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Twitter Influencers

Neil Patel over at the Social Media Examiner had an interesting take on the Pew Research Group’s study of Twitter conversations. When the Pew study came out, I consumed it voraciously. I would have posted about it here except that the site hadn’t launched yet. But it is a really fascinating piece of research. And now eight months later, I get a new chance because Neil’s article found an insight I hadn’t thought of.

Influencers are the glue of Twitter networks, providing tweet fodder and inspiring passion among followers. Conversations don’t exist without them, and their position within networks is a critical component of their influence.

When I read the Pew Study, I focused on the links and the clusters, which is what Pew seemed to be talking about. But Neil teased out two kinds of influencers that are identified by the study results. When I saw two kinds, I jumped to the conclusion that he was talking about strong ties/weak ties (or perhaps bonding ties/bridging ties). But his analysis focuses on nodes rather than links and the perspective is very different. And also very important.

He calls the two types hub influencers and bridge influencers. A hub influencer is someone who creates original content. To turn this ability into influence, the person (or organization) needs to create value-adding, relevant, timely, and consistent original material. Strategically, he/she also needs to tailor it to his/her followers’ interests and/or use an effective set of hashtags to make it findable. If it reaches enough other users, and they retweet it to their own followers, you get hub influence. For controversial topics, the content might get retweeted to the “other side,” although with some comments the creator might not appreciate. Paul Krugman is his exemplar for this kind of influencer.

The second type of influencer he calls a bridge influencer. In this case, the influencer doesn’t need to create original content, he/she serves more as a curator, identifying content that would be valuable to different groups and adding comments and hashtags that make the value apparent to a group that might use different terminology. By helping move content from one group to another, you serve a valuable purpose and become an influencer that way. Users rely on you to find content they need that they otherwise would not find on their own or at least wouldn’t recognize its relevance.

He ends with some advice on how to become each of these types of influencers. But that is a topic for another day.

Image credit: “Twitter” by LoboStudioHamburg used under CC0 1.0

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