Difficult for ‘Regular Folks’ to Gain Popularity on Twitter

A new study from Spain provides rather sobering recommendations for Twitter users who desire to increase their popularity.

Investigators found that the imbalanced structure of Twitter, where some users have many followers and the vast majority barely have a few dozen followers, means that messages from the more influential have much more impact.

Researchers from the Technical University of Madrid found that less popular users can compensate for this by increasing their activity and their tweets, but the outcome is costly and inefficient.

In the study, researchers sought to answer this question: What can Twitter users do to increase their influence?

To answer this question, investigators analyzed thousands of conversations, applied a computational model and devised a measure that relates the effort spent to the influence gained by tweeters.

The results, published in the journal Social Networks, confirm that the actual structure of Twitter is the key to the influence.

Researchers explain that Twitter It is a heterogeneous network, or rather, one where there is a large number of users with very few followers and very few with an enormous number of followers.

The median number of followers is 61, while the very, very popular or influential person may have up to 40-50 million message followers.

With this type of distribution, network position or “topocracy” comes before meritocracy: “Having a larger number of followers is much more important than the user’s ‘effort’ or activity in sending lots of messages,” said Rosa M. Benito, Ph.D., head of the research team.

“However, if the underlying network were homogeneous (something which it is not), users would have approximately the same number of connections and their position on the network would not be important; their influence would depend directly on their activity,” said the researcher.

According to the study, on heterogeneous networks like Twitter the way in which users send messages does not matter, because there is always going to be a highly influential minority.

Tweets that more popular people or institutions send are spread more and have greater impact, even though they send very few, which is also quite usual.

“The data shows that the emergence of a group of users who write fewer tweets but that are largely retweeted is due to the social network being heterogeneous,” Benito said.

Source: Plataforma SINC/alphagalileo