There are lots of reasons you might want to find trending content, including:
- Getting inspiration for your own content production
- Finding interesting, relevant content to share with your audience (i.e. on social media)
- Keeping up to speed on what sort of topics are (or are not) currently popular within your industry
Staying on top of trending content gives you an edge. People are more likely to follow you and listen to what you have to say if you’re consistently sharing or producing quality content that your audience cares about. Bonus points for being among the first to share or comment on this content – you may be seen as a trend-setter or thought leader.
Of course, finding content is easy. Finding content that’s actually “trending” – and by that I mean content that’s being shared widely, outside of its circle of creators – is a little trickier.
If you’ve ever asked the question “What’s the easiest way to find trending content,” one answer has probably stood out…
At its core, Buzzsumo is a content analysis tool that identifies trending content for any given search term by tracking social shares.
It’s very useful, even in its limited free version, but it’s not the be-all-and-end-all of content discovery. Far from it.
Here are 12 ways to find trending content that don’t involve using Buzzsumo.
Feedly aggregates RSS feeds into one handy location that can be accessed via a browser or app. In other words, Feedly allows you to view content from all your favorite websites (providing they have an RSS feed) in one place.
If you’re not using Feedly (or something like it) on that basis alone, I strongly encourage you start. There is no better way to keep up to speed with relevant content that you’re actually interested in.
More to the point, it’s also an excellent tool for identifying trending content.
To get the most out of Feedly, you need to be following a healthy number of publications (or in this case, feeds). To start following feeds, click “Discover and Follow.” You’ll find it in the menu to the left of the page.
From here you can search for feeds by #topic, title, or a specific URL:
You can also browse popular feeds by category:
Or you can view “Community Curated Sources” – in other words, lists of favorite feeds from other community members:
The collections of community sources you see will be limited, but should vary each time you visit the page.
Once you’ve populated your Feedly, there are three predominant ways to browse through the content.
Selecting “All” will show you all new content from all feeds you’re following, in all categories. They will be organized in simple chronological order.
Alternatively, you can select a particular category or a particular publication you want to read content from.
It’s these options that serve to make Feedly a great tool for finding trending content.
Whether you click on a topic or a specific publication, the top of the page will display the current three most popular articles for that topic or publication.
To see more popular content, either click the article (whether you read it or not is up to you) or click “hide.” Then, refresh the page.
Self-proclaimed or not, Reddit’s title as the “Front Page of the Internet” is very much deserved.
If you’ve never really gotten onboard with Reddit, I understand. It’s not the most user-friendly or intuitive of platforms, and getting the most out of it takes time. You not only need to learn how the platform works, you also need to know where the active subreddits that align with your interests are hiding.
Once you’ve gotten past that hurdle, however, Reddit is a goldmine of content inspiration.
Unlike other platforms, content submitted to Reddit is prioritized based on two things:
You can read a detailed explanation of how Reddit’s algorithm works here, but in short, the higher the score a submission has and the more recently it has been added to the site, the higher up on the page it will appear.
This simple combination makes Reddit the perfect platform for finding trending content since (at least on active subreddits) only content that is trending at that exact moment in time will be visible to you.
So how do you use Reddit properly?
When you first join Reddit, you will automatically become subscribed to the site’s most popular subreddits.
That’s kind of a good thing since it gives you access to lots of content from the get-go. It’s also slightly annoying, since you have to manually unsubscribe from each subreddit that doesn’t interest you.
You’ll find the button to do this on the right of all subreddits:
Alternatively, you can view all the subs you’re subscribed to, and unsubscribe from irrelevant ones much more quickly on this page.
Bonus tip: It’s not only content submissions that are subjected to a voting system. Comments are voted on, too, and are organized by default in accordance with the results of this system (you can, of course, change the order to view the comments chronologically).
To find subreddits you want to subscribe to, you can use the site’s search function. Alternatively you can view “popular” or “new” subreddits on the “subreddits page,” or you can use external sites like Redditlist or Snoop Snoo to find suggestions for trending and growing subreddits.
