Twitter Analysis: Influencers Still Signing Up; Lots of Followers Doesn’t Equal Lots of Lists

Twitter launched lists in October 2009 and this feature has quickly become an essential part of the Twitter ecosystem. The power of lists isn’t just in their ability to organize your followers, they also provide an an insight into how other users use Twitter. The number of followers an account has might show its popularity, but the number of lists called, for instance, “most influential” or “essential”, that it appears on reveals just how important that account is.

Today, we’re using lists to unscientifically analyze what we think are some of the some of the most influential Twitter accounts. We used a variety of lists to identify 485 accounts and then ran those names through Tableau’s data visualization tools.

Editors Note: This post is the second of a four-part content series ReadWriteWeb is producing in partnership with Tableau Software, where we examine interesting data sets relevant to technology trends today. You can use Tableau Public to create interactive visualizations like this and publish them to your own blog, Web sites, or anywhere online. You also can embed this (or any other Tableau Public) visualization on your own site.

Our List

We generated our list of Twitter influencers based on the lists that the RWW team follows and lists that some of the most influential people on those lists have created. We only used lists that were aggregating accounts that the list creator had called, for instance, “most important”, or “most influential”. After removing duplicates, we ended up 485 Twitter accounts. This list includes people, companies and breaking news feeds. By using lists instead of just follower counts we added an important filter, as many of these lists were created by Twitter users outside of the RWW team.

The Data

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What it Means

Many of the conclusions are unsurprising: Influential accounts have between 100 to more than 1 million followers. While there are some relatively new accounts in our list, the vast majority has been on Twitter for over a year. When it comes to influence on Twitter, being an early adopter clearly has some advantages.

Most of the users who appear on a lot of lists and have a lot of followers also tweet a lot. Given that some of these accounts are from news organizations, this number makes sense, but there is also a group of users like Anil Dash, the Gates Foundation and Outside.in’s Steven Johnson who don’t tweet a lot, but still have a large number of followers based on their reputation.

It is interesting to note is that there seems to be a group of users that has a very large number of followers, but doesn’t appear on an extraordinary large number of lists. This group includes a surprisingly large number of Twitter employees, including Cheryl Palarca (Twitter HR), Alex McCauley (Twitter business operations) and Kevin Thau (mobile products and partnerships at Twitter).

Lastly, it’s obvious that a large number of power users – those with a high number of followers and who appear on a large number of lists – were early adopters; SXSW 2007 and the months leading up to it is when a significant number of influencers signed up. However, while the sign-up rate of those influencers has significantly dropped over time, new influencers continued to appear right through the end of 2009. Twitter early adopters may have moved on the next big thing, but users with prestige haven’t stopped signing up.

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