Massive Twitter research project yields insights on influence

My latest CNN post is actually not about mobile, for a change. It’s about the findings from a huge Twitter analysis done by an international research team.

See: How to gain influence on Twitter? Focus

Get this: They got Twitter to release to them a dataset of tweets from nearly 55 million accounts that were in use as of August 2009. That’s nearly 1.7 billion tweets, interconnected by almost 1.9 billion “social links” — which I think means @replies or retweets.

From this, they figured out some things about how influence works on Twitter. Basically, if you’re not already a celebrity or a major news organization or aggregator, then the key to gaining influence through Twitter is to focus on one or a couple of topics.

Also, the report has a good discussion of why popularity does not necessarily equal influence, especially on Twitter.

The research team is releasing its anonymized dataset. I bet other people will have a lot of fun running other analyses of this dataset.

More break-the-story-box news tools: Andy Carvin, Twitter, and Egypt

Form follows function — which is why when traditional journalism tries to shoehorn fast-breaking, multidirectional events that unfold via social media into traditional narrative stories, it often flattens (and sometimes skews) the experience.

This is why I like tools that allow reporters and others to break “story box” by creating real-time collages that combine original reporting and commentary with curated contributions from social media and elsewhere.

The past month, NPR senior strategist Andy Carvin has been doing this via Twitter — first for the Tunisia uprising, and now with the Egyptian revolution. Today Berkman Center research Ethan Zuckerman published an excellent interview with Carvin exploring why he’s been posting an average of 400 tweets daily for the last month, and what others can learn from his efforts.

I summarized some highlights from this interview that might especially interest news professionals over at the Knight Digital Media Center site.

See: How NPR’s Andy Carvin is using Twitter to tell Egypt’s story

It’s 2010: Where are you writing and reading?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed my personal patterns of writing and reading have changed significantly. Some of this has been in response to the changing technology of communication — the rise of social media, in particular. But some of it has also been about where I am in my life and my work.

Here’s a quick rundown of my own changes, and contributing reasons for them. I’d be curious to hear about other people’s personal media evolutions, too. Please share your own experiences in the comments below…

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Twitter @ replies & how I’m changing my live event coverage

Scott Rosenberg (journalist)
If you weren’t already following author Scott Rosenberg on Twitter, as well as me, you would have missed my coverage of his talk last night. Sorry, that won’t happen again. (Image via Wikipedia)

Just yesterday I learned that on Twitter (a social media service I use a lot), if I begin a tweet with an @ reply (such as: @lisawilliams said…), that tweet will only be seen by people who not only follow me but who ALSO follow the Twitter user named after the initial “@”.

You’d think I would have known this already, but every once in a while something major slips by me. Twitter changed how it handles “@ replies” a few months ago — something that caused considerable controversy on the service. It was a controversy I happened to miss. But thanks to the kindness of a stranger, I’m now caught up on the issue and can offer some useful tips.

I’m writing about this issues because it has significant implications for how I’ll be doing live coverage of events via Twitter.

Whenever I’m at an event (such as a conference, talk, or arts event) that I think might also interest some of my Twitter followers, I tend to “live tweet” it — posting frequent updates about what’s being said, what I’m seeing, reactions to what’s happening, etc.

I do this so much, and have gotten pretty good at it, that I have attracted many Twitter followers because of it. So I’ve decided to explore offering live event coverage as a professional service.

BUT: What if only a fraction of my nearly 5,000 Twitter followers have the opportunity to see my live coverage? And what if those people are already, in a sense, part of the “in crowd?”

That’s the situation when I start my live tweets with “@”.

Yeah, big problem. Especially if part of the value I bring to the table with live event coverage service is the size of my Twitter posse.

Fortunately, it’s fixable… Continue reading

Making Twitter Lists more useful with filtering

Choose
Sometimes you don’t want EVERYTHING, just what you want. (Image by ervega via Flickr)

Today Twitter has begin a broad rollout of a new feature, Twitter Lists. The feature had been available only to a select group of beta users, but product manager Nick Kallen tweeted yesterday,Currently, 25% of all users have Lists.” I don’t have access to Lists yet, but I expect it’s coming soon.

The point of Twitter lists is relevant discovery: It’s an easy way to find and follow Twitter users you might not otherwise know about, but would be interested in. However, you might not be interested in everything (or even most things) a given Twitter user in a list has to say. This is more likely if you’re more interest in topics than people. In this case, Twitter lists might deliver more noise than signal.

