Tuesday, May 4, 2010

ReTweets Are King - MIT Researchers Say

What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media? - WWW'10
Twitter, a microblogging service less than three years old, commands more than 41 million users as of July 2009 and is growing fast. Twitter users tweet about any topic within the 140-character limit and follow others to receive their tweets. The goal of this paper is to study the topological characteristics of Twitter and its power as a new medium of information sharing.

We have crawled the entire Twitter site and obtained 41.7 million user profiles, 1.47 billion social relations, 4,262 trending topics, and 106 million tweets. In its follower-following topology analysis we have found a non-power-law follower distribution, a short effective diameter, and low reciprocity, which all mark a deviation from known characteristics of human social networks. In order to identify influentials on Twitter, we have ranked users by the number of followers and by PageRank and found two rankings to be similar. Ranking by retweets differs from the previous two rankings, indicating a gap in influence inferred from the number of followers and that from the popularity of one's tweets. We have analyzed the tweets of top trending topics and reported on their temporal behavior and user participation. We have classified the trending topics based on the active period and the tweets and show that the majority (over 85%) of topics are headline news or persistent news in nature. A closer look at retweets reveals that any retweeted tweet is to reach an average of 1,000 users no matter what the number of followers is of the original tweet. Once retweeted, a tweet gets retweeted almost instantly on next hops, signifying fast diffusion of information after the 1st retweet.

To the best of our knowledge this work is the first quantitative study on the entire Twittersphere and information
diffusion on it.

Fascinating stuff in this paper. Link takes you to full PDF of the research findings, plus slideshow.

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