the top-21 of Trending Topics, and #iranelection finished in a close second behind the regular weekly favorite #musicmonday.

If for but a moment, through services such as Twitter, we become one…

As a seismograph detects and records the intensity, direction, and duration of a movement, Twitter captures the activity and reaction of people around events as they happen. In practically every instance, a spark triggered a social tsunami of tweets and retweets that echoed into history books of socialized media.

Twitter Trends of 2009

News Events

1. #iranelection
2. Swine Flu
3. Gaza
4. Iran
5. Tehran
6. #swineflu
7. AIG
8. #uksnow
9. Earth Hour
10. #inaug09


1. Michael Jackson
2. Susan Boyle
3. Adam Lambert
4. Kobe (Bryant)
5. Chris Brown
6. Chuck Norris
7. Joe Wilson
8. Tiger Woods
9. Christian Bale
10. A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez)


1. Harry Potter
2. New Moon
3. District 9
4. Paranormal Activity
5. Star Trek
6. True Blood
7. Transformers 2
8. Watchmen
9. Slumdog Millionaire
10. G.I. Joe

TV Shows

1. American Idol
2. Glee
3. Teen Choice Awards
4. SNL (Saturday Night Live)
5. Dollhouse
6. Grey’s Anatomy
7. VMAS (Video Music Awards)
8. #bsg (Battlestar Galatica)
9. BET Awards
10. Lost

Sports (Teams, Events, Leagues)

1. Super Bowl
2. Lakers
3. Wimbledon
4. Cavs (Cleveland Cavaliers)
5. Superbowl
6. Chelsea
7. NFL
8. UFC 100
9. Yankees
10. Liverpool


1. Google Wave
2. Snow Leopard
3. Tweetdeck
4. Windows 7
5. CES
6. Palm Pre
7. Google Latitude
8. #E3
9. #amazonfail
10. Macworld

Hash Tags

1. #musicmonday
2. #iranelection
3. #sxsw
4. #swineflu
5. #nevertrust
6. #mm
7. #rememberwhen
8. #3drunkwords
9. #unacceptable
10. #iwish

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110 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Top Twitter Trends of 2009”

  1. Irene says:

    Makes for a great synopsis of '09… Kinda nice to see lists for this year that don't mention “recession”. Thanks for the handy info, as always!
    –Irene Williams

  2. Tosk59 says:

    “… ultimately shape its transformation …” How exactly, in what direction, and for whose benefit? Seismographs measure but do not “shape” as an end user why would I want a Twitter employee to shape anyuthing?

    • briansolis says:

      there's a difference between measurement of activity and the interpretation of behavior. I suggest that analyzing and potentially enhancing experiences could shape things in ore meaningful ways.

    • Tosk59 says:

      OK, guess I “over-interpreted” your comment. I took the “its” in the sentence “… ultimately shape its transformation…” as referring to the “culture' and “burgeoning online society” as opposed to the tool itself (i.e. Twitter) and how it presents them. As such was wondering why that was a good idea….

      Mea culpa

  3. Great observations Brian. The more mainstream Twitter becomes and the more people use it, the better we can hone in on societal shifts as they occur. Seeing these trends in context – geographic, time, etc. – can aid in interpretation as well. Combining these trending topics with links to relevant sources of additional information, or showing the most RT'd links that are trending for those topics would also be awesome.

  4. Shari Weiss says:

    I tweeted about Adam Lambert, Susan Boyle, American idol, and Glee on the list . . . and a lot about Avatar, which apparently came out too late to make the list.

  5. jacobmorgan says:

    When you say “our focus and attention” I'm assuming you mean the focus and attention specifically of twitter users? I think there are a few problems for relying on twitter as a seismograph and I'm curious to hear your thoughts.

    1) there are just around 60 million users and traffic appears to be stagnant
    granted 3rd party app traffic is way up:

    2) the majority of twitter users are still in the US and thus perhaps not an accurate reflection of global trends

    3) many trending topics are actually manipulated and gamed by contests, offers, promotions i.e. moonfruit, that don't necessarily reflect what people care about on a cultural, sociological, or a world level.

    4) Twitter now has a reputation as a place to go to for political/global protests

    I'm not saying that I don't think the twitter information is valuable but I just don't know how accurately it reflects the pulse of the world. I have a psychology background as well so I'm always skeptical with general overviews and statistics as I have found plenty of flaws. It would be more valuable to breakdown the trends by geographic area/location/demographics/psychographics and compare that against something such as facebook for example. I'm assuming that's what the digital anthropologist can do. The information from twitter is relative and the topics are only valuable when compared against other topics.

    • briansolis says:

      Even more interesting is that it's not 60 million users…it's visitors (users are much less). However, it's not a reflection of mobile and third-party app usage. As someone interested in psychology, Twitter represents an interesting and perhaps, unique sampling that represents interests of people, most likely similar to you, me and people we know, all over the world. I just compared Facebook topics to Twitter topics in a post on 12/30…however, I'm also about to analyze different twitter trending data where the results are radically different.

    • jacobmorgan says:

      Yep I definitely agree with you on that. Curious to see the upcoming posts on the data you're looking at. I suppose the next question is what do you do with the data or the trends? Is it something you believe will be actionable for businesses or is this more of a societal and cultural thing? Might also be interesting to see how something on goole trends matches up with trends on facebook/twitter. See you at CES!

  6. edward04 says:

    Interesting stuff. What strikes me from this is that Twitter still has an American bias, despite stuff on Susan Boyle and Iran. The spreading to other countries will make this an interesting analysis – to what extent global tools are used differently by differnt cultures. Globalisation as originally conceived – reduce costs, essentially, replicate business models as much as possible – needs a rethink, esp. now USA is the world's largest debtor rather than the largest creditor. Chinese twitter stuff would be fascinating.

  7. You are THE Social Media Guru! I just don't know if you see or shape the future, or both.

  8. I thought you were THE Social Media Guru, only to find out you don't even recognize the social atribute of having a dofollow blog. Are you that much of a selfish snob that you won't even throw your followers a dofollow bone? You have lost my respect in a big way.

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