Published on June 18th, 2012 | by Steven Hodson


Is Twitter Really The Great Equalizer When It Comes To Sharing News?

As someone who has been using Twitter since before it became the geek hit at SXSW event years ago I have always had a rather ambivalent feeling about it. I have gone literally months without actively using the service and to be honest not really missing it all that much.

However the big boys of social media have always proclaimed that Twitter was the harbinger of the new, and better, way for us to get our news as it breaks and that Twitter leveled the playing field when it came to who could be recognized as a reliable and trusted news source. No longer in their mind was news just the property of the old guard news media but Twitter allowed us all to become a trusted source.

Personally I have always felt that was a bunch of bullshit. Sure the playing field had changed but not to the degree that these social media mavens wanted us all to believe. There is no doubt that if you got into the Twitter game early enough and promoted the ass out of yourself  so that you had hundreds, thousands, or even hundreds of thousand followers it only makes sense that you would become a ‘trusted’ source.

It seems that researchers at UCLA and Hewlett-Packard’s HP Labs had some questions about the ‘popularity’ of the personalities and organizations in regards to how it affected the popularity of their tweets. In a paper titled “The Pulse of News in Social Media: Forecasting Popularity” they examined over 40,000 tweets sent during a 9-day period in August 2011 to see if they could find the factors that were important in determining popularity of a tweet.

What they found was that the popularity depended on:

  • The source of the information
  • References to well-known personalities
  • The topic of the news

When it came to what didn’t influence popularity it showed that it didn’t matter what the tone of the tweet, including the language used, was.

In other words – name power and identity counts.

Which means that regardless of how many tweets you send out or how many people you follow the chances of you becoming a ‘go to’ Twitter news source that will get a lot of attention is next to nil. People like Robert Scoble, Jay Rosen, The New York Times, or even people like Andrew Keen will have a lot more pull and reaction that you, or even I, can expect to have when it comes to our tweets having any serious impact.

In other words – nothing has changed – it’s still who you are that counts.

via All Twitter




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About the Author

Steven has been around the tech world long enough to see most of the stuff we think of cool happen before which leads to a certain bit of cynicism that has contributed to him being known as the cranky old fart of the Internet. Besides sharing some of the goodness that he finds with you here at 42x you can also find him curating some digital goodness at Winextra (tech type stuff) and Rotten Gumdrops (for your daily dose of WTF).

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