Study: Twitter Is Not a Very Social Network

According to a group of researchers at Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, Twitter is not a very social network. After analyzing over 41 million user profiles and 1.47 billion follower/following relationships, the researchers concluded that only 22% of all connections on Twitter are reciprocal. On Flickr, this number is closer to 68% and on Yahoo 360 it’s 84%. The large majority (78%) of connections between users on Twitter are one-way relationships.

What’s even more interesting than the small number of user pairs is that 68% of all Twitter users aren’t followed by a single person they are following. As the researchers rightly note, this makes Twitter more like a broadcast medium than a social network.

Given that Twitter was set up for these kinds of non-reciprocal follower/following relationships, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many users would use Twitter to follow breaking news channels and celebrities. The fact that almost 80% of these relationships are one-way relationships, however, does come as a surprise and hints at how Twitter’s mainstream users use the service more as a news medium than as a social network.

What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media?

Get the Raw Data

If you would like to analyze this data yourself, but don’t want to crawl 41 million Twitter accounts yourself, the Korean team also created two torrent files: one (very) large file that includes all the 41 million accounts and connections and a second file that only includes the data for Twitter users with over 10,000 followers.

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