Once you’ve populated your Reddit account with subreddits you actually care about, the front page of the site will be packed with trending content suggestions.
Ruzzit shares a lot of similarities with Buzzsumo’s more basic features. You enter a topic into the search bar, and Ruzzit works its magic to show you the top-performing content (based on social shares) for that term.
You also can, like with Buzzsumo, modify your results according to metrics, including type of social share, time period, and the type of content.
What really caught my eye with Ruzzit, however, was the time element of its search feature. You can actually drill your search down to as recent a time period as the previous 60 minutes.
Beyond this, the site’s features are (currently at least) pretty limited. You might have noticed the site is still in Beta mode, but that being said, what it lacks in features, it more than makes up for in value (it’s completely free).
The site also seems to struggle with longer-tail search terms. Terms that are any longer, in fact, than a single word.
For example, an “all media,” “all time,” and “all social shares” search for “marketing” brings back 5,339 results.
But an “all media,” “all time,” and “all social shares” search for “digital marketing” brings back just 211 results.
Despite this, Ruzzit still has potential as a valuable addition to your arsenal (especially when you consider that, without a paid account, Buzzsumo only lets you view the first 10 results of a search, anyway). It just means that (for the time being, at least) you need to keep your searches as broad as possible.
Bonus tip: Sites like Ruzzit and Buzzsumo suffer from what I’m going to call “big site bias.” Content that’s published to big sites is more likely to become successful – regardless of its quality – than content published to small sites. Always bear this in mind, especially when researching trending content for the purpose of influencing your own. Just because a piece of content has performed well for, let’s say, Buzzfeed, does not mean a similar topic will necessarily work well for you.
4. LinkedIn Pulse
LinkedIn Pulse is a self-publishing platform that allows anyone to post or cross-post their own content. The potential reach is huge. According to LinkedIn, “The average Influencer post drives more than 31,000 views and receives more than 250 likes and 80 comments.”
Sure, those stats are for “influencers” who will benefit from the size of their existing audience, but I’ve seen first-hand that content posted to the platform performs. I’ve also found evidence of results that arguably exceeded all expectations – take Marko, from How to Make My Blog:
“The second post I published there was featured in three channels with a combined follower count being more than five million people. My post was listed right next to an article from Richard Branson of Virgin. My post got 20,000+ views, 950+ likes, 75+ comments and 2,000+ social shares.”
If you want to find out how to boost the reach of posts published to the platform, check out this article by Brian Lang from Small Business Ideas Blog. However, that’s not why I’ve included LinkedIn Pulse in this list. The platform is great for publishers, but it’s a rich source of inspiration and information, too. Better yet, it’s organized in a manner that makes finding the most popular content really easy.
If the information I have is still correct, when content is initially published to Pulse, it’s shared only with that user’s connections. If that content resonates with those connections and is shared, liked, or commented on enough, it will be promoted to the public area of Pulse.
This is where you can find trending content. Bear in mind that the nature of the content published to Pulse will be limited to “professional” types of topics – business, technology, and finance, for example.
You can also “follow” various subsections of Pulse, i.e., a certain topic, publisher, or influencer. This means the content will appear in your feed, which makes it easier to keep on top of trending content that’s relevant to you.
SmartBrief collates, creates, and sends more than 200 niche newsletters each day. It’s by no means unique in this endeavor, but it was one of the first – and is arguably one of the best – niche newsletter creators.
The competition in the niche newsletter sector means that to stand out and retain subscribers, you have to be very good at what you do.
While talking to Digiday, Adam Rich, co-founder and editor-in-chief at Thrillist (which began life as a newsletter) described the struggles involved in designing newsletters people actually want to read.
“Newsletters are a super hard game,” he said. “A big part of the understanding my editors operated under was, it had to make sense to digitally tap someone on the shoulder. We were interrupting them, and it had to make sense.”
