The Trend Economy: How Social Buzz Turns to Dollars

In today’s rapidly evolving digital landscape, the concept of a side hustle is not a new one.

A side hustle is essentially a venture you pursue in addition to your full-time job, often with the goal of earning extra income.

Side hustles can range from selling handmade crafts online to offering freelance services in web development or graphic design.

As of 2023, there are an estimated 73.3 million freelancers in the United States, making up 40% of the workforce. This is up from 59 million in 2020, a growth of 23% (source). The increasing role of social media has made it easier for freelancers to find work and connect with clients. In fact, a recent study found that up to 68% of freelancers use social media to find work.

But have you ever considered how the flash-in-the-pan trends that populate your social media feed can be your ticket to quick, low-competition revenue?

This article aims to explore precisely that – an uncharted territory of fast-moving, trending side hustles that offer a unique blend of speed and low competition.

Social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube have become catalysts for creating trends that spread like wildfire.

These social media trends are not only good news for influencers to make money. But, these trends offer savvy entrepreneurs a chance to create a niche yet profitable side hustle, often with less competition than traditional ventures.

social media trends

Think about it: if you jump on a trend quickly, you not only capitalize on its popularity but also beat the crowd, positioning yourself as an early mover in a burgeoning market.

Let’s delve into this fascinating dynamic that social media brings into the side hustle arena.

However, if you are in for a long-term side hustle that fits your personality like a key, here is a simple side hustle guide to help you in your search.

Table of Contents

The Phenomenon of Social Media Trends

What Constitutes a Social Media Trend?

A social media trend can be anything that gains rapid popularity on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter.

This could be a viral dance, a hashtag, a challenge, or even a specific type of content like unboxing videos or ASMR.

Essentially, it’s a topic or theme that sees a surge in user engagement within a short period.

The key feature of these trends is their transient nature; they often gain traction quickly but can also fade away just as fast.

The Powerhouse of Side Hustles: Example of Past Trend

Let’s look at past social media trends that have successfully turned into side hustles.

One classic example is the fidget spinner craze that took the world by storm in 2017. Fidget spinners accounted for 17% of all online toy sales in just one month.

Originating as a stress-relief toy, fidget spinners became a phenomenon, thanks to viral videos and posts across various social media platforms.

But what’s even more interesting is how this trend generated a range of side hustles.

  1. Creators and Sellers: People began designing and selling custom fidget spinners, tapping into a market hungry for variations of the trending item.
  2. Video Makers: Social media was flooded with “trick shot” videos, tutorials, and reviews about fidget spinners, providing content creators with a new niche to explore.
  3. Affiliate Marketing: Bloggers and influencers started writing reviews and creating content around fidget spinners, often with affiliate links that led to additional income.

By the time fidget spinners became mainstream, those who jumped on the trend early had already made their mark – and their money.

The trendsetter, two 17-year-old boys end up making $360,000 in the first six months.

This example highlights the sheer potential of social media trends to serve as the catalyst for a variety of lucrative, low-competition side hustles.

The Advantages of Fast-Moving Trends

Quick Monetization: Strike While the Iron is Hot

One of the most enticing aspects of hopping onto a fast-moving trend is the opportunity for rapid monetization.

Since these trends often gain traction quickly, they come with a ready-made audience eager to engage.

For instance, if you create and sell merchandise related to a trending meme, your products could become instant hits.

Unlike traditional businesses that require extensive market research and time to build a customer base, fast-moving social media trends provide a shortcut to immediate income.

Niche Audience: Tailor-Made for Success

Fast-moving trends usually cater to a specific, highly-engaged niche audience.

Whether it’s fans of a viral dance challenge or devotees of a newly released video game, these people are passionate and ready to engage.

Because the audience is so specialized, your marketing efforts can be hyper-focused, increasing the likelihood of higher conversion rates.

It’s like having a spotlight cast on a crowd that’s already interested in what you’re offering.

Inherent Advertisement: Going Viral is the Game

What sets fast-moving trends apart from other opportunities is the fact that they come with built-in advertising.

The average person spends 2.5 hours on social media daily and most of the content is repurposed around the trending topics, making the individual very receptive to buying things related to that.

