Mapping Networks of Influence: Tracking Twitter Conversations Through Time and Space

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This article attempts to understand how networks of influence are formed among Twitter users, and the relative influence of global news media organizations and information providers in the Twittersphere during such global news events. For this purpose, the researchers build an analysis around a set of tweets collected during the 2012 London Olympics, and to understand how different users influence the conversations across Twitter, they then compare three types of accounts: those belonging to a number of well-known athletes, those belonging to some well-known commentators employed by the BBC, and a number of corporate accounts belonging to the BBC World Service and the official London Twitter account. Finally, they look at the data from two perspectives. First, to understand the structure of the social groupings formed among Twitter users, they use network analysis to model social groupings in the Twittersphere across time and space. Second, to assess the influence of individual tweets, they investigate the ageing factor of tweets, which measures how long users continue to interact with a particular tweet after it is originally posted.

For PVE researchers, understanding how conversations evolve on Twitter through time and space is crucial to identifying and tracking important radical and counter-radical networks. With the increasing use of social media around global news events, such as the London Olympics in 2012, questions arise for international broadcasters about how to engage with users via social media in order to best achieve their individual missions. This research provides a glimpse into the extent by which Twitter is a highly diverse social network whose conversations are multi-directional involving individual users, political and cultural actors, athletes and a range of media professionals. In so doing, users form networks of influence via their interactions, affecting the ways that information is shared about specific global events.


Alistair Willis, Ali Fisher, and Ilia Lvov

May 2015