In order to live up to these standards, SmartBrief uses a mix of machine learning and human editing.
“SmartBrief uses machines to pick 20 to 25 articles per day, then uses its human editors to cull the list to 10 to 12, which they then summarize for each newsletter. With its team of 26 engineers (of a staff of 140), it has been focusing on a/b testing of headlines and article summaries; learning about their subscriber life cycle; and improving its curation platform.” Lucia Moses, Senior Editor at Digiday
That’s a lot of work going into ensuring the content subscribers receive is precisely what they want, and need, to be reading.
To find and subscribe to newsletters that are going to be meaningful to you, pick a relevant top-level category:
I’m going to choose “Marketing & Advertising.”
From here you can browse the current top news within that industry. To subscribe to a newsletter, you’ll want to click the green button on the right of the page:
Now you can choose to either subscribe to all newsletters within a certain category, or just those newsletters that are most relevant to you. If you’re unsure which ones you might actually care about, you can view a recent newsletter by clicking on its title (that’s the bit in the darker text):
Once you’ve chosen what you want to subscribe to, you just need to enter your email address (you can also enter your company name and job title, but only an email address is necessary) and click “subscribe.”
“Epicbeat’s data offers much deeper insight that goes beyond just ‘which topic gets shared.’ It dives right into the makeup of the content (word count, reading level, sentiment, etc.), the sharing behaviours of the community and channels you are after, as well as the influencers you should target (and what THEIR social behaviour is like).” Erica Kim, content marketer at Pressly, reviewing Epicbeat
Pricewise it stacks up favorably against Buzzsumo, too.
A free account allows unlimited searches for the “latest content” (which, if you want to be seen as an influencer, is all that really matters anyway). Better yet, a plus account, which allows more comprehensive use of Epicbeat’s content tool and opens the door to a number of other features, is only $39 a month.
In comparison, Buzzsumo’s most basic paid account comes in at $99 a month.
If you’ve used Buzzsumo, the interface of Epicbeat’s content tool should feel pretty familiar. You enter a topic of interest and then tailor your search according to time frame, type of engagement, type and format of content, and country.
The results will be organized in accordance with how you chose to sort them. A more detailed breakdown of engagement is accessible by clicking the blue arrow to the right of each result.
“Content Insights” is a really useful feature that can be found to the right of the “Content” button.
The feature essentially offers detailed insight into the type of content that performs well for your search term. This includes things like the best-performing content format, most popular word count, sentiment, and reading level.
You probably know of Medium as a blogging platform, which, essentially, it is. Developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams (initially as a Twitter-integrated tool that would enable users to expand on the 140-character tweet), Medium allows anyone to share ideas and information by writing and publishing content to the platform.
It operates in a similar manner to the previously-mentioned LinkedIn Pulse, with a couple of key differences. One is that Medium allows users to write about pretty much anything; the other is that the platform is designed to reward content and its creators purely on merit, rather than the size of their audience.
“The ethos of Medium is inherently democratic; it seeks to give a voice to people who have something interesting to say, even if they don’t have thousands of Twitter followers, an active blog or friends in the right places. Medium is built to reward content for its quality, not for the pedigree or popularity of the author.” Chloe Mason Gray, founder of One Hour Behind, writing for Kissmetrics
It also boasts a pretty awesome user interface that works seamlessly across desktop, mobile, and app, and includes some nifty little features like an estimated reading time:
Best yet, you don’t need to write unique content for Medium. You can cross-post to it, and many people do (including myself).
Of course, we’re not here to talk about Medium’s merits as a publishing platform. Let’s talk about how it can be used as a content discovery tool.
Discovering the most popular content across the entire platform is easy. Just click “Top Stories.”
“Editors’ Picks” is worth a look, too, if you want early dibs on content that might be trending soon.
Discovering trending niche content is also really easy – once you know what to do.
If you do what comes naturally and simply use the search bar, you will be presented with popular stories – from all time periods. For instance, when I searched for “Marketing,” the default shows me the most popular story ever on Medium for that subject – a post from October 2015.
