Just as President Obama’s 2008 campaign demonstrated the possibilities of social media in politics, the 2010 midterm elections saw a continued emphasis on online communications from those in Congress.
With the elections now passed, the Social Computing group at HP Labs applied a new algorithm to measure which members of Congress have the most influence on Twitter.
The difference between popularity and influence
After analyzing 22 million tweets, researchers at HP Labs (D. Romero, W. Galuba, S. Asur and B. A. Huberman) calculated a novel measure of influence and developed a corresponding algorithm that automatically identifies particularly influential users.
According to their research, it is important to separate the concept of “influence” from “popularity.” While a user on Twitter may have a large number of followers, his or her influence is more strongly associated with their engagement with the network, rather than the raw number of followers or retweets.
In short, influential users are those that are best at inspiring their followers to overcome their predisposition to remain passive. You can learn more about the algorithm and other HP Labs social computing research by reading our announcement post here and watching the above video interview with Dr. Bernardo Huberman.
Analyzing members of Congress on Twitter
Using this algorithm, HP Labs was able to determine the 100 most influential members of Congress on Twitter. A few observations:
- 70 of the top 100 most influential members of Congress were Republicans.
- The average age of those on the list is 57, which is about the same as the average age of members of Congress and Senators.
- 13 of the top 100 are from Generation X, 69 from the Boomer generation and 18 from the Silent generation.
- Of the 86 that engaged in a recent campaign, 79 won, 7 lost and one remains outstanding.
Below is a list of the top 10 most influential members of Congress on Twitter. The list shows their rank, the member’s name, their Twitter username, the number of followers, and their party and state (“R” for Republican, “D” for Democrat, and “I” for independent).
For the full list of 100 members, download the PDF.
*UPDATE 11/20/10: an earlier version of this report mistakenly omitted Eric Cantor (@gopwhip) from the list and ranked John McCain 7th. Cantor should have been 7th on the list, with McCain ranked 8th. The list below is now corrected.
1. Nancy Pelosi (@nancypelosi); D-CA; 15,964 followers
2. Paul Ryan (@reppaulryan); R-WI; 21,378 followers
3. Michele Bachmann (@michelebachmann); R-MN; 22,967 followers
4. Thomas Allen Coburn (@tomcoburn); R-OK; 17,631 followers
5. Bill Nelson (@senbillnelson); D-FL; 12,503 followers
6. John Boehner (@gopleader); R-OH; 48,604 followers
7. Eric Cantor (@gopwhip); R-VA; 20,384 followers
8. John McCain (@senjohnmccain); R-AZ; 1,718,288 followers
9. Joe Barton (@repjoebarton); R-TX; 4,091 followers
10. Sherrod Brown (@sensherrodbrown); D-OH; 4,947 followers