Emergent Social Profiles and the Twitter Two Step – So What?

I haven’t played with my ESP / twitter mapping code for a bit, but I dug it out again last night for a quick play, and to see how much of it I could reuse if I moved from Mongo to a neo4j / graph database backend (an excuse, in part, to learn a bit more about neo4j, but also because I think it would be easier to write interesting queries over something properly represented as a graph).

One of my favourite maps shows the folk most commonly followed by followers of a person, or set of people, on Twitter. But there are other ways of doing this two step projection, and I think they describe different things:

  • common friends of your followers: this is “people like me” from the perspective of someone’s audience; if lots of folk follow you on Twitter because you interest them, you represent a shared interest of those people. If lots of those folk follow other individuals in common, that’s maybe because the interest they share with respect to you also applies to other folk they follow in common; other folk somehow like you. Alternatively, it may be that there are “affiliated” interests: lots of folk follow a particular golfer because they share an interest in golf, but maybe lots of them also follow a particular brand of whisky because of an interest in the thirteenth hole; so maybe the golfer should try to tie up with with whisky brand. These common friends of your followers are also your competitors in the sense that they too are trying to gain the attention of your followers.
  • common followers of your followers: birds of a feather flock together (homophily); if folk share an interest in you, and they are all followed by someone who doesn’t follow you, perhaps someone who shares their interests, then maybe those common followers (who don’t follow you) of your followers are a place to grow your audience? You also have a route to those people (via your followers). And there are easy to identify metrics for any campaign, such as the rate at which you convert folk who follow your followers but not you into folk who do follow you.
  • common friends of your friends: you can’t choose your followers (although you can block folk to exclude them from your follower list) but you do choose your friends (that is, people you follow). You friends influence you by virtue of the fact you see what they say. If you’re choosing friends as folk that you want to influence in turn, then by mapping who their common friends are (that is, who they commonly follow), you can see who influences them. If they don’t follow folk like you, but you want to gain their attention, you need to gain the attentions of the folk they follow.
  • common followers of your friends: you follow folk because of your particular interests; if other folk follow the same people as you, perhaps they share the same interests; which means they may be your competitors, or they may be potential collaborators. You might also be able to use them to find other folk to follow (that is, look for the folk your friends followers follow that you don’t currently follow). You might also be able to use this group to find new possible followers – from the folk who follow them but don’t follow you.

I keeping meaning to formalise this stuff… hmmm…

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...

%d bloggers like this: