Analyzing the Twittersphere with data visualization

It’s been described as “the SMS of the internet”. It’s put news-breakers across the globe out of business in 140 characters or less. It was founded in 2006 and burst onto the social networking mainstream in 2009. Oh, and it’s responsible for the incessantly irritating #hashtag phenomenon.

Yes; Twitter has made the world feel a whole lot smaller, giving us insight into the details of people’s lives – no matter who, or where, they are. But, when does it all become too much?

Using data visualization and Business Intelligence, we analyzed our movements in the Twittersphere throughout the past year, revealing the top 100 names on Twitter in 2014. Why? To see just who you’ve been following, worshiping… maybe even stalking…

Are women more popular than men?

In general, it appears that men had more pulling power within the Twittersphere, compared to women, in 2014 with 14 more male names appearing in the top 100 most followed Twitter users.

Similarly, the total number of people following men on Twitter also just outweighed the total number of people following females in 2014.

Dividing the number of followers by the 100-most followed Twitter names in each gender, we can see each male averaged 17.4 million followers and each women 23.1 million. So what measure of popularity best define our Twitter superstars?

Rules of attraction: How do you become the most followed on Twitter?

We love to live vicariously through our celebrities. We can see evidence supporting this view through the large percentage of “Entertainers” (blue) who made it into the top 100 most followed tweeters of 2014. But, how have they gained this popularity? What role does the frequency of their tweets and total days of Twitter usage play? And, is there a correlation?

It is almost sad that those with more intellectual and insightful messages, such as CNN Breaking News and The New York Times, fell far behind many of the entertainers – both with less than 20 million followers. By comparison, pop star Katy Perry has in excess of 60 million Twitter accounts following her Twitter profile’s every move. In fact 71 of the 100 most followed Twitter accounts are categorized as ‘Entertainment’. In addition, of the Twitter accounts with 30 million or more followers, only five are non-entertainment related. And, only one account is neither representative of ‘Entertainment’ or a ‘Brand’. It’s an account of a ‘Public Figure (Other)’. Can you guess who it is? No? It’s ok; we’ll get to that later.

At the other end of the popularity scale, it’s interesting to note that serious news sources, such as the CNN Breaking News and The New York Times Twitter accounts, which have been on the Twitter bandwagon for over 8 years, have some of the fewest followers among the top 100 most followed Twitter accounts. While we can see a weak correlation between an accounts’ number of followers and days of existence, if we extend this ‘top 100’ pattern out further, we can extrapolate that far more users engage with Twitter as a means of connecting with leisure time interests rather than hard news or more academic pursuits – irrespective of longevity.

So what about the number of tweets? Do more tweets attract more followers? The New York Times and MTV are two of the most active Twitter accounts (56 and 37 tweets per day respectively). Surprisingly, they still don’t command the same follower base as entertainers Katy Perry and Justin Bieber (with 63 and 59 million followers respectively), both of whom tweet far less frequently (3 and 5 tweets per day respectively).

So, is it then possible to garner a base of dedicated followers without creating a relentless stream of tweets? And, if so, what then is the perfect formula for becoming an online Twitter sensation?

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours: True in the world of Twitter?

We all like to feel loved. So if the secret to generating a huge supporter base of Twitter faithful is to follower your followers back, which of the top 30 most followed Twitter accounts do so?

We can see that only four of the top 30 Twitter accounts make a significant effort to reach back out to their followers.

Top followed Twitter user, Katy Perry, had an almost negligible ratio of followers to following. But who would have thought the likes of Britney Spears and Ariana Grande would be in the same league as Barack Obama in terms of loyalty to their fan base?

So the secret to Twitter popularity? Be a pop star. They’ll love you no matter what you do (Exhibit A, Justin Bieber).

So who do you follow?

With over seven billion people in this world, it appears we choose to focus our Twitter time on our celebrities; specifically music artists. Barack Obama was the only person, who is not an entertainer or an athlete, to make the list of the top 30 followed users on Twitter. From a broad perspective, it’s a bit grim when the developed world seems to value the words of Kim Kardashian over issues related to global breaking news.

A “Tweeter” life

The phenomenon that is Twitter has taken over the internet worldwide. Almost anyone who is anyone now regularly tweets daily updates of what is happening in their lives. But would you really want an update every time someone goes to the toilet? So… how much information is too much information?

We would love to hear your thoughts, opinions and day to day movements (just not your bowel movements) on our Twitter page @YellowfinBI

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