09/07/2012 12:11 pm ET Updated Nov 07, 2012

#16TrillionFail Heard 'Cross the World

Twitter was ablaze Wednesday night with Clintonian quotes and quips. While President Bill Clinton spoke at the Democratic National Convention, trending hashtags included: bubba, slick willy and DNC. Suddenly, at the top of the worldwide trending list, #16TrillionFail popped up. Among a slew of nationally-trending DNC-related hashtags, #16TrillionFail alone was affiliated with the Republican party.

It was a trend that wasn't really a trend, but an advertisement. Amidst #Michelle and #SandraFluke, #16TrillionFail was notably different -- for more than one reason. It was a "promoted trend," or a link someone paid to stay at the top of Twitter trends. Change your location to look for trends in Brazil, Malaysia or Singapore, #16TrillionFail was still at the top of the list.

The "Promoted Trend" #16TrillionFail was paid for by Americans for Prosperity, a conservative Super PAC founded by David Koch and his wife, Julia.

When Twitter adopted an advertising model to earn revenue, it gave marketers the opportunity to buy their way to the top of your Twitter feed. By paying for a "promoted trend," a brand's hashtag, or keyword, would stay fixed at the top of every user's homepage.

It was a trend that didn't come cheap. A "promoted trend" is the most expensive of Twitter promotions costing $120,000 per day to keep the hashtag fixed atop worldwide trends, Mediabistro reported. The costs only add up from there. Each time a Twitter user "engages," meaning clicks on, replies to or retweets, with the original tweet, the person buying engagement pays a cost-per-engagement (CPE). Usually, the fee is between $0.20 to $5 per engagement.

The original tweet

Twitter users quickly hijacked #16TrillionFail Wednesday night and began including it in tweets criticizing the GOP and its presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

It wasn't the first time a Super PAC, or even the Republican National Committee, has paid to promote a trend. Before #16TrillionFail, there were #AreWeBetterOff and #WeBuiltThat. Both hashtags, which were slogans the Republican Party was trying to make viral, were hijacked by users. In response to the hashtag #AreWeBetterOff, users replied #yes, according to Business 2 Community.

That pretty much sums up the night on Twitter. Well, then there was this:

Additional reporting by @Ryan W. Neal