Since the trend is already popular and spreading on social media, you don’t need to invest much in marketing.

A well-timed tweet or a clever Instagram post can be enough to get your side hustle in front of thousands, if not millions, of eyes.

Moreover, people who are engaged with the trend are likely to share related content, providing you with free publicity.

Low Competition, High Reward

The Early Bird Gets the Worm with limited competition.

One of the most compelling reasons to jump on a fast-moving trend is the lack of competition in the early stages.

By definition, these trends are new, and not everyone will recognize their potential immediately.

This gives you a window of opportunity to establish yourself before the market gets crowded.

Imagine being one of the first people to market custom merchandise for a viral challenge; you’ll effectively have a monopoly, even if it’s a short-lived one.

Avoiding Market Saturation: The Time Factor

Time is of the essence when it comes to capitalizing on a trend.

Trends often reach a point of saturation where the market becomes too crowded, and returns start diminishing.

Being an early adopter allows you to maximize your earnings before reaching this point. You can reap the rewards, and then gracefully exit or pivot as the trend starts to wane.

How to Spot Trends Early: Tools and Strategies

Utilizing Tools for Trend Identification

Utilize platforms like Google Trends, BuzzSumo, and Hootsuite to monitor social media for emerging trends. Set alerts for keywords related to your niche to stay ahead of the curve.

Using BuzzSumo for Social Listening

  1. Keyword Alerts: After signing up for a BuzzSumo account, navigate to the ‘Alerts’ section. Create alerts for specific keywords related to your niche. You’ll receive email notifications when new content or mentions appear.
  2. Content Analysis: The ‘Content Analyzer’ tool can provide insights into the most shared content for a particular keyword or topic. This can help you identify what’s trending.
  3. Influencer Tracking: You can also track what top influencers in your niche are talking about. If they’re mentioning a certain trend, it’s likely worth your attention.
  4. Real-Time Monitoring: BuzzSumo offers real-time data, enabling you to act quickly on emerging trends.

Using Google Trends for Data Analysis

  1. Search for Keywords: Go to Google Trends and enter a keyword related to your area of interest. The tool will show you how the keyword’s popularity has changed over time. For example, Google Trends data reveals that search queries for ‘how to make a face mask’ spiked by 4,000% at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, giving rise to a new side hustle for many crafters.
  2. Time Frame and Location: You can customize the time frame and location for your search to get more relevant data.
  3. Related Queries: Pay attention to the “Related Queries” section at the bottom of the page. This shows what other terms people are searching for in relation to your initial keyword, providing a broader view of the trend.
  4. Compare Keywords: Use the ‘Compare’ function to pit two or more trends against each other. This can help you decide which trend is more lucrative for a side hustle.
  5. Set Up Google Alerts: For ongoing monitoring, you can set up Google Alerts for trending keywords to get real-time updates in your inbox.

Here is one search for vegan cookies on Google Trends. Here you can see that searches peaked in 2020 and the trend is on the decline but there is seasonality in this search.

So, if you are looking to sell vegan cookies or create content around that, December month every year (most probably due to the holiday season) is the best time according to Google Trends.

vegan cookies social media trend

Engage with Online Communities

Being an active member of relevant online communities can give you firsthand insight into what’s gaining traction. Subreddits, industry-specific forums, and social media groups are good places to keep your ear to the ground.

Online communities are often the breeding ground for new trends. Members of these groups are typically passionate about the topic and eager to share new discoveries, products, or content.

This makes these communities a valuable resource for spotting trends in their infancy.

Choosing the Right Communities

  1. Relevance: The community should be directly related to your area of interest or niche. The more specialized, the better.
  2. Activity: Look for communities with regular posts and active discussions. A dormant group won’t give you the insights you need.
  3. Quality Over Quantity: Don’t just join every group you find. Focus on communities where thoughtful discussions occur, rather than just self-promotion.

How to Engage Effectively

  1. Be Active, Not Just Observant: While lurking can give you some insights, active participation will provide you with much more information and credibility.
  2. Ask Questions: Don’t hesitate to ask the community for their thoughts on a potential trend. This can be an invaluable way to validate your observations.
  3. Share Value: Provide helpful content or insights in return. This will make members more willing to share valuable information with you.