If, however, you search by tags (which you’ll be able to find on the right of the search results page), recently trending content will be given priority.
Lumanu is another content discovery tool that shares similar qualities with Buzzsumo by combining content and influencer discovery. It also boasts handy features like the ability to save favorite searches – and unlike Buzzsumo, the free account doesn’t top out at 10 results.
It’s really user-friendly, too.
To begin finding trending content you’ll want to click the “Discover” button.
Then, enter your topic of interest and click “Search.”
When your results appear, the default settings will look like this:
You’ll probably want to change these.
The smallest time frame available is 24 hours. You’ll probably also want to change the minimum score a piece of content needs in order to appear in the search results (otherwise a lot of what you’ll be looking at won’t really be “trending”).
Once you’ve made those tweaks, you should have plenty of trending content at your fingertips – with no limit on how much of it you can view.
ContentGems pulls in popular content for your choice of interests (which are automatically saved to your account). The free account doesn’t offer much to set it apart from similar tools like Lumanu (above); it only really comes into its own with a paid account (which lets you save multiple interests – free accounts only let you save one) .
That said, both Lumanu and Content Gems are excellent alternatives to Buzzsumo. Which one you use (if either) really comes down to personal preference.
To get started, create your first “interest” by entering a relevant search term here:
You’ll then be able to expand your search by entering additional keywords, or narrow it by using the “must contain” box (seen on the far right in the picture above).
You can also alter your search to show you either:
- The most relevant results from the past 7 days.
- The most relevant results from the past 24 hours.
- The most popular results from the past 7 days.
- The most popular results from the past 24 hours.
Bonus tip: Although a free account will only let you save a single “interest,” you can update this interest as many times as you want.
Quora is essentially a Q&A community, but what makes it unique is how diverse and intriguing the questions are, and the level of detail users put into their answers.
It’s a goldmine of inspiration if you’re ever stuck for content ideas, but it’s also a useful platform for finding out what topics are trending on the internet right now. You can access that information on the left of the homepage.
You can also tailor your Quora experience to ensure you’re alerted to trending topics you might care about by following topics of interest.
11. Google Trends
Google Trends is primarily used for monitoring trends in Google searches, or in other words, understanding how interest in a topic has changed over time.
It also shows you the most popular stories online, at any moment in time. To access this information, simply scroll down the page until you see the “Stories Trending Now” header. To view more, scroll right to the bottom of the page and more stories will load automatically.
To the left of the page, you’ll see the title of the trending topic. To the right, you’ll see an image link that will take you through to the top source for that topic.
Another pretty nifty feature of Google Trends is the ability to view not just the top article for a topic, but all relevant articles for a trending topic. To access that information, simply click on a title of interest.
You’ll be taken to a page that will show you the three “most relevant articles” for that topic. If you want to see more, just click the “More News Articles” link and you’ll be shown all relevant articles (great for identifying a lesser-shared article on a trending topic that deserves more attention).
12. Social Media
This final tip doesn’t involve using content discovery tools, and there’s no need to worry about the value a paid account offers against the free version.
You simply need a little bit of time and patience.
Essentially all this involves is picking one of the big players in your industry, heading over to their Facebook and/or Twitter page, and scanning through their recent posts.
At first, you’ll want to get a feel for the sort of engagement their posts receive on average. You’re then looking for posts with engagement that surpases these averages – those are the topics that are really worth paying attention to.
For example, within a couple of minutes I managed to figure out that Mashable’s tweets average less than 50 retweets and likes.
That tells me that people really like this story about Duke the Pyrenees being elected for his third term as a Minnesota town mayor.
Quick tip: Watch out for updates that have been artificially inflated by using promoted tweets or on Facebook, boosts.
That’s 12 ways to find trending content (without using Buzzsumo), but I don’t doubt there’s lots more. If you know of any, comments are below – let us know what they’re called and why we should give them a try.