The anatomy of a trend

Blog Author
Claire Cohen
September 14, 2023
1:40 pm

Lately the question that has been living rent-free in our thoughts is, what is a trend exactly? While most people can give an example of a TikTok trend, it's hard to define what an official trend is and what qualifies as one.

Upon further investigation, we discovered that there's not one universal definition for a trend, but a whole hierarchy that encompasses everything from a fleeting fad to a larger stylistic shift that will still be popular in a year. Here's our breakdown:

Tier 1: Trope

At a glance definition: Video formats that are evergreen, widely known, and used in perpetuity. While they may originate from a specific creator, the format is bigger than any specific creator, audio, or even platform. "Get ready with me" content, for example, is popular across TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram and has been a beloved format for years.

Examples include: 

Originates from: Macro trends on social media. Many tropes likely stem from an individual creator but they're harder to trace since they're so ubiquitous.

Longevity: Evergreen

How to track it: Hashtag data

Tier 2: Theme

At a glance definition: An overarching idea or concept that is in style at a certain moment that trickles down across content genres and formats. For example, the "clean girl aesthetic" manifests across health & wellness trends (e.g. clean girl morning routine), trending beauty looks (e.g. clean girl manicure and slicked back bun), and home and wellness content (e.g. fridge re-stocks, organizing hacks).

Examples include: 

Originates from: Larger media landscape or key influential tastemakers 

Longevity: 6 months to a year (though sometimes longer or shorter)

How to track it: Hashtag data, rise in followings of creators who are steeped in the particular theme

Tier 3: Trend

At a glance definition: You know this one. Trends are a fleeting moment in the cultural zeitgeist that inspires social media to generate content around the same theme. These are those blink-and-you'll-miss-it moments when seemingly all sides of TikTok are rallied around the same topic. Think back to when "it's corn" was big — food creators used the song to share corn recipes, music creators remixed the track, and everyone in between used the audio to talk about something they loved.

Examples include: 

Originates from: Typically an individual creator/audio/filter

Longevity: 2-4 weeks

How to track it: Hashtag data, usage on specific audio, usage on a CapCut template, follower growth on original creator

Tier 4: Micro-trend

At a glance definition: A popular moment within specific communities that inspires UGC around the same topic. While this sounds a lot like a classic trend, there's a key difference between the two. A trend will transcend the community that it’s in to be popular across social while a micro-trend stays rooted in its community. While slugging, for instance, was a big deal in the skincare community last August, most audiences outside the niche have likely never even heard of the phenomena. Hence, micro-trend!

Examples include: 

Originates from: Typically an individual creator/video

Longevity: 1-3 weeks 

How to track it: Hashtag data, usage on specific audio, usage on a CapCut template, follower growth on original creator

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