By actively engaging in online communities, you’re not just observing potential trends; you’re immersing yourself in the environment where they are born.

This direct exposure will offer you an invaluable edge in identifying and capitalizing on new social media trends for your side hustle.

Per Stackla, 79% of people say user-generated content (UGC) highly impacts their purchasing decisions. Online communities are not just trend indicators but also a source of trusted recommendations.

By moving quickly and spotting trends before they hit the mainstream, you position yourself in a sweet spot that’s low on competition but high on potential rewards.

From having an almost monopolistic advantage to dodging market saturation, early adoption is key to making the most of these social media-propelled opportunities.

Case Studies

As we discussed earlier, Fidgets was a classical example where 20% of the early adopters made $5k a month selling these toys. But, that is not the only example:

Squishmallows Collecting: The Soft Spot for Profits

Squishmallows, the ultra-soft, adorable stuffed animals, became a viral sensation primarily through TikTok.


Collectors showcased their ‘hauls,’ rare finds, and collection setups. But beyond the simple act of collecting a whole side hustle ecosystem sprung up around Squishmallows:

Reselling: Early adopters began buying rare or limited edition Squishmallows to resell them at a higher price.

Content Creation: Collectors turned their passion into profit by creating Squishmallow-related videos and monetizing through YouTube ads.

Merchandise: From Squishmallow storage solutions to clothing featuring popular characters, people created and sold related products.

ASMR Videos: Sound Investments

The ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) trend has been big on YouTube for several years.

Creators generate soothing sounds intended to induce relaxation and even a tingly sensation in listeners. While the ASMR trend isn’t new, its monetization strategies are ever-evolving:

Sponsored Videos: Brands now sponsor ASMR content that naturally incorporates their products, like food and cosmetics.

Merchandise: Creators are selling ASMR-related products like specialized microphones, headphones, and even recipe books for ASMR cooking.

Tiny Food Cooking: A Small but Growing Niche

Another trend that took off on YouTube and later on TikTok is “tiny food cooking,” where creators prepare miniature meals using doll-sized utensils and appliances.

This trend led to some unique side hustle opportunities:

Mini Cooking Kits: Early adopters started selling kits with mini utensils, appliances, and ingredients.

Instructional eBooks: Many creators have published guides on how to create your own mini meals, effectively monetizing their expertise.

T-Shirt Prints: From Memes to Money

T-shirt designs based on trending memes or social messages have gained traction through Twitter and Instagram.

Tshirt- designs

People share their fresh-off-the-press designs, and a diversified side hustle scene developed around T-shirt prints:

Crowdsourced Ideas: Some entrepreneurs capitalized on trending social topics to create shirts, polling their audience for design ideas.

Review Blogs: Fashion bloggers started to review various print-on-demand services and monetizing their content through affiliate marketing.

Merch Lines: Those with a large social following started their own merch lines, featuring T-shirt designs that resonate with their brand and audience.

You can use websites like CafePress, Redbubble, or Amazon merch to sell T-shirts with your designs without keeping the inventory or doing any stuff other than designing.

Custom Sneaker Art: Turning Footwear into Walking Canvases

Customized sneakers, with unique designs and colors, gained attention mostly through Instagram and YouTube.

Artists displayed their exclusive hand-painted or digitally designed sneakers, but the trend didn’t stop at mere artistry—a multifaceted side hustle environment bloomed around custom sneakers:

Flipping: Early birds caught on to the trend and started purchasing generic sneakers, customizing them, and then selling them at a markup.

Video Tutorials: Sneaker artists took to YouTube to monetize their craft, offering step-by-step guides on customizing footwear, which they monetized through ads and sponsorships.

Accessories: Entrepreneurs launched lines of shoe care products and custom laces designed to complement these artistic sneakers, further capitalizing on the trend.

Home-Crafted Kombucha: Brewing Cash with Fermented Tea

Kombucha, the fermented tea drink, has had a meteoric rise, thanks largely to health influencers on Instagram and YouTube.

Home brewers flaunted their fermentation setups and flavors, but the passion didn’t stop at brewing—an entire side hustle landscape emerged around home-crafted kombucha:

Retailing: Early enthusiasts began bottling their unique kombucha flavors and selling them at local farmers’ markets or online.

