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Study Exposes Difficulty in Measuring Twitter Influence

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If you were to ask around social media and online marketing professionals how to measure the influence of a Twitter user, you'd probably get a variety of answers. That's because there are a variety of success stories.

Some organizations use it as a broadcast medium; some are conversationalists. Some have a ton of followers, others have fewer but establish more concrete relationships.

So, who has the best influence? Is it the person with the most ReTweets? Is it the person with the most responses to an average Tweet?

The Web Ecology Project is attempting to answer those questions with their new report The Influentials: New Approaches for Analyzing Influence on Twitter.

Reading the 18 page PDF, I felt like more questions were raised than answered, but what's great about the report is the careful consideration it gives to the different ways to measure influence.

Far too many people seem to place importance on sheer number of followers. But there can be powerful influence among those with smaller numbers of followers as well.

We know this from other studies showing the power of reviews and the trust consumers place in the opinions of friends and family.

And even though the Web Ecology Project itself came to such conslusions as "Mashable is more influential than CNN," reading through their report ultimately reveals that measuring influence really depends on how you define it.

Looking at some of their data shows how challenging these tasks are. The Web Ecology Project chose some of the top Twitterers in Entertainment, News, and Social Media according to how many followers they have.

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But what are all of those followers doing with those Tweets? Check out each Twitterer's percentage of ReTweets, Replies and Mentions by number of their total responses:

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The less well-known you are the more effort you have to put forth to generate responses. Ashton Kutcher gets tons of responses for his Tweets, which are smaller in number than other less-known Twitterers, such as the social media gurus. In other words, if no one knows who the heck you are, you're going to have to work your butt off to be influential on Twitter.

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How do you measure influence on Twitter? Is conversation or broadcasting more influential? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.


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