September 19, 2010

Study Says News Sources on Twitter Have Most Impact

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The most influential Twitter users are from news sources — not actors and pop musicians — according to a recent study by Daniel Romero grad and the team at Hewlett-Packard Social Computing Labs in Palo Alto, Calif. that tried to unravel why certain things become popular on the web.Mashable — the social media news site — was the most influential, followed by CNN Breaking News; the Big Picture, Boston Globe’s photo journalism department; and the Onion.“We chose Twitter because it was really popular, there’s a large presence of famous people who are presumed to have a lot of influence, and there’s data available,” Romero said.Romero’s algorithm to find out Twitter influence is based on which users can make others see certain things on the web. Users received a two point score: one was given for influence via retweets, which is the number of times other users sent the same information, and another point for passivity, or who they were able to convince to retweet.“A lot of people on Twitter are passive. That means they consume a lot of information, but they don’t pass it on,” Romero said.The more passive the follower that retweeted, the more points given through the algorithm.   “We only used data that had URLs. For a lot of URLs we can get traffic data,” said Romero. The traffic data was measured to see if there was a correlation between the data and the number of retweets.  “That was how we were able to measure if our algorithm was really doing something,” Romero said.While many associate Twitter with pop icons such as Justin Beiber or Ashton Kutcher, the study suggests that celebrity influence on the web is limited. The algorithm showed that having a lot of followers did not necessarily mean a lot of influence.“We found that this was not necessarily the case. We found people who did not have a lot of followers but they had a lot of influence. Basically what this suggests is that popularity is not the same as influence,” Romero said.The algorithm allows researchers to rank people in different subsets of the population by influence. One of these subsets rank the most influential news media that frequently use Twitter to promote their articles.    According to Romero, natural bias for Twitter users brings a lot of influence to technology-centric sources such as Wired, Gizmodo, and Tech Crunch.“Twitter and other social media have changed the game for journalism, creating more competition than the traditional print format”, Romero said. He noted that articles that gain popularity are generally shorter and more to the point.“Social media has become one more source for people to get their news from,” Romero said. “Now if people aren’t getting what they want from one source, they can find and look for someone who will provide what they want.”However, the study also showed that individuals have an equally high chance at gaining web influence. “I think that’s in part the point,” Romero said. “If only the bigger names had a chance of being popular. In social media, that’s not how it works. You see those without big names at all and they’re competing hand in hand with CNN.”Cornell University’s Twitter currently has over 4,700 followers. According to the University’s “tweeter” Lisa Cameron-Norfleet, communications manager for department of web communications, followers are generally peer universities, alumni, Ithaca residents and students.The tweets are a mixture of direct announcements from the University and her own discretion. “What generally seems to be retweeted are the ones that are well-worded in a funny or amusing way,” she said.“I think one of the good things we found out was that content prevails. People are more willing to retweet things that are interesting and that have some value in them as supposed to otherwise,” Romero said.

Original Author: Tajwar Mazhar