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.

Twitter diverges from well-known traits of social networks: its distribution of followers is not power-law, the degree of separation is shorter than expected, and most links are not reciprocated. But if we look at reciprocated relationships, then they exhibit some level of homophily. (Homophily is a tendency that “a contact between similar people  occurs at a higher rate than among dissimilar people”)

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.

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.

From Haewoon Kwak, Changhyun Lee, Hosung Park, and Sue Moon, What is Twitter, a Social Network or a News Media?, WWW 2010, April 26–30, 2010, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.


About Kyoung Jun Lee
Professor of Kyung Hee Univ.

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