Friday, July 02, 2010

Celebrity twitter research - key findings so far

My word, time flies when you are having fun, doesn't it? Or at least when you are immersed in reading, sifting, counting tweets....though I am not sure that has always felt like fun in the last few weeks!
In my attempts to be thorough, I feel as if I have enough data for a book on twitter, not just a chapter.  And I also feel that I have sometimes spent a long time working through data to find a small and seemingly insignificant result.  Though I will let you be the judge of the significance.  Here are some of the facts and figures that are working their way into my chapter:

Celebrities have many more followers than people they are following.  In fact, their audience (the followers) is 60 times the number of people they are interested in following.  Compare this with the difference for the non-celebrities in my dataset, where the audience is only 1.5 times the size of those they are following in return.

Celebrities favour one-to-many twitter updates rather than one-to-one direct messages.  63% of the celebrity tweets were updates, 32% direct messages.  Compare that with the non-celebrity twitter behaviour, where 48% of tweets were updates and 42% direct messages.

Although the media sensationalise occasions where celebrities post details about their private life on twitter (remember Ashton Kutcher's photo of Demi Moore?), the majority of tweets are about the celebrities' professional activities: 75% in fact, and that's the same whether the celebrity is male or female.

Celebrity tweeters post links more frequently than non-celebrities do.  In my dataset, 27% of the celebrity tweets contained links compared with 19% of the non-celebrities.  Of those links, 26% of the celebrity set were to photographs, only 8% of the non-celebrity links did this.  Other links for the celebrities were to their own webpages, blogs, products, movie trailers, mainstream news in which they were mentioned.  In other words, the higher number of links represents a means of amplifying celebrity identity and boosting their status as an 'elite person' (Fowler 1996).

Perhaps no surprises in any of this.  But there is an increasing case which shows that the celebrities on twitter are functioning as information sources (about themselves), not trying to be your 'friend' (Huberman 2009).  So forget finding out what Stephen Fry or Oprah are having for breakfast - it's a clever promotional strategy designed to boost mainstream celebrity industry.