National Press Club Twitter analysis: it's not only follower numbers that gives you influence

There are some fascinating things going on in this Twitter analysis of the storm that erupted on Saturday after the National Press Club announced that “The Rhino” was the 2012 Newsmaker of the Year  – especially about influence in this now ubiquitous social network.

But first a little of how this data map was done and what you can do with it and please note that the visualisation won’t work in Internet Explorer that’s earlier than Version 9 but it’s fine in Chrome, Firefox and other sensible browsers:

  • Please give it a little time to stabilise. There’s more than a 150 connections so the physics take some time to resolve.
  • You can zoom in and out with your mousewheel and pan around the map using left-click and drag. The dotted lines show who retweeted particular tweets so this is really a map of who was retweeted most and by whom.
  • Most crucially, if you hover over the connecting line between two people, the actual tweet will come up. (It is easier if you zoom in before hovering.)  Look at the hubs that are created,  which illustrate the most influential people in the discussion.
  • The map – called a “force layout network” – was created by mining tweets from the Twitter search interface over the weekend searching for “National Press Club”. The search results were then parsed using a programmatic formula to identify retweets and “vias”. Those identified the linkages between the nodes, and the data was fed into a java script visualisation library called D3, which generates the interactive representation. It was coded by my very clever husband, Andrew Trench, and for more on how he did it click here to go his blog.

This is a first for Grubstreet and we’d like to do more so please let us know what you think and if there’s anything in particular you’d like to to tackle in this way.

[box]SEE ALSO: Twitter shows democracy in action: hacks against “National Press Club”[/box]

So what’s going on here in our visualisation (scroll down to see)?

The most influential peeps include Twitterati such as Eyewitness News journalist and author Mandy Wiener (with almost 40 000 followers) and TV actress and presenter Florence Masebe (more than 12 000 followers).

The obvious conclusion is that because they have large followings, both these women are influential in the SA Twitterverse and their comments – even if relatively straightforward such as in the case of Wiener – will be amplified. Being a TV celebrity, Masebe (Twitter handle: FloMasebe) took the issue out of media circles and I think part of the reason why she was retweeted so much was that her tweet was fun and cheeky: “Dear Black SA”, she began.

Others who were retweeted extensively include Business Day political editor Sam Mkokeli (Twitter handle: msmkokeli) who has 5 700 Twitter followers – far less than Wiener’s but his strident tweet about the press club not representing him touched a nerve.

The most interesting influencers here are journalists Jobe Sithole (handle: Jobza; 1000 followers) and Katharine Child (handle: katthechild, 760 followers).

Both have small group of followers but they were retweeted because they had something really interesting or valuable to contibute to the debate. Child linked to spindoctor Chris Vick’s column last year in Business Day on conflicts of interest at the press club – thereby providing useful information to the Twitterverse – and Sithole was really out there in his condemnation of the press club.  Some would have retweeted his comments because they were provocative and some because they really rung true.

Which just goes to show: you don’t have to be big to exert influence on Twitter. Suffice to say, we’re listening, guys.
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