Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

Influence On Twitter Is Linked To Quality Of Content And Not Quantity Of Followers

Posted by Tom Foremski - September 1, 2010

[Daniel Romero is a Ph.D Candidate at Cornell Univeristy in the Center for Applied Mathematics. He works with Hewlett-Packard's Social Computing Lab Bernardo Huberman and colleagues.]

By Daniel M. Romero

The importance of mainstream news has changed with the advent and immense popularity of online social media.

The mainstream media is now aware that they have to be involved in the social media in order to keep their audience engaged. They understand that they no longer have complete control on what information people will attend to.

With social media channels like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc people can find the news they want even if the mainstream media may not be providing it to them. This is why today we see all major broadcast networks present and active on Twitter.

But are they as successful at social media as they are at mainstream media? Are they as influential as they are assumed to be in the offline world? Who are the most influential ones?

To answer these questions, we measured the influence of all the news media accounts on Twitter. We used the Influence-Passivity Algorithm discussed in a previous post at SVW: HP Twitter Study: Weak Link Between Popularity And Influence.

The data includes all tweets containing a URL from June 15th through July 22nd of 2009. You can find the list of the 100 most influential news media accounts here (and below).

Most of the major news broadcast networks are present in this list. However, they do not fully dominate it. We see blogs such as@mashable, @bigpicture, @gizmodo, @harvardbiz, among others with very high influence ranking and above major players from traditional media such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

The list also includes the number of followers each account has. The same observation about the weak link between popularity and influence made in the previous post can be made here.

Having a large number of followers does not imply having influence in news social media. Furthermore, not having a large number of followers does not mean lack of influence.

A particularly interesting example is @bigpicture, a photo blog for the Boston Globe; with a mere 23K followers it is the 3rd most influential account on the list. After taking a look at some of the very high quality photographs tweeted by this account it becomes clear why people are willing to re-tweet them and why this account has so much influence.

This demonstrates that to be influential on Twitter news media networks have to keep their audience engaged through valuable tweets and not simply convince people to "follow them on Twitter".

The work on this project was done in collaboration with: Wojciech Galuba (@wgaluba); Sitaram Asur (@SitaramAsur); and Bernardo Huberman (@bhuberman)

Follow on Twitter:

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Number@nameNameFollowersInfluence Rank
1@mashablePete Cashmore203784059
2@cnnbrkCNN Breaking News322447571
3@big_pictureThe Big Picture2366692
4@theonionThe Onion2289939116
6@breakingnewsBreaking News1795976147
7@bbcbreakingBBC Breaking News509756168
9@harvardbizHarvard Business Rev219039227
13@wsjWall Street Journal366133358
14@smashingmagSmashing Magazine224333360
16@rollingstoneRolling Stone133999436
17@whitehouseThe White House1794544448
20@peoplemagPeople magazine2099081565
21@natgeosocietyNational Geographic274851603
22@nytimesThe New York Times2502914705
24@foxnewsFox News260081710
27@huffingtonpostHuffington Post632555849
28@newscientistNew Scientist144355852
29@mental_flossMental Floss68975874
30@theeconomistThe Economist311109902
35@bbcclickBBC Click17494701041
36@fastcompanyFast Company1482921056
37@reutersReuters Top News1944291119
38@incmagazineInc. Magazine1092561143
39@eonlineE! Online22710261227
40@rwwRichard MacManus10379071232
43@mckquarterlyMcKinsey Quarterly909811354
44@enewsE! News2797371540
45@nprnewsNPR News2705611572
46@usatodayUSA TODAY Top News627901628
49@boingboingBoing Boing486491811
51@empiremagazineEmpire Magazine333351905
52@todayshowThe Today Show6204131927
53@goodGOOD 4149562003
55@msnbc_breakingmsnbc Breaking News593752088
56@cbsnewsCBS News15756382090
57@guardiantechGuardian Tech15920672139
58@usweeklyUs Weekly2287282233
60@sciamScientific American883362373
61@pastemagazinePaste Magazine646422379
62@drudge_reportDrudge Report1005582468
63@parisreviewThe Paris Review221272599
64@latimesLos Angeles Times712872625
65@telegraphnewsDaily Telegraph News173252629
66@abc7ABC7 Eyewitness News363432638
67@arstechnicaArs Technica820512692
69@nprpoliticsNPR Politics18018712882
70@nytimesphotoNew York Times Photo794432927
71@nybooksNY Review of Books898272966
72@nielsenwireNielsen Wire138402994
74@sciencechannelScience Channel 825143064
75@usabreakingnewsUSA Breaking News139873120
76@vanityfairmagVANITY FAIR762823182
77@cw_networkCW Network700313183
78@bbcworldBBC World News2628573202
80@themomentThe Moment15805693413
81@socialmedia2daySocial Media Today345163510
83@washingtonpostThe Washington Post1496173636
84@tpmmediaTalking Points Memo154383678
87@cnnliveCNN Live392603793
88@davosWorld Economic Forum15087723891
89@planetmoneyNPR's Planet Money813093965
90@cnetnewsCNET News.com757303981
93@guardiannewsThe Guardian751984665
94@yahoonewsYahoo! News371544668
95@seedmagSeed Magazine98984696
96@tvguideTV Guide5862404757
97@travlandleisureTravel + Leisure840294767
98@newyorkpostNew York Post433344790
99@discovermagDISCOVER Magazine719134816
100@sciencenewsorgScience News756654888

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