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Article Summary: Social networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope

29 June 2009
by

How many friends do you have? Can you quantify your following? A quick glance at Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, shows that our social networks are bursting at the seams, but those numbers may not be telling the whole story. According to a “Social networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope,” our actual social network interactions are actually limited to a core group of “friends.” In fact, the biggest driver of Twitter usage is “a sparse and hidden network of connections underlying the ‘declared’ set of friends and followers.”

Data set:

The study look at 309,740 Twitter users, who on average posted 255, had 85 followers, and followed 80 other users.

Key definitions:
Friends – a person whom the user has directed at least two posts to.
Follower – someone who has subscribed to follow the user

The study looks at the relationship between a user and his/her friends as a function of posts, followers, and reciprocity. It also looks at the same factors in relation to a user and his/her followers.

Only 25% of posts were direct. This implies that although users have a complex network of followers, their direct communication is with a small group of actual friends. A follower-followee relationship does not equate to actual communication between the parties. According to the study, a user’s number of friends is a more accurate indicator of Twitter usage than number of followers. The number of posts increases with the number of friends, without saturating. The number of posts initially increases with the number of followers, but soon hits a saturation point.

Although the study effectively explores the nature of direct relationships between Twitter users, like the “Micro-blogging as Online Word of Mouth Branding” it doesn’t account for passive interaction between parties.  Implying that only “direct” relationships “matter” underestimates the influence of Twitter as an information and WOM source.

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