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What makes a tweet influential? New HP Labs social media research may provide answers

How is it that certain topics manage to get more attention than others, thus “bubbling to the top" and changing the agenda of an online community?

 

Today, Dr. Bernardo A. Huberman, the director of HP Labs’ Social Computing Lab, released research on the nature of user influence on social media networks such as Twitter. After analyzing 22 million tweets, Dr. Huberman and his co-authors calculated a novel measure of influence for individual users and developed a corresponding algorithm that automatically identifies particularly influential users.

 

The algorithm described in the research is unique in that it incorporates what the authors call “passivity.”

 

The study found that a large majority of Twitter users act as passive information consumers and rarely forward (“retweet”) content to the network.  To become influential, users must not only catch the attention of their followers; they must also overcome their followers’ predisposition to remain passive.

 

Dr. Huberman’s co-authors are Daniel M. Romero, Wojciech Galuba and Sitaram Asur.

 

For a more detailed look, check out the FAQ, video interview with Bernardo, or the full text of the research.  And don't forget to follow HP on Twitter: @hplabs and @hpnews

 

FAQs about the research

 

What were the key findings?

According to the 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.

 

To automatically identify influencers, the authors devised an algorithm called the IP Algorithm.  This algorithm assigns a relative influence score and passivity score to every user:

 

- “Passivity” is a measure of how difficult it is for other users to influence him or her

- “Influence” depends on both the quantity and quality of the user's audience

 

The paper concludes: “This study shows that the correlation between popularity and influence is weaker than it might be expected. This is a reflection of the fact that for information to propagate in a network, individuals need to forward it to the other members, thus having to actively engage rather than passively read it and cease to act on it.”

 

What users were identified as being “most influential”?

The research presents four specific case studies showing four applications of the new algorithm.  During the limited time period that data collection took place, users with the most IP-influence were:

 

@mashable, @jokoanwar, @google, @aplusk, @syfy, @smashingmag, @michellemalkin, @theonion, @rww, @breakingnews

 

Why is HP conducting research on social media?

HP believes that information is becoming the greatest resource we have for addressing problems in business and society.  Social media is increasingly becoming many people's interface to IT, and these media interactions produce an enormous amount of data.  However, data isn't necessarily information.  Creating software, hardware, and services that can automatically analyze enormous data sets and help people make informed decisions is an extremely challenging technical task and an area of focus at HP Labs.

 

HP is the world's largest technology company and HP Labs is its advanced research group.

 

Has HP published other social media research?

This is not the first report that Dr. Huberman and his fellow researchers have published on the subject of Twitter and social media.  Earlier this year, Dr. Huberman and Dr. Asur at the Social Computing Lab released a report that found Twitter to be a surprisingly accurate predictor of the box office success of Hollywood film releases.  For more of HP’s research in this area, visit the Social Computing Lab.


 


Influence and Passivity in Social Media - HP Labs Research

Labels: HP labs
Comments
Lars Heinemann(anon) | ‎08-08-2010 12:54 PM

very interesting conclusion.

 

Lars, Berlin

SEOMarketing.H

Liz Gebhardt(anon) | ‎08-09-2010 12:59 AM

Another way to look at influence can be thru a definitaion that includes: Trust + Expertise + Attention.   Might the relevant mix of trust, expertise and attention come together to define “contextual specific engagement” which provides the opportunity (but not the guarantee) for a receptive and relevant “audience”,  as well as the appropriately timed moments of influence? (Meaning that influence is defined for both individuals/groups, as well as time).  More if interested at http://www.thinkingoutloud.com/eg_ventures/2009/09/the-engagement-influence-equation.html

Steve Shaw(anon) | ‎08-10-2010 01:57 AM

Certainly a gripping, quality, "what's in it for me?" type headline is key. In examining your list of most influential, you'll see that ongoing theme, great headlines. 

Even "The Onion" puts out great headlines, the funniest I've ever seen.

This is why copywriters are among the highest paid people. They know how to grab the attention of the reader.

A perfect example is this article. The title "What Makes A Tweet Influential?" compelled me to read, and after reading I tweeted about it.

lyndi0810(anon) | ‎08-12-2010 01:18 PM

fascinating article!

Angel Lopez(anon) | ‎08-13-2010 08:32 PM

Hey Ethan,

 

Great blog post, so great - in fact - that it inspired me to write my own blog entry on the subject here! I'll definitely keep your blog on my radar.

 

Best,

 

Angel Lopez

Junior Associate

Page One PR

pageonepr.com

Ethan_Bauley | ‎08-14-2010 12:10 AM

Thanks everyone for your comments and insights so far!

 

Ethan

HP Communications

zanussi washing machines (anon) | ‎08-20-2010 04:31 PM

A really interesting post, but I always find these 'findings' don't tell us anything. A good tweet is something that makes a passive user become active - well of course it is! You don't need an algorithm to tell you that! It's finding the inspiration to make this post that we want to know!

Dave Clarke(anon) | ‎08-24-2010 02:44 PM

Good stuff and very interesting. Essentially the same rules for word of mouth influence apply online and offline (I have written about this in the context of business networking). It comes down to building a manageable number of relationships with people with influence amongst the right audience. Then motivating that network to advocate you.

Dermana Krem(anon) | ‎08-31-2010 01:51 PM

Certainly a gripping, quality, "what's in it for me?" type headline is key. In examining your list of most influential, you'll see that ongoing theme, great headlines. 

Even "The Onion" puts out great headlines, the funniest I've ever seen.

This is why copywriters are among the highest paid people. They know how to grab the attention of the reader.

A perfect example is this article. The title "What Makes A Tweet Influential?" compelled me to read, and after reading I tweeted about it.

Utah Graphic Designer(anon) | ‎09-08-2010 10:11 PM

I think what makes a Tweet influencial is your credentials. Do people really want to hear what you have to say? If Ashton Kutcher says he likes Nokia, people begin to buy. If I do, maybe my mom will get one for herself.

the shawshank redemption(anon) | ‎09-18-2010 05:06 PM

Yes, Twitter has become a sensation now and like what you said very influential nowadays. Especially for the young ones, Twitter has become a new diary and a buzz net. I, for one, use Twitter a lot. And I like to check out all my favorite actor's accounts and of course keep up with my friends's lives.

Patek Philippe(anon) | ‎03-21-2012 03:20 AM

This ia amazing I would love to have tht skill to analyse such a massive amount of data... 22 million of tweets tht is a lot! How do you store such an amount of data?

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