Some interesting revelations about Twitter

20 Apr

Yahoo and Cornell University did a big research project on Twitter, trying to figure out “Who Says What to Whom on Twitter.”

Here’s what they figured out:

Twitter is a media platform, not a social network. “First, we find that although audience attention has indeed fragmented among a wider pool of content producers than classical models of mass media, attention remains highly concentrated, where roughly 0.05% of the population accounts for almost half of all attention.”

Twitter is clique-y. “Within the population of elite users, moreover, attention is highly homophilous, with celebrities following celebrities, media following media, and bloggers following bloggers.”

Twittter is the Evening News broadcast: full of stories reported elsewhere, brought to your attention by a personality you trust. “Second, we find considerable support for the two-step flow of information—almost half the information that originates from the media passes to the masses indirectly via a diffuse intermediate layer of opinion leaders, who although classified as ordinary users, are more connected and more exposed to the media than their followers.”

News stories don’t last long on Twitter. Laga Gaga sticks around forever. “We also find that different types of content exhibit very different lifespans. In particular, media-originated URLs are disproportionately represented among short-lived URLs while those originated by bloggers tend to be overrepresented among long-lived URLs. Finally, we find that the longest-lived URLs are dominated by content such as videos and music, which are continually being rediscovered by Twitter users and appear to persist indefinitely.”


More about the Twitter elite:

Apparently 50% of the tweets made on the social networking site (in an eight month sample period) were produced by an “elite group” of 20,000 users.

The research authors noted that they used Twitter lists to pick out these elite users, “specifically celebrities, bloggers, and representatives of media outlets and other formal organizations, and ordinary users.”

The authors stated: “Based on this classification… a striking concentration of attention on Twitter – roughly 50% of tweets consumed are generated by just 20K elite users – where the media produces the most information, but celebrities are the most followed.”

The study reckons these 20,000 elite tweeters make up less than 0.05% of the social network’s population – a lot less, by our reckoning (although the data was sampled a while back, most of it from the second half of 2009).

Still, whatever the exact figure, there’s clearly a huge concentration of tweeting done by a very vocal and minuscule minority.


Find the whole study here: Who Says What to Whom on Twitter


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: