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Why #THON isn’t–and won’t be–a Trending Topic

Social media has been instrumental in spreading the message of THON, and not just during the one weekend a year that celebrates the culmination of 364 days of preparation. How often does it seem that a celebrity is bringing to light the great cause that is Penn State’s Dance Marathon, highlighting our accomplishment as the nation’s largest student-run philanthropy? Hell, at this point, her continued advocacy of THON is probably Khloe Kardashian’s lone redeeming asset.

In fact, last January–a month before the event, #THON became a trending topic not just in the United States, but worldwide–after celebrities like Kardashian, Lindsay Lohan, JaySean, and MTV’s Whitney Port tweeted about it.

But despite concerted efforts from THON officials and supporters alike to spread the word on Twitter, THON has failed to break into the national or worldwide trending topics, only on occasion finding a spot amongst the topics trending in Philadelphia.

A quick search for #THON shows that it’s being talked about–with dozens of mentions every minute from inside and outside the Bryce Jordan Center. So why hasn’t it moved past “Cheryl Miller,” “Bieber Alert,” or “THREE BALLS,” each of which was among the trending topics in the United States as of Saturday night?

Well, part of the blame lies with Twitter’s new algorithm, which has swapped popularity for immediacy of tweets.

As a blog update from Twitter put it:

Twitter Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously. The Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world, in real-time.

Unfortunately, while that new update to the algorithm has kept Justin Bieber from trending in perpetuity, it’s also thrown a wrench into the cogs of THON’s social media strategy.

Because THON is a 3-day, 46-hour marathon (literally), and not a quick sprint, it’s going to be tough–if not impossible–to create such a spike from the usual chatter–unless a few more celebrities or influential tweeters get on board. So if you want to get THON into the trending topics, try pestering your favorite tweeters until they mention it.

But who knows–as we head towards the conclusion of this event, perhaps THON can break through, even if the cards are stacked against us.

About the Author

Devon Edwards

Devon is a 2012 Penn State graduate and current law student at NYU. Devon joined Onward State in January of 2011, after a lengthy stay in the comment section. His likes include sabermetrics, squirrels, and longs walks on the beach, and his dislikes include spelunking, when you put your clothes in the dryer and they come out still kinda damp but also warm, and the religious right.


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