Report: Twitter dominated by ‘elite users’

twitter researchYahoo researchers teamed up with Cornell’s Sharmei Wu to take a look at Twitter users’ activity. The study found that while five-year-old Twitter has millions of registered accounts, approximately half of all tweets come courtesy of 20,000 “elite users” – and yes, a large faction of those are celebrities.

In fact, researchers found that these Twitter standouts could be identified as either celebrities, bloggers, media outlets, or organizations. If you’re mildly disheartened to hear that the microblogging platform is being controlled by 20,000 people (less than .05 percent of the Twitter population) – then you’re going to be really depressed knowing that these quadrants are generally retweeting information created between them. As the paper puts it: “Celebrities overwhelmingly pay attention to other celebrities, media actors pay attention to other media actors, and so on. The one slight exception to this rule is that organizations pay more attention to bloggers than to themselves.” But there is some hope for introducing fresh info into the stream, as “bloggers in general rebroadcast more information than the other categories.”

Want some more good news? Even if you’re less than impressed by the “elite” who are responsible for nearly half of the tweets out there, the study found that the topics of interest weren’t vapid. World news was most popular, and US news, business, and sports followed after. Health, arts, science, and tech pulled up the rear.

Of course, no Twitter study is complete without mention of Ashton Kutcher. Research found that “aplusk’s” (as he’s known to his plethora of followers) retweets act as the middle man of information for over 100,000 Twitter users. And what about the shelf life of tweeted data? “URLs originated by media-actors” don’t fare well, while bloggers did better. But “video, music, and book” URLs stick around longest. Researchers determined that despite Twitter’s endless stream and always changing trends, topics of long-term significance tend to have more staying power.

Interested in who exactly these “elite users” are? Check out the chart below.


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