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The ups and downs of 2016: Trending hashtags on Twitter

2016 has been a hard year. Some media outlets are even dubbing it the Worst Year Ever. But through every crisis, people have found some solace by connecting with like-minded individuals online and sharing their opinions in less than 140 characters. Like it or not, Twitter has been a huge part of 2016.

If you could sum up the year in a bunch of trending hashtags, it might look a little something like this…

#GameOfThrones

After months and months of speculation, we finally got to see that episode of Game of Thrones. The one where we learned the fate of you-know-nothing Jon Snow.

Game of Thrones is well-known for killing off fan favourites without any mercy, but the death of Jon Snow at the end of season 5 hit fans particularly hard. Many refused to believe he was really dead, offering up increasingly wild theories about how he would rise again. These fans were vindicated at the beginning of season 6 after Melisandre prayed to the Lord of Light to bring him back from the dead. Jon Snow’s revival saw Twitter explode with even more theories about his parentage and where his storyline will go next. We don’t doubt that the launch of the new series in 2017 will see #GameOfThrones trending once again!

#Brexit

trending hashtags

When people think of Britain, they normally think of cups of tea, lots of rain or the Queen. But in 2016, Britain was thrust into the limelight for a different reason, and that reason was Brexit. Folks around the world were riveted by the drama surrounding the referendum, particularly when the results were finally announced and it turned out all the polling experts were wrong. Britain didn’t vote to Remain. They voted to Leave. After final polls closed, Google’s Trends Twitter account saw a 250% increase in British searches for “what happens if we leave the EU?”, suggesting many people weren’t really sure what they had been voting for in the first place. Cue hysteria on every social media platform around the world.

#SimoneBiles

trending hashtag

In August, athletes from around the world travelled to Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The event had tons of coverage on the internet and many of the record-breaking performances trended on Twitter. Michael Phelps won six more gold medals, taking his final tally to 28 medals, securing his status as the most decorated Olympian of all time. Usain Bolt made history by becoming the first man to win the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay in three consecutive games. But the real star of the show was Simone Biles, who took home the team gold medal and individual all-round gold medal in gymnastics, plus a gold on vault, gold on floor and a bronze on beam. Her five medals tie with the most that any American female gymnast has won in a single Olympics.

#JusticeForBarb

trending hashtags

2016 was the year we first saw Stranger Things, the quirky sci-fi Netflix series that unexpectedly exploded online. Despite only appearing in a handful of scenes, fans of the show quickly latched on to one of the secondary characters, Barbara ‘Barb’ Holland, who met her untimely fate midway through the series. Her storyline and character – that of the loveable outsider – seemed to resonate with people, so much so that fans of the show clamoured for her justice online.

Now nominated for multiple Golden Globes, the show has been renewed for a second season in 2017. Sadly, Barb won’t be coming back, but the show creators, the Duffer brothers, have promised  viewers closure. “Barb will not be forgotten,” Matt Duffer said. “We’ll make sure there’s some justice for Barb.”

#NastyWoman

trending hashtags

The presidential election was arguably the biggest event of 2016, and the outcome left many people around the world reeling. Everyone has an opinion on the new President-elect, Donald Trump, who regularly uses his Twitter page as a platform for controversial opinions and late-night ramblings.

In one of the presidential debates, Trump called his opponent, Hillary Clinton, a ‘nasty woman’. The term quickly began trending on Twitter, with Clinton supporters reclaiming the phrase for themselves and declaring themselves #NastyWomen in solidarity. Since then, savvy websites have been selling a wide range of Nasty Woman merchandise, from T-shirts and hats to mugs and cushions.

#MannequinChallenge

The Mannequin Challenge, a viral video trend that features a group of people frozen in a tableau while a moving camera films them, has been everywhere over the last few months.

Like the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014, its popularity has exploded online, with everyone from Taylor Swift and Britney Spears to Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton jumping on the bandwagon. Even though it’s not specifically for anything, it’s been used by businesses as a marketing tool, celebrities as a gimmick and schools to raise funds for charity. Chances are it won’t be going anywhere any time soon, and we’ll continue to see more creative viral trends like this one next year.


When something’s trending, it’s worth talking about. You shouldn’t be afraid to communicate your opinions as a business – if you feel strongly about something, engage yourself in the conversation, make positive associations and share your brand’s personality! Just remember to stay respectful of other people’s opinions, use discretion before posting and steer clear of any controversial or negative hashtags.

And don’t be afraid to try and start a trend of your own. You never know, your next original post might just be the new #MannequinChallenge…

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