Diary of a Trend Stalker: Gut Shot

Now that we've covered the basic methods of identifying topics, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. This can be tough work, but I don’t mind getting a little messy. I’m like the Mike Rowe of trend hunting – but without the contract to pimp Ford trucks

Maybe you have a gut feeling about something that might be a trend. Before you unleash your mind-dazzling observations on the community, put a little more thought into exactly WHY you think it is a trend. There's a very fine line between a genuine trend and the herd mentality of mass adoption. 

For example: You can do all the research in the world about denim trends, but if the fashion market says boot-cut jeans are “in,” and they push enough money against the various trade publications in order to make it so, then boot-cut jeans will be popular.

That is feeding cattle. It’s NOT a trend.

Questions About Your Target 

  • Does it hit you on a personal level? Do other people feel it? Would you sit at a bar and passionately wax on about it to a stranger?
  • Does it hit you on a professional level? What's the likelihood that a mass quantity of people will want it, use it, and keep using it?
  • Is it totally new? And if so, is it “iffy” new or “must-have” new?
  • Does it fit comfortably in the current social, technical or economic climate? Is it too soon? Or worse [gasp!] – too late?
  • What is the likelihood this is simply a manifestation or revision of an earlier trend?
  • Do you believe it's on the verge of blowing up? Can you add any supporting credibility, personal connection or specify a behavioral characteristic as to why?

Do I have to like it to hunt it?

NO! 

In fact, I recently started following the musical genre of Dubstep. Admittedly I got on board a little late in the genre’s lifecycle, or at least well past its point of blowing up. That’s because I hated the music at first and dismissed it as "a bunch of noise” created by talentless, knob-turners. Seemed like complete bullshit to me.

[BTW: You damn kids need to stop cutting across the corner of my lawn on your way home from school. HOOLIGANS!]

Then I took an interest in why it was popular, and poked the badger with a stick named Twitter. The many responses I received were passionate and varied.

The important thing is that I pursued an education in this new thing. Since opening my mind to the genre, I now understand the music from the perspective of its passionate fan base. I understand (on a basic level) the tools and talent that go into this new way of crafting music. And I even like some of it now.

Here are some other tools to help you confront, hunt, discover and uncover possible trends:

Instagram:

There are a few reasons I love using Instagram. First off, it provides global perspective in a flash. Facebook, and Twitter are great, but they don't always push the global content I’m looking for. It’s there in spades, but I miss a lot of the good stuff because it’s swimming in a sea of status updates about annoying co-workers and dinner plans.

However, Instagram makes it easy to find great images because it was designed as a visual platform. If you use the "popular" tab on Instagram, or if you follow an eclectic global mix of people, it can be like drinking from a fire hose. I use the search tools and search #hashtags that will give me the broadest variance within my hunted trends. Then I follow people who look to be not only shooting great photos, but also seem to have a pulse for the SAME TRENDS!

“Wait a minute, Justice. Do you mean to tell me I'm not the only person looking for cool shit within my interest category?” 

No, people, that's why there are now more blogs than there are old hippies who claim to have been at Woodstock.

Pinterest:

For the exact same reasons I like Instagram, I LOVE Pinterest. It's still a bit young in social adoption terms, and there aren’t 500 pins on "elderly, leather-bound mailmen" – but I'm sure that won't take long. A VERY interesting feature of the mobile app is the ability to see images get "repinned" and gain popularity. It's almost like cheating in the trend-hunting world, as you see what people are glomming onto in nearly real-time.

Tumblr:

One word defines why I like Tumlbr for fast hunting of trends in closer-than-real time: laziness.

When long-winded people like me write huge posts like this, not everyone gives a shit. But when someone quickly posts the past half dozen interesting photos, or excerpts from a favorite site, the content is quick and current! It's lazy because MOST Tumblr post are quick hits of content. Nothing more than a photo and brief description. Plus, the system has kick-ass search.

Here are a few examples of quick searches on trend and cool hunting: 

Alerts:

http://www.google.com/alerts & http://socialmention.com/ - If you read my blog, you more than likely know why and how to use this tool. Fair to say, however, that setting up a system of alerts around trends you like or want to keep current with will be very helpful.

Digital intelligence:

I suggest you kick the tires on the various trends apps. Some are simply real-time content streaming, but you'll see the usefulness if it applies to your prey. There are many tools at your disposal. I've outlined some free ones here. But if you're hunting professionally, there's a fleet of social monitoring tools that would be worth their weight in gold to have at your disposal.

Cool Hunting Apps:

Rejoice! as this is my last post regarding trend hunting for a while. Let me know if you learned anything or I'm missing anything. Much love to you all.