NU signFor a short while Niagara was a trending international topic on Twitter… and all it took was a snowstorm and notification of  classes. Of course it helps that Niagara Niagara University ‘s primary account, @NiagaraUniv, has more than 4,200 followers and that its students are quite engaged.

Tom Burns, NU’s associate vice president for communications, sent the email at 10:04 p.m. By just after 11 p.m., the hashtag #ThomasBurns was an international trending topic on Twitter, a designation typically reserved for major world events (e.g. Boston Marathon bombings) and pop culture icons (e.g. Justin Bieber, Kim Kardashian, etc.).

According to Twitter, “Trends are automatically generated by an algorithm that attempts to identify topics that are being talked about more right now than they were previously. The Trends list is designed to help people discover the ‘most breaking’ breaking news from across the world, in real-time. The Trends list captures the hottest emerging topics, not just what’s most popular.”

What began as a routine class cancellation notice Wednesday evening quickly escalated into a Twitter“trend.”

Niagara University students, upon receiving an email informing them that all daytime classes would be canceled the next day to allow for campus snow removal, took to the social networking site to thank the person whose name accompanied the notification.

See full story and sample tweets

Earning a spot on Twitter’s trending list, however, is no laughing matter. Multinational companies hire consultants to help them land there as a way to get their brands in front of millions of people.

In fact, last fall, the microblogging website began selling “Promoted Trends” as a way to generate revenue around its initial IPO in November. CNBC reported that Twitter has asked brands to “pay $200,000 a day in the U.S. if they want to feature a trend – usually a hashtag – of their choice.”

For Niagara University, all it took was a snow day.