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The Big Trendspotting Guide: Meaning, Examples, Tips

Ann-Derrick Gaillot

Dec 8, 2023

The best marketers are always looking forward, anticipating what consumers will need and want next. Spotting trends before they get big is an integral part of staying competitive in that process — there’s nothing less appealing to consumers than a communication or campaign that seems to be speaking to a moment that has passed. Adept marketers harness the excitement of the future and the possibilities of what’s to come. Trendspotting lets marketers find that excitement and use it to distinguish brands, organizations, and more from their competitors.

Trendspotting has never been a simple task, but in the modern era of infinite choices and limitless information, it’s especially difficult to know where to start. Can you relate? Then this guide to trendspotting is for you. Read on to learn more about what trendspotting is, how to do it, and how social listening solutions can supercharge your ability to spot trends.

Table of Contents

What is trendspotting?

Trendspotting is the action of identifying a trend before it becomes mainstream or reaches its peak. This involves taking steps to detect signals like emerging data anomalies or cultural shifts and using them to forecast a trend’s growth and development.

Why is trendspotting important?

Trendspotting gives analysts, marketers, product developers, and other professionals the ability to plan for the future by anticipating new business opportunities and demands. Knowing about trends before they hit peak popularity can also help brands distinguish themselves from the competition with a first-mover advantage. For organizations looking to establish themselves as thought leaders, trendspotting is an important part of offering forward-thinking points of view.

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Trendspotting examples

Each field, industry, and objective can call for its own approach to trendspotting, but the most stripped-down method is just careful observation. An example of observation-based trendspotting is runway reports that come out of the major fashion weeks each year. Experienced fashion editors and scouts look for consistent elements and themes across runway collections and distill them into style predictions for their readers. The same approach is used at trade shows and conferences across industries to serve an endless variety of purposes, including product development to marketing strategy.

Human observation is a classic method when you’re working with a relatively small number of data points, but it gets much more complicated and less accurate at scale. That’s why more and more organizations are using data and AI-powered analytics to spot harder-to-find trends with precision and accuracy. 

For just one example, spirits company Pernod Ricard used AI-powered social listening insights to spot the organic wine trend before it boomed. That foresight gave its brands time to plan for demand and strategize how to set themselves apart. 

See how Pernod Ricard uses Meltwater to discover emerging beverage industry trends and take a look at our media intelligence analysis: What Marketers Can Learn from Paris Fashion Week 2024 and get free access to our Paris Fashion Week Insights Dashboard.

How to spot a trend

There is no one way to spot a trend, and best practices vary from industry to industry and objective to objective. But here is a basic series of steps to follow that you can build from.

Step 1: Get a sense of the landscape

Assess what information and data you need to understand the current state of affairs in your field, topic, or industry. That background knowledge will help you recognize what is and isn’t the norm.

Step 2: Monitor and analyze social data

Get the foundational metrics and patterns you need to be able to spot trends as they emerge. Unless you’re a statistics wiz, however, this is only feasible with a social listening and analytics solution. Our platform does the analysis for you across a wide data set, letting you get analytics at a glance with easy-to-read data visualizations. 

Step 3: Collect clues, samples, and signals

Now that you know more about norms over time, you can look out for information or data that deviates from it. Take note of those deviations — they will point you to budding trends. AI-powered spike alerts refine and automate this process so you never miss a critical development.

Step 4: Detect and identify

With a collection of signs or signals at hand you can then dive further to learn more about what is relevant to your trendspotting search. Look for common threads or interesting shifts to help you decide which potential trends look most promising. 

Step 5: Zoom in and drill down

Drill down on the data to extract insights about the trend (like what is causing it and how it will develop) as well as intelligence about its audience (what about the trend appeals to them, how they are responding to it, what unites this segment, and what they will be looking for in the future). Without the right tools, this is a time-consuming and imprecise process, but tech-forward solutions do it in a fraction of the time with stronger results. For example, includes features like advanced data structuring and visual analytics to give users a shortcut from data to insights. Consumer health company Haleon uses it to get audience insights 80% faster than if they had undergone a traditional consumer research study.

Learn more about Haleon’s in-house social intelligence unit, powered by Meltwater.

These steps are generalizations of a more involved process that advanced technology like AI-powered algorithms can help automate. However, if you’re starting from scratch, you can iterate on this framework to find your ideal trendspotting method.

Trendspotting tips

With practice, you’ll find the trendspotting practice that works best for you. Here are some tips to keep in mind along the way that will help you be successful.

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  • Do your research. Familiarity (or even better, expertise) in the field or market you’re scouring for trends is key to finding fresh pattern shifts. Without it, you may think you’ve uncovered a hot trend that was obvious to your competitors or past its prime.
  • Listen to experts. Following leaders and trendsetters for their expertise go hand in hand with doing research. Find newsletters, blogs, social media accounts, and other regularly updated resources that can keep you in the loop of new developments and insights that you can use to boost your trendspotting efforts.
  • Be observant and curious. Often the most exciting trends come from unexpected origins. Keeping an eye out, asking questions, and investigating clues help you be a creative, and therefore competitive, trendspotter.
  • Use social listening. Technological advances have given trendspotters a slew of tools and solutions that make their jobs more rigorous and easier at the same time. For marketers especially, social listening is essential for trendspotting at scale with solid data that can inform better business decisions.

Check out our ultimate social listening guide to see how to get started.

What to do after spotting a trend

You spotted a trend, but now what? To answer that question, return to your original goal for trendspotting. Take the insights you’ve uncovered and use them to strategize your next steps. This may look like making product or service updates, preparing for new staffing demands, reorganizing supply chains, revamping messaging and branding, or reallocating resources. 

No matter how you move forward, letting data drive your business decisions reduces the risk and increases the potential benefit of pursuing emerging trends. Spot insights and trends at scale with AI-powered solutions like Meltwater’s data-rich social and media intelligence platforms. Try it out for yourself by filling out the form below.