The Secret to Tracking Trends

Mans hand trying to catch the upward chart.

At every single writers’ conference I attend, and this year I attended a lot of them, I hear the same question, either when on a panel or in one-on-one meetings: “What are the trends you see in the market?” My answer is always the same:

“I have no idea.”

Helpful, huh? But in reality, tracking trends is something that most often is done in hindsight. Unless you’re a marketing pro, watching a gazillion sources every day, measuring those sources with formulas that put NASA scientists to shame, tracking current trends with any kind of accuracy is extremely difficult.

And yet…

There are those serendipities that take place—unexpected moments that give us a glimpse into people’s hearts and struggles. Such a serendipity happened this week for one of my clients, Susan Basham. She posted an article on about something that happened to her at Starbuck’s. And about her initial—then her God-infused—response. (I’ll post the link at the end of this blog so you can read all about it.) She thought it was a nice article, as did I. A nice learning moment for her and those she shared it with. But the response was, in a word, astounding.

To say Susan’s article struck a chord is the mother of all understatements. The response is a testimony to her instincts and skill as a writer. I love that! But the response tells us something else, too.

By the end of the day her article appeared online, she had 55,000 shares. Yes, 55 THOUSAND. A day later, these were the share numbers:

173K on Facebook
431 on Twitter
329 on Pinterest
86 on email
32 on Google+
174K on Share

One more day, and the numbers were:

294K on Facebook
605 on Twitter
541 on Pinterest
144 on email
74 on Google+
296K on Share

I just checked today, Tuesday, and it’s still growing. More than 360K shares! All of which is great for Susan and her platform. But beyond that, it’s great for all of us, because if you read the comments on her article, and if you read what people say on all those outlets where they shared the link, guess what you can find?

Yup. Trends. Specifically, the issues, concerns, hurts, and longings burning in people’s hearts and minds. And those are, at the core, what we need to write to. Those, my friends, are the kinds of thrend we need to address in our stories and messages. Those are the needs we can try to meet with the words and truths God gives us.

So when I’m at the Maranatha writers’ conference (starting Wednesday), you can be sure that when the question about trends comes, I won’t have to say “I don’t have a clue” any longer. Instead, I’m going to tell people to visit Susan’s article on And then to take a look at all those outlets to find the comments, stories, and blogs that have struck a seemingly universal chord. Because that’s where we’ll find the soul-deep trends affecting the people around us.

And those are the trends that matter most.

Here is the link to Susan’s article: “She Yelled and Called Me Names”

13 Responses to The Secret to Tracking Trends

  1. Ron Estrada September 25, 2013 at 4:29 am #

    Wow. Fantastic article. And a reminder that a Christian Writer is a Christian first. I read a lot of secular fiction along with the Christian titles, and just yesterday I was thinking about how good some of those books are, but leave me feeling empty, because the love of Christ is never revealed. I’d love to see more scenes like this one in the books I read. Thanks for sharing, Karen. Enjoy my Michigan in the fall!

    • Cecelia Dowdy September 25, 2013 at 6:30 am #

      I agree. I read a number of secular titles and several leave me feeling empty because there’s no hope. I often find myself wanting to re-write the secular book as a Christian title.

      I thought the article was awesome! Honestly, I highly doubt I would’ve offered to pay for the woman’s coffee after she’d called me several names. I know it’s the Christian thing to do, but, sometimes, it’s hard not to lose our temper when someone is yelling at us – even though we are Christians.

  2. Carol McClain September 25, 2013 at 6:06 am #

    Karen, this article was timely for my daughter. As a boy scout leader, she puts a lot of time into the activity and much is expected of her. Last night, she was reamed out by a parent who thought Sarah was lazy, taking advantage and had no understanding of this woman’s life. So the article had one more share.

  3. Rachel Muller September 25, 2013 at 7:43 am #

    Funny you blogged about this, Karen. I was one of those numbers who tweeted this woman’s story yesterday after reading a Facebook share by a friend. I found the article to be incredibly uplifting and encouraging for me as a Christian. It put a whole new perspective on how to respond to negative circumstances, but most importantly it revealed the true nature that God blesses us with when we are welcomed into His family. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the ‘trends’ of today’s society.

  4. Ginny L. Yttrup September 25, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Our writers group has watched Susan’s article with interest… We’re cheering her on and applauding her success, while also asking the questions your post addressed. Looking at the trends in the comments is helpful and something we haven’t discussed. We’re also fond of saying that God is our best publicist. He’s the ultimate trendsetter.

    • Karen Ball September 25, 2013 at 9:42 am #

      Amen and Amen, Ginny!

  5. Jeanne Takenaka September 25, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    Karen, I ran across this article on Facebook two days ago, and I was moved by Susan’s actions. Oh, that I had that sensitivity to the Lord that soon after being yelled at. :) It seems like the draw of the article is how she chose to respond to the names, etc. Her heart was guided by Jesus, and I was challenged by that.

    That being said, when I checked the bottom to see about commenting or sharing, I was floored at how many times it had already been shared! I love that. I hadn’t considered reading the comments to understand what’s “trending,” but I’m glad you mentioned it. I plan to go back and do this.

  6. Lorraine September 25, 2013 at 10:30 am #

    Karen, thanks for the link to Susan’s article. This is where we live and the need for kindness in an unkind world is great. People are hurting. What insight to see the pain for what it is and to offer healing in any way. The smallest show of kindness can make a huge difference in a hurting person’s life. Go Susan!

  7. Peter DeHaan September 25, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this story. It is an encouragement and an example.

    (I hope you have a great time at Maranatha; it’s a wonderful facility. I live only 90 minutes away and had planned to be there for the entire thing, then I hoped to be able to make one day, but alas I will be staying home to work. I hope next year will be different.)

  8. J.D Maloy September 25, 2013 at 9:09 pm #

    I’m just getting to this now. Did anyone read the comments from Susan’s article? Oh. My. Word. Triple yikes! I ached after reading them.

    Oh, Lord give Susan, and all God fearing writer’s the strength and courage to write the Truth despite the lost people who seek to keep us quiet. Spirit that dwells inside us, guide us daily, help us to be bold, and speak for us when cannot find the words. And hug all those meanies from the comment section real tight.

    Soul-deep trends just about nails it!

    • sunni jeffers September 26, 2013 at 10:23 am #

      My thoughts exactly, J.D. Maloy. And amen to your prayer. I loved Susan’s article, but some of the comments were deeply disturbing. A lot of people voiced high emotions. The attacks are what got me. Why would anyone go to an article and post what amounted to hate mail? There were several acclaimed atheists posting comments, and one in particular was determined to insist all Christians are morons and much worse. Very sad.

    • Susan Basham September 26, 2013 at 10:31 am #

      J.D. Maloy – thank you for that! The comments are positively heart-breaking, and speak to the brokenness of the world we live in. My mom was somewhat unnerved by them, and asked if I was going to stop writing. Well, no, Mom! It’s my calling, and this makes it all the more evident that I must continue. Thanks for making my day brighter. :)

  9. Esther Thompson September 26, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Reading the Starbucks adventure was a great way to start my day. Thanks for sharing.

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