Coming up with compelling program ideas month after month can be a grind—especially if you’re not sure just what will get patrons in the door. Fortunately, there are some simple ways to identify what’s trending in your area, and you can use the insights you gather to inform your programming decisions. We’re going to discuss three ways you can do this all for free. (Now, some require a little more work than others but, hey, free is free!)
First up, we have good old Google Trends. This tool enables you to tap into the vast amount of information that Google has, regarding what people search for. On the home screen, you can get a quick glimpse into what’s hot on Google at the moment world-wide, which can be useful if you’re looking to create a program with mass appeal.
But Google Trends allows you to dig much deeper.
Right now in the “Animal” category, “dogs” is the number one topic searched in August 2014. If you click the “Explore” button next to the description, it’ll bring up a graph with search parameters at the top of the page.
To find out whether this is a popular topic in your area, just change the location to something like “Jacksonville Florida,” change the time window to “30 days”—or “90 days,” if you want a bigger sample—and voila!
Now you can see how often “dog” was searched as well as related keywords.
If you want to get more specific and find out whether a particular topic is trending in your area, you can do that too. Just go to the “Locations” area and type in a search term and location to find out whether folks are searching for that topic in your area.
Bonus tip: with Google Trends, you can subscribe to specific trends your area and have an alert set sent anytime one of your terms becomes a hot topic.
So, a little known fact about Twitter? You can do an “Advanced Search” on Tweets. Here’s what that means: you can legally—that part is important!—eavesdrop on Tweets, based on your location.
Here’s how you do it:
Go to search.twitter.com and click on the “Advanced Search” link.
If you want to search for a specific word, enter that in, and then go down to the “Near This Place” section and type in your location. If you want to see every Tweet within your area, just leave everything blank, and skip down to the “Location” section.
If the time frame is important to you, make sure you add that in before hitting “Search.”
Once you hit “Search,” you’ll now have access to local tweets!
Now, Twitter automatically searches within 15 miles of the location you put in, but there’s a simple hack to change that, if you want to. If you go up to the browser URL and search for “15mi,” change the number before mi to anything you want, and it’ll narrow or widen the search for you. For example, if you want a 25-mile radius of Tweets, change the “15mi” to “25mi” and you now have a larger sample.
This is an incredibly powerful tool that affords you access local Tweets and the opportunity to interact with those particular Tweeple. (Yeah, we used the word “Tweeple.” We feel a little embarrassed about it actually…)
Anyway, on to the next one!
If you’re trying to reach the teenage-to-young-adult demographic, you’ll want to at least take a look at Vine.
This one isn’t as straightforward with charts and graphics that tell you exactly what people are interested in, but this is a good search engine to see what topics people feel are worthy of videos.
To do a local Vine search, go to Vine.co—not “.com.” (I made that mistake at least 100 times doing research on Vine. . .) In the search bar, start typing your location—we’ll go with Huntsville, AL for this example—and you can start combing through the videos.
Again, this isn’t an exact science and there aren’t any advanced search options, but it will give you some idea about what people in your area find important or, at the very least, entertaining. Plus the videos are very brief, so you don’t have to spend too much time on each entry. This enables you to get through quite a few videos in a short amount of time.
You could always check out the trending hashtags on the left side of the screen as well, to get a glimpse into what’s trending globally.
Well, that’s it!
Hopefully, you found this helpful and can start putting together even more great local programming based on what’s hot in your neck of the woods. If you have other methods or tools you use to figure out what’s happening on a local level, let us know in the “Comment” area below.