In the last episode of our series “Twitter Influence dynamics: an almost exact science”, we described Twitter communities as groups of people aggregated around a topic of interest. We talked about active users who produce content for the remaining interested and silent majority. We can go further: zooming in on these active users, we will find that a subset of them stands out and prevails in the conversations going on in the community.
Just like leaders of a teenager group, they are cooler, tougher and braver. Like leaders, they are always focussed on the problems and needs of their community. Inside the specific media platform we are analysing – Twitter – this means that they speak a lot, always contributing to the topic their community is interested in, whatever it could be: fashion, food, politics. Everything they say is enjoyed and loved by the other active users, who each time enthusiastically share and comment their tweets and mention these leaders in various conversations. Passive users by their nature don’t show explicitly their approval, but keep on following and listening them and grow more and more.
These people are called influencers. Like it happens in real life, people affecting thoughts and habits of a whole community are relatively a few. They are then surrounded by the bigger group of other active users, who work as their megaphone. We can call them enthusiasts. They actively amplify the messages of the influencers, allowing them to reach a much larger audience. They are not as original and creative as the influencers, but very enthusiastic and passionate about the domain of the community. We could say they are the first-class community members among all remaining listening audience made by all influencers’ followers.
What we pointed out so far is a three-layered structure of a community, as depicted in the following diagram.
Now the first main practical issue is how to identify influencers. What does it make an influencer different from a simple enthusiast?
According to us, the key features are relevance and engagement, keeping always an eye on amplification potential.
What does it mean?
- relevance: how much the user writes ‘in topic’
- engagement: what is the level of the community reaction to his tweets in topic
- amplification: what is the spreading potential of the influencers i.e. how much he can be amplified by his community
Our idea is that relevance and engagement are the main ingredients of an influencer, the amount of followers is important but not so much.
Let’s clarify it a little bit through some further diagrams. Here we see a group of influencers of the fashion domain detected by our system FindTheRipple. Each influencer is represented by a point. In the horizontal axis we have the amount of his followers, while in the vertical axis we have his relevance in the first diagram, his engagement in the second one. As we can see (right part of each diagram), influencers with a lot of followers are only a few. The influencers’ relevance values are low, while their engagement is quite high, because having many followers, they have the chance to be mentioned and retweeted a lot. But it always depends on what they say. Most of the influencers have a not so high amount of followers, but thanks to their effort in writing relevant content, they trigger a big reaction. Looking again at the layered community diagram above, in average influencers would not have alone a strong impact on the community (the blue area in the bottom circle), but leveraging all the spreading power of the enthusiasts they massively influence it (red area in the bottom circle). And considering that they produce high-quality in-topic content, their impact is very focussed on the domain of interest of the community, with a strong echo on its members.
This kind of influencers are gold for anyone interested in expanding his message in one of such domain related communities. We’ll see in the next episode how a marketer can do that and how he can measure the effect of the influencers on his marketing campaign.