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mia pearson

"Trending" and " virality" are the currencies of the Internet. Clients want their videos to go viral and their events to trend. There are agencies everywhere trying to make those things happen.

Trends in social media are essentially the heartbeat of the Internet. Through Facebook, Twitter and Google, you can instantly see what people around the world are talking about and what content is being shared the most.

The exponential growth of the size of community with every new commentator, combined with today's always-on culture and instant communication, has ended broadcast media's monopoly on breaking stories and dramatically shortened the time period from the occurence of an event to reporting about it.

The sheer number of people involved in the discussion has changed, too. Sports and award shows have broken free of broadcast media and now draw massive social media audiences. Inspirational storytelling, such as the tales of Caine's Arcade, the cardboard arcade run by a nine-year-old, and Karen Klein, the bullied school bus monitor, are attracting a lot of attention and spreading like wildfire.

Toronto-based digital media company Trend Hunter is at the forefront of understanding the trends and shift to more conversational marketing.

Founded in 2005 by Jeremy Gutsche to sort and organize the most popular content on the Internet, Trend Hunter now attracts more than 35 million monthly views in addition to more than two million Facebook fans and more than 217,000 Twitter followers.

Its goal is to provide inspiration for professional innovators. It is essentially a repository of cool. And it's seeing brands move away from traditional online advertising and more into social, conversational marketing.

"Social media has changed the number of influencers a brand needs to care about and amplified the importance of earned media," says Marcus Daniels, Trend Hunter's chief operating officer.

"We've seen a strong shift towards brands partnering with us to create conversational campaigns to build authentic relationships with influencers."

For small businesses, in particular, it's incredibly beneficial. Small businesses tend to be more agile and have way more freedom to produce great creative content.

"Display advertising works, but is contingent on sustained volume to be effective, which is often too costly for a small business," Mr. Daniels adds. "That is where the ROI of a killer sponsored post that goes viral can be hugely valuable for small brands with limited budgets looking to compete in this noisy digital age."

Mr. Daniels also thinks that there is a great opportunity for Canadian business to take advantage of conversational marketing.

"Canada still lags behind the U.S. for long-term commitment and broader integration," he says. "Brands are dipping their toes in the water with test campaigns, but long-term efforts integrated with other marketing activities produce way better results."

While it initially seems like the power of online trending through conversational marketing is more applicable to business-to-consumer brands, there is a great opportunity in business-to-business as well. Mr. Daniels cites the American Express Open Forum as a great example of the power that can come from a combination of great content and social media activation.

The long and short of it is that content is king. If it's great, there's a good chance that it will make waves on Twitter, attract new advocates to your brand and build long-term relationships.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic . She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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