Charting the Social Landscape – Who’s Notable Amongst Followers of UK HE Twitter Accounts?

Over the last week or two, I’ve been playing around with a few ideas relating to where Twitter accounts are located in the social landscape. There are several components to this: who does a particular Twitter account follow, and who follows it; do the friends, or followers cluster in any ways that we can easily and automatically identify (for example, by term analysis applied to the biographies of folk in an individual cluster); who’s notable amongst the friends or followers of an individual that aren’t also a friend or follower of the individual, and so on…

Just to place a stepping stone in my thinking so far, here’s a handful of examples, showing who’s notable amongst the followers of a couple of official HE Twitter accounts but who doesn’t follow the corresponding followed_by account.

Firstly, here’s a snapshot of who followers of @OU_Community follow in significant numbers:

Positioing @ou_community

Hmmm – seems the audience are into their satire… Should the OU be making some humorous videos to tap into that interest?

Here’s how a random sample (I think!) of 250 of @UCLnews’ followers seem to follow at the 4% or more level (that is, at least 0.04 * 250 = 10 of @UCLnews followers follow them…)

positioning of @uclnews co-followed accounts

Seems to be quite a clustering of other university accounts being followed in there, but also “notable” figures and some evidence of a passing interest in serious affairs/commentators? That other UCL accounts are also being followed might suggest evidence that the @UCLnews account is being followed by current students?

How about the followers of @boltonuni? (Again, using a sample of 250 followers, though from a much smaller total follower population when compared to @UCLnews):

@boltonuni cofollowed

The dominance of other university accounts is noticeable here. A couple of possible reasons for this suggesting are that the sampled accounts skew towards other “professional” accounts from within the sector (or that otherwise follow it), or that the student and potential students have a less coherent (in the nicest possible sense of the word!) world view… Or that maybe there are lots of potential students out there following several university twitter accounts trying to get a feel for what the universities are offering.

If we actually look at friend connections between the @boltonuni 250 follower sample, 40% or so are not connected to other followers (either because they are private accounts or because they don’t follow any of the other followers – as we might expect from potential students, for example?)

The connected followers split into two camps:

Tunnelling in on boltonuni follower sample

A gut reaction reading of these communities that they represent sector and locale camps.

Finally, let’s take a look at 250 random followers of @buckssu (Buckinghamshire University student union); this time we get about 75% of followers in the giant connected component:

@buckssu follower sample

Again, we get a locale and ‘sector’ cluster. If we look at folk followed by 4% or more of the follower sample, we get this:

Flk followed by a sample of followers of buckssu

My reading of this is that the student union accounts are pretty tightly connected (I’m guessing we’d find some quite sizeable SU account cliques), there’s a cluster of “other student society” type accounts top left, and then a bunch of celebs…

So what does this tell us? Who knows…?! I’m working on that…;-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

One thought on “Charting the Social Landscape – Who’s Notable Amongst Followers of UK HE Twitter Accounts?”

  1. I read the following,

    Social media has been militarily manipulated as a means of manufacturing public consent and as a tool of perception management. Without question social media and the internet have been essential ingredients in launching the war in Libya and destabilizing Syria.

    from this interview and thought, would it be possible to (i) create a list of websites that were created in 2011, (ii) filter it (to remove pr0n etc), and (iii) interrogate it to find out if any of these websites were created before the Arab Spring?

    Do you know how to do this?

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