Giant corporations spend millions on market research to find out what’s hot and what’s not, pounding the pavement to learn the latest trends in food, fashion, technology, and music.  So as a small business owner, how can you get your own feedback quickly and easily — without dropping thousands of dollars?  By checking out some social media sites.

Here are a few tools you can use right now to see what’s hot.

Alltop, Technorati, Stumbleupon, Digg   A collection of blogs, check out these sites to see what others find interesting, intriguing or read-worthy. You’ll see the trending news, hot topics and just plain old weird stuff.

YouTube  Scoot on over to to see the most viewed videos of the day. You’ll see top results by category — Education, How To/ Style, News/Politics, People/Blogs, etc. You may be surprised by the results.

Trends on Twitter  Check out the trending topics on Twitter here  Right below the search box you’ll see a list of the hot topics (as of this writing, the trending topics are #20ThingsIDontLike #LEH12HRS,  Angus T Jones and Mike Bohn).  If there’s a topic you’d like to track, click on the name and subscribe to the RSS feed to keep constantly updated.

Hashtags   Follow a particular topic (#linkedin, #vikes #b2b) via Twitter by following the hashtag (#) associated with that subject. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed to be notified when new tweets are posted on that topic.

Yahoo! and Google Groups  Go to or to view thousands of groups with a wide variety of  interests.  Consider joining the ones appropriate for your business.  To browse topics and see suggestions, check out

Groups on Facebook and LinkedIn   It’s a tad more difficult to see what’s trending on these sites, but you can see which groups are growing and what topics are hot.  Do a search and join the groups that seem interesting and relevant to your business. You can get the group messages via email or log in to each social media site to read. Either way is a great way to keep tabs on what people in your niche are talking about.

As you can see, using social media can tell you what’s happening in your target market quickly, and the beauty is you can easily track it all from your PC without spending a fortune.