Celebrity Twitter users not that influential – research

27 Sep 2010

Celebrities on Twitter with millions of followers are mostly ignored, diminishing the level of influence they were believed to have had, a study suggests.

For the study, researchers at Northwestern University applied a mathematical algorithm to numerous tweets on Twitter every day.

They found that experts in particular fields were more likely to encourage topics of discussions to become trends.

Alok Choudhary, a Northwestern professor, and Ramanathan Narayanan, a graduate student, said if a celebrity tweets about their area of expertise, only then do they have influence, for example, if a sports star tweeted about the sport they’re involved in.

However, when they tweet about a subject such as politics, it won’t have as much influence as a tweet from a politician or political analyst on the matter.

“People think that just because you have a huge number of followers you may potentially be an influencer, and that is not the case,” said Choudhary.

“A lot of people think that just because you tweet a lot means you may have influence or you are important. But there are a lot of junk tweets.

“Our premise is that influencers are those that dynamically change the opinions of people on specific topics, or the topic of the moment.

“If someone from BP is tweeting about the oil spill, for example, his opinions are likely to carry much more weight and be of much greater interest than those of (actor) Ashton Kutcher, who has a legion of followers,” he said.

Tweeters’ pulse

The researchers have also set up a website called Pulse of the Tweeters, which lists the top trends based on this algorithm and the most influential users for each trend.

A similar study at Sysomos during the summer found that, while most celebrities had a huge level of followers, they were “low authority users,” meaning they had a very low level of actual influence.

The ranking was based on their followers, who they followed, updates, retweets and other measures.

“It is important for peple (sic) to understand the landscape when they search for key influencers within the social media realm,” said Sysomos in its conclusion.

“As well, different kinds of followers can play key roles within the different areas. Simply because a follower has a low Twitter authority, doesn’t mean they aren’t worth connecting with.

“The opposite holds true for followers with high authority levels; simply because they have a high Twitter authority, doesn’t make them the right influencer for everything.

“It is important to know who is your target audience, and who influences them the most,” Sysomos said.