Online Courses: Kombucha brewers started offering digital courses on the art of kombucha making, monetizing their knowledge through course fees.

Kombucha Kits: Recognizing a gap in the market, some brewers started selling DIY kombucha starter kits, offering everything needed to start brewing at home.

Digital Planners: Organizing Lives with a Stylish Touch

Digital planners have always caught fire on Pinterest and Etsy, with users showcasing their aesthetically pleasing digital notebooks.

Beyond just the allure of being organized, a side hustle economy grew around these digital planners and kept on changing with changes in design aesthetics:

Resale: Early creators offered their digital planner templates on platforms like Etsy, charging a premium for unique, functional designs. They now have a dedicated customer base to buy the updated designs when launched.

Add-Ons: Entrepreneurs quickly developed related products like custom digital stickers and page templates to enhance the planning experience.

Trending Jewelry: Sparkling Up the Side Hustle Scene

Trending jewelry, especially minimalist and sustainable pieces, gained prominence primarily through Instagram’s visual platform.

Fashion influencers showcased their latest ‘must-haves,’ giving rise to a plethora of side hustle opportunities around jewelry:

Curated Collections: Early players started curating limited collections based on current trends, offering them in exclusive sales or subscription boxes.

How-To Guides: Jewelry designers began sharing their crafting process on YouTube, monetizing their expertise through ad revenue and sponsored content.

Upcycling: Eco-conscious entrepreneurs jumped on the sustainability trend, upcycling older jewelry pieces into new, trendy designs and selling them online.

Phone Case Varieties: More than Just Protection

From clear cases with pressed flowers to neon sand cases, phone case trends have been widely shared on TikTok and Instagram.

phone cases

People flaunted their unique cases, leading to a full-fledged side hustle market around phone case varieties:

Personalized Cases: Early movers started offering customization services, allowing people to create their own cases with personal images or text.

Accessories: Innovative minds developed add-ons like detachable wallet cases or phone grips that matched the trending case designs.

Trends in Food Industry: The Rise of Vegan Cookies

The vegan movement has been trending on platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, and even LinkedIn, where health-conscious corporate folks are sharing their dietary choices.

Beyond just being a healthy alternative, a whole side hustle ecosystem sprung up around vegan cookies:

Subscription Boxes: Early adopters curated monthly boxes of vegan cookies and treats, targeting a health-conscious consumer base.

Recipe Blogs: Food bloggers began posting vegan cookie recipes, monetizing through ads and sponsored posts from vegan-friendly brands.

Branded Products: Entrepreneurs took advantage of the trend to create their own branded vegan cookie mixes, ready to be baked at home.

These examples underscore how social media trends don’t just influence consumer behavior; they open doors to a range of side hustle opportunities.

By staying tuned to these trends, you can get a head start in a market that’s ripe for innovation.

These case studies provide tangible examples of how ordinary people have seized the opportunity presented by fast-moving social media trends.

They underscore the variety of ways you can monetize a trend, from reselling and content creation to developing related products or services.

Actionable Steps for Your Own Trend-Based Side Hustle

Step 1: Trend Identification

Before jumping into a new side hustle, you must first identify a trend that aligns with your interests and expertise.

Use tools like Google Trends, social listening platforms, and manual searches on social media to pinpoint what’s gaining traction.

Some advanced tools like Brandmention offer sentiment analysis, gauging the public’s feelings toward a particular trend. Positive sentiment often correlates with a trend’s staying power.

Here are some trends in 2023.

Step 2: Market Validation

Even if something appears to be trending, it’s crucial to validate the market demand.

You can do this by analyzing engagement metrics, such as likes, shares, and comments. Pay attention to the rate of growth; if it’s spiking, it could be an excellent opportunity.

Here are the tools you can use to do that.

  • SocialBakers: Specialized in audience analysis and engagement metrics, SocialBakers helps you understand what content is getting traction.
  • Iconosquare: Primarily used for Instagram analytics, Iconosquare can show you detailed metrics on likes, shares, and comments, along with hashtag performance.
  • Sprout Social: This all-in-one solution gives you a detailed look at engagement metrics across multiple platforms, along with audience insights.
  • Mention: This tool allows you to track mentions of specific keywords across social media and the web, helping you gauge public interest and sentiment.
  • Keyhole: Keyhole focuses on hashtag analytics, offering real-time tracking of engagement metrics like shares, likes, and impressions for specific hashtags.
  • Crowdfire: It helps you manage and analyze your Twitter metrics, including likes, retweets, and mentions, to understand what topics are getting traction among your audience.