But I think if you use a good tool like Tweetdeck for accessing Twitter (rather than just the Twitter site, which has always sucked for usability), you can combine Twitter Lists with filtering to end up with something very useful indeed, especially for staying abreast of news or topics… Continue reading

Experiment: Great Live Event Coverage for Hire. What do you think?

As I mentioned in my previous post, today I’m liveblogging and tweeting a daylong Las Vegas event by Metzger Associates: Social Media for Executives. It’s a small event for a select group of executives representing several types of companies.

I’m doing this as a pilot test for a new professional service I’d like to start offering: Great live event coverage.

In my experience, most online event coverage isn’t so great. A few folks will be tweeting or blogging in several places, some hashtags will be used, but it’s all rather confusing and inconsistent to follow. Also, a lot of people tend to tweet items like “Jane Doe is speaking at this session now.” Uh-huh… AND….?

Liveblogging/tweeting has turned out to be a real strength of mine — I’m good at it, and I enjoy it. I’ve also had the good fortune to collect a sizable Twitter following among folks whose interests in media, business, and other fields overlap with mine — and who enjoy my particular blend of reporting, analysis, and attitude. (Or at least I guess they do, because every time I do live event coverage my Twitter posse swells noticeably and those folks tend to stick around afterward.)

I do a lot of live event coverage via Twitter and CoverItLive. For instance, earlier this month for my client the Reynolds Journalism Institute I liveblogged/tweeted J-Lab’s Fund My Media Startup workshop at the 2009 Online News Association conference.

So, being a longtime entrepreneur always on the lookout for new opportunities, I’m looking for ways to offer live event coverage as a service for my clients. Today’s event is an experiment on this front.

I want to figure out how this service could work in a way that would appeal to my Twitter posse, maintain my integrity and independence, and provide value to clients who’d pay for it.

Here are some of the issues I’m wrestling with, that I’d welcome your thoughts on…

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Death of Tr.im: Rolling your own link shortener might be a good idea

RIP, Tr.im

RIP, Tr.im

UPDATE AUG 12: Tr.im reports that they’re not dead yet. Hey, congrats to them for working something out, at least for now. But still: As Aron Pilhofer notes in the comments below, relying on any third-party for a core functionality represents a significant risk, so I still stand by my advice in this post.

Yesterday the popular URL shortening service Tr.im abruptly bit the dust — begging the question of whether existing Tr.im shortlinks would suddenly break. (Tr.im says its existing links will continue to function at least through Dec. 31, 2009.)

This doesn’t affect me much, since I rarely used Tr.im — but others relied heavily on Tr.im and its statistics for how its shortlinks were used. Bit.ly, which also tracks shortlink statistics, is now Twitter’s default link shortener. PaidContent recently covered how difficult link shortener service business is. Which means that other link shorteners could fall down and go boom at any time.

So if you really must rely on shortlinks for any reason, it probably makes more sense than ever to create or control your own link shortener

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Hashtags: Your Social Media Radar Screen and Magnet

Twitter Trending Hashtags
Image by mobatalk via Flickr

Later today I’m giving a talk at an entrepreneur’s group about how you can get more benefit out of social media by using hashtags. I’ve found that these can be exceptionally valuable tools to connect with topics and people. They also can help you make yourself (or a topic, organization, or event that matters to you) much easier to find and connect with.

I’ll be fleshing out these ideas in a later blog post. But for now, here are my main points I intend to make — Plus some resources I will to demonstrate…

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1 Million Twitter Followers: Backstory on CNN v. Ashton Kutcher

Actor Ashton Kutcher challenges CNN to a Twitter race. He reached the 1 million follower mark first.

Actor Ashton Kutcher challenges CNN to a Twitter race. He reached the 1 million follower mark first.

Just after midnight mountain time on April 17 actor Ashton Kutcher became the first Twitter user to accumulate more than 1 million followers — winning the race he challenged CNN to by video on Apr. 14.

As Kutcher cross the 1 million follower mark, CCNbrk, which posts current headlines (but not links) from CNN breaking news stories, had just over 998,000 followers.

So what? Is this a publicity stunt and a popularity contest, and mostly trivial? Yes — even though Kutcher did agree to donate $100,000 to the charity Malaria No More when he reach 1 million followers. (However, Ethan Zuckerman pointed out that this charity’s initiative to donate bednet to Africans may be misguided.)

However, there’s an interesting backstory: The CNNbrk account was only recently acquired by CNN.

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