I read an interesting blog from HP yesterday that discussed what drives trends on twitter, and found a surprising answer. The HP blog touched on the big topics of conversation that trend on social media sites and how they become a trend. The HP research team examined the list of top trending topics on twitter to help analyze what drives these topics to become trends.
“You might expect the most prolific tweeters or those with most followers would be most responsible for creating such trends,” says Bernardo Huberman, HP Senior Fellow and director of HP Labs’ Social Computing Research Group, but this assumption seems to be untrue.
Recent research conducted by Huberman and his team demonstrated that there was no correlation between user activity and number of followers on Twitter. Instead, Huberman’s research found that “mainstream media play[ed] a role in most trending topics and actually act[ed] as feeders to those trends.”
This past super bowl is a perfect example of twitter trends. I recently looked up the latest trends on twitter during the super bowl and found super bowl hashtags, Christina Aguilera and the word #nationalanthem to be the most popular hashtags used during that weekend. One of the hot topics that weekend of course was Christina Aguilera forgetting a line in the national anthem.
This example helps show the different between a trending topic and a non trending topics. The more people tweeted about the super bowl hashtags, Christina Aguilera or the word #nationalanthem, the popular those topics became. This can also be seen to a certain extent to how often a topics is retweeted. The HP study also shows that 31% of popular trends are retweeted.
Huberman and his colleagues also found some interesting information on the lifespan of a twitter trend. The average trend on twitter lasted about 40 minutes before becoming less popular, they discovered, but those that do stay as trends for some period of time tend to engage an especially diverse audience. Even though mainstream media sources tend to be extremely well-represented within social media discussions, a significant percentage of trending topics do stem from non-mainstream sources, Huberman notes (HP Corporate Blog 2011).
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