Step 3: Conceptualize Your Offering

Once you’ve identified and validated a trend, brainstorm how you can create a unique offering.

Whether it’s a physical product, digital content, or a service, ensure that it’s something the trend’s audience would be interested in.

Step 4: Test the Waters

Before going all-in, test your concept on a smaller scale.

Use platforms like Etsy for physical products or YouTube for content to gauge interest. Measure your success through metrics like sales, views, and subscriber growth.

Step 5: Scale Up

If your test run proves successful, consider scaling up. Invest more time, and if needed, money into your side hustle.

Look into optimizing your sales funnels, improving your product, and expanding your marketing efforts.

Note: Never stock up inventories more than demand, otherwise you might end up with a full garage if the trend dies down.

Step 6: Keep an Eye on the Clock

Remember, most fast-moving trends have a short lifespan. Always have an exit strategy or a plan to pivot when the trend starts to fade. To be effective in this exit strategy, you need to keep a good eye on the trend and identify the moment it starts fading out.

Your goal should be to maximize profits in a short timeframe, and then move on to the next opportunity.

By following these actionable steps, you can position yourself at the forefront of any fast-moving social media trend, turning it into a profitable side hustle with minimized competition.

The Downside and How to Avoid Pitfalls

Short Lifespan: The Double-Edged Sword

One of the most significant downsides of fast-moving trends is their short lifespan. While they offer quick profits, they can also die out just as quickly, leaving you with unsold inventory or outdated content.

A study by Influencer Marketing Hub shows that 9 out of 10 social media trends lose their popularity within a month. Quick action is essential, but caution is equally important.

How to Avoid: Diversify your offerings and have an exit strategy. Keep an eye on metrics and trends to know when it’s time to pivot or cut your losses.

Market Saturation: The Late-Comer’s Plight

As mentioned earlier, these trends can become saturated very quickly. If you’re late to the game, you’ll face stiff competition and lower profit margins.

How to Avoid: The key is to act quickly. Use real-time analytics and social listening tools to stay ahead. Be prepared to move fast when you spot a new opportunity.

Investment Risks: Financial Overcommitment

Because these trends are fast-moving, there can be a temptation to invest heavily upfront, thinking that the trend will sustain long enough for you to recoup your investment.

How to Avoid: Start small and test the waters. Validate your concept with a minimal investment before scaling up.

Trend Misalignment: Not Every Trend Fits Your Brand

Just because something is trending doesn’t mean it’s suitable for you or your existing brand. Misaligning yourself with a trend that doesn’t resonate with your audience can be detrimental.

How to Avoid: Always consider how a new side hustle aligns with your existing brand or skill set. Choose trends that complement what you’re already doing or plan to do.

Ethical Considerations: Navigating the Morality of Trends

Some trends may be controversial or ethically questionable. Associating your side hustle with such trends can harm your reputation in the long term.

How to Avoid: Always research the implications of the trend you’re considering. Think about its impact beyond just the profit potential and ensure it aligns with your ethical standards.

Final Words on Cashing Out Social Media Trends

In this fast-paced digital age, the landscape of side hustles influenced by the whirlwind of social media trends is in constant flux.

Capitalizing on these trends can offer quick opportunities for those savvy enough to act fast and with precision.

From understanding what constitutes a social media trend to learning how to recognize and analyze these trends with tools like BuzzSumo and Google Trends, we’ve covered comprehensive steps for you to become adept in this dynamic ecosystem.

However, it’s crucial to remember that not all that glitters is gold. The volatile nature of trends means they can be both a boon and a bane.

Being aware of the pitfalls and knowing how to avoid them can make the difference between a fleeting venture and a successful side hustle.

Whether you’re new to the world of side hustles or a seasoned entrepreneur looking for the next big thing, the key takeaway is this: Stay alert, be prepared, and when the right trend comes along, seize it.

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