Have you used Google Trends to access keyword trends? I have used it and it was interesting to see the results for Michael Jackson on the day and time shortly after his death. The results correlate with news reports that Google and Twitter encountered slow connection due to excessive traffic.

Since user generated content is so prevalent and is a part of social media, it is good to monitor what users are conversing about.

I also found another trend service called Trendrr which I was impressed with. For small business owners, free or economically priced add on services are desired.

So how do you monitor social media trends?

I use google trends but to be honest the markets that my big clients are targeting are so specific they do not require a whole lot of analysis to see where they are looking. The markets they target tend to take their cues on where to look and what social media to access and use from industry pubs.

I also noticed the same issue with very specialized niches, lest say a medical specialty. Google Trends may me more useful for consumer brands.

You can also use Google alerts which will let you tracks the web for the topics you're interested in.

I really like Google alerts. I am trying to get my head around social shopping as a concept (I am not convinced about the model) although I noticed recently that one of the sites I follow is using the twitter api pulling out small product tweets and putting them on the site and associated with the products - thereby hopping to add to the knowledge/opinion relating to product entries/reviews.

It is not an exact science though - some work well - if the tweet references a brand and product name - others work less well are feature common keywords but the tweets are obviously not about a product - still its a sign of how central twitter will be in the future if they continue in ther current form

Twitter search is also a food way to monitor trends. It also helps assess sentiments from a manual qualitative perspective.