Sure, it's gratifying when your 500th, or 5,000th, or 50,000th follower signs up to tune into your tweets on twitter. But new research from Hewlett-Packard and Stanford confirms that the number of twitter followers you've got is actually a poor measure of your influence on the microblogging site. After analyzing 16.32 million tweets broadcast over 40 days, the researchers found that the number of retweets-how many times a follower broadcasts a given tweet to their own followers-is the real influence-maker.
According to this research, conducted by Sitaram Asur, Bernardo A. Huberman, and Gabor Szabo of the Social Computing Labs at HP, and Chunyan Wang of Stanford University, the most influential people and accounts on twitter are mostly affiliated with mainstream media outlets. Users on twitter don't seem to be championing their own original media, say the researchers. Instead, twitter mostly acts as a "filter and amplifier" to strains in traditional media its uers find particularly relevant.
The English-language Web contains very little about the twitter personality the researchers ranked as the most influential: @vovo_panico. Says Asur: "As far as we can tell, vovo_panico seems to be the offshoot of a Brazilian tv-radio show that is very popular with their listeners/followers. It looks like they tweet humorous answers to questions posed by their followers." (If any Portuguese-speakers can clarify this, please help out in the comments. Google translate has failed me here.)
Here are the top Twitter accounts, as determined by those who are retweeted the most in topics that become "trending" on Twitter:
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Kimberly Weisul is a freelance writer, editor, and consultant. Follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/weisul