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On Twitter, The Most Influential Person Is…

...Probably Not Who You'd Expect

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On Twitter, The Most Influential Person Is…
[ Social Media]

A new study from Hewlett-Packard Labs has analyzed trends and topics on Twitter in order to suss out how certain Tweeters influence the trending topics that fluctuate throughout any given day. Based on their data and findings, they’ve also been able to indicate which person is the most influential person in all of Twitterdom. Wanna take a guess at who it might be?

President Obama? No.

Huffington Post? Nope.

Google? Nay.

Lebron James? Not even close.

BBC? You’re not getting any warmer.

The most influential Tweeter, according to HP Labs, is a woman named Twiter Da Vovó, a Brazilian comedian with a penchant for lurid gestures and quite the potty mouth. Have a look for yourself (if anyone within earshot of you understands Portuguese, then consider the following video NSFW):

The calculations conducted by HP Labs looked closely and the persistence and decay of trending topics on Twitter, which they designated as having a typical lifespan of 20-40 minutes. Within those trending topics, the researchers examined which Twitter users “contribute to the collectie awareness of what is trending and at times can also affect the public agenda of the community.” Because topics cycle so quickly (honestly, 20 minutes seems like kind of a long time even for Twitterness), they did an API search every 20 minutes to gather data on trending topics and collected the data over a period of 40 days. From their data, they collected relevant info such as the author, actual text of the tweet, and the time it was posted. If you think this sounds like a ton of data, you’d be correct: in the course of their data collection, they obtained 16.32 million tweets on 3,361 topics. The entire report can be viewed below:

Trends in Social Media: Persistence and Decay

From this data, the researchers were able to glean who could be considered the most influential person on Twitter based on the ratio of retweets they received among 50 or more of the trending topics. The table below illustrates their findings:

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. Above CNN, NY Times, Huffington Post, Reuters, and literally every other person or organization with a Twitter account, this saucy lady from Brazil tops them all in matters of influence. If ever a model demonstrated the extreme ephemeral tendencies that online culture is prone to, this study illuminates that quite nicely.

So really, does anything mean anything at all? Perhaps not, HP Labs suggests. They make no attempt to explain why certain topics catch the widespread interest of Twitter, stating that “there is no clear picture of what causes these topics to become extremely popular, nor how some persist in the public eye longer than others.” All they’ve been able to parse from their examination of Twitter is one certainty: the one aspect that causes a topic’s popularity to decline is their novelty. In other words, once we notice something popular on Twitter, we remain transfixed on it for a brief moment until the next shiny object twinkles and grabs our attention.

Given that finding, it’s a wonder that any of us can remember anything about any Internet meme ever.

On Twitter, The Most Influential Person Is…
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