Twitter: a network of influence
Who’s setting the agenda for the MR debate on Twitter? Brian Tarran joins the dots to find out.
In December, when Tom De Ruyck of InSites Consulting was crowned Tweeter of the Year by the #MRX community on Twitter, we asked him how broad the reach of the social network was in the offline research world. He guessed that “a few thousand researchers” were involved in one way or another, with a small group of “very active people” leading the discussion.
But who are these people: the content creators, the sharers, the people driving debate and connecting people and ideas? Over two weeks, from 25 November - 9 December, Jason Brownlee of Dollywagon ran an analysis of all the messages carrying one of 350 keywords, ranging from ‘analytics’, ‘market research’ and the #MRX hashtag, to ‘biometrics’, ‘sample sizes’ and ‘paid respondents’.
Over 106,000 on-topic messages were collected in total, generated by 5,000 individuals or companies. Working with Jon Puleston of GMI, we narrowed the list down to the top 400 with an interest in market research and re-ran the analysis to produce the image opposite – a network map showing the lines of communication running between various Twitter users, represented as nodes.
Nodes are sized according to general influence. Brownlee explains: “People with the highest general influence tend to be the biggest, most credible players in a network. They create content that generates more in-bound links than anyone else, but crucially also tend to attract links from other credible players in the network.”
Brownlee has also applied a clustering algorithm to determine the main sub-groups within the market research Twitter community. These are colour-coded. “These groups are predicated on the frequency, pattern and density of connections between the nodes in each group,” explains Brownlee.
One thing that surprises is the lack of any clearly defined clientside clique – or indeed a major clientside influencer. The absence of research buyers in discussions on Twitter was also noted by De Ruyck in our interview. “We have to admit that most of us [Twitter #MRX users] are agencyside and on the more progressive side of the industry – working at smaller or mid-sized agencies specialised in the newer online research methods and techniques.
“That’s not bad. It’s a great way to stimulate our thinking, to be inspired and to push things forward together,” says De Ruyck. “But it would be great if more conservative researchers, and clients as well, would join this discussion. It would make it even more valuable and worth following.”
- Our thanks to Jason Brownlee and Dollywagon for the network analysis and map. Find them online at www.dollywagon.com.