Did you watch the Grammys this year? According to Twitter:

  • People sent 10,901 Tweets per second (TPS) as Adele won Record of the Year — the peak TPS moment of the night.
  • “Grammys” was mentioned in more than 5 million Tweets on Sunday between noon and midnight PT.
  • The most mentioned artists (in descending order) during that same 12-hour period were: @OfficialAdele, @ChrisBrown, @NickiMinaj, @Rihanna, Whitney Houston
What about the Super Bowl?
This year, the TPS peak was 12,233 Tweets. The spike took place in the final three minutes of the game, during which fans sent an average of 10,000 TPS. Madonna’s performance during halftime was a big hit, too—there was an average of 8,000 TPS sustained during her performance, with a peak of 10,245 Tweets.

Twitter has this concept of "trending topics". Simply put, when enough people are talking about the same thing at the same time, it is said to be trending. Twitter gives programmers some ability to slice and dice trending data. You can see what is trending in a local area, or at a specific time.

Trending topics serve a few crucial roles. First, they alert us to macro conversations and sentiments. In that regard, they are like instant focus groups on global interests, needs, concerns, and celebrations. The Broncos' inspired over 9,000 tweets per second. People went wild when Tim Tebow threw that winning pass. According to Mashable, twitter users mourned Whitney Houston's passing nearly 30 minutes before the news media shared the story.

The other day, a coworker suggested an idea which knocked my socks off. What if we could see the trending topics inside the organization? What if we could compare what the organization was talking about last year to this year? Could we learn to predict conversations and react to them - employee needs, concerns, excitements, joys?

That may be the single best ROI for an internal social media platform I've ever heard.

Google publishes their zeitgeist every year. It's a recap of the most popular searches. In 2010, the world was looking for information on the World Cup, the BP oil spill, Justin Beiber and iPads. In 2011 it was Rebecca Black, Battlefield 3 and Steve Jobs. Do all of those names or terms sound familiar? I bet your employees are also talking about things you might not be aware of.

Can you pull the same data on your organization? What were employees talking about in 2010? What kinds of information are they looking for today?

Leaders may want to say yes, of course, in 2010 we were going through a merger, I remember the messaging well. Others might point to employee satisfaction surveys. But those ideas are different. The Google and Twitter examples are grass roots data. They are reflective of the larger population, what the front lines are thinking and talking about.

I particularly like thinking about how internal trending topics might impact culture. During the Arhab Spring, words like Egypt and freedom trended. Those topics became more than news, they were rally cries for the feet on the ground. Would employees voice their ideas, creating a new vision for the organization? Trending topics could be a powerful tool for positive change within companies.