The million user fallacy (measuring Twitter influence)

Notes on Measuring User Influence in Twitter: The Million Follower Fallacy, Meeyoung Cha, Hamed Haddadi, Fabricio Benevenuto, Krishna P. Gummadi, Proc. International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM), May 2010.

The million follower fallacy states that having lots of followers translates into having lots of influence.  This paper is one of several disproving that hypothesis. The term comes from an article posted by Avnit in 2009, but which seems to have been taken down.

Traditional communication theory claims that a minority of people, informed, respected, and well connected, shape the opinion of the society. These are the hubs, mavens, influence leaders, …

A more modern view says that the important factor is how open the society is. The Watts 2007 paper on this found that in a homogeneous degree network, anyone could start a long cascade. not having read the paper, my criticism could be off, but I wonder if this finding isn’t just a result of the network structure. If degree is homogeneous, then by definition you don’t have hubs/mavens.

The current work investigates three measures of influence: followers, retweets, and mentions. The most followed twitterers are public figures and news media. The most retweeted twitterers are content aggregation sites. The most mentioned users were celebrities. The three categories do not overlap well.

Influence follows a power law.

Influence runs across topics; a user who is influential in one topic is often influential in other topics as well. “Most influential users hold significant influence over a variety of topics.”

One can gain influence by focusing on a single topic, and posting creative and insightful tweets on that topic.

See also “What is Twitter, a social network or a news media”, by Haewoon Kwak, Changhyun Lee, Hosung Park, and Sue Moon. Proceedings of the 19th International World Wide Web (WWW) Conference, April 26-30, 2010, Raleigh NC (USA), which notes:

[Twitter has] a non-power-law follower distribution, a short effective diameter, and low reciprocity, which all mark a deviation from known characteristics of human social networks~\cite{Newman03}… Ranking by retweets indicats a gap in influence inferred from the number of followers and that from the popularity of one’s tweets… [We]show that the majority (over 85%) of topics are headline news or persistent news in nature. A closer look at retweets reveals that any retweeted tweet is to reach an average of 1,000 users no matter what the number of followers is of the original tweet. Once retweeted, a tweet gets retweeted almost instantly on next hops, signifying fast diffusion of information after the 1st retweet.

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Posted on June 22, 2012, in networks, papers and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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