Twittersphere map offers start-ups glimpse of consumer insight

Researchers have created a map of the Australian “Twittersphere”, potentially offering start-ups a valuable insight into consumer behavior.


Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology have created the first map of the Australian Twittersphere, which reveals clusters of interest around major themes.


The researchers based their map on data from 950,000 Australian Twitter accounts, but claim the national Twitter population is estimated to be as high as two million.


Themes include politics, the arts, sport, food, agriculture, music, religion, real estate, business, celebrities, education and social media.


The map shows how strongly or weakly these interest networks interlink with one another, and with the Australian “mainland” in the map.


For example, Prime Minister Julia Gillard – located close to the centre of the map – is surrounded by topics such as opinion, news, radio, TV, Greens, ALP and progressives.


The map also reveals which Twitter networks are isolated from the “mainland”, tending to connect among themselves more than with other networks.


These include evangelical groups, smaller cities like Adelaide and Perth, followers of pop stars, and sports and beer lovers.


According to QUT associate professor Axel Bruns, the map offers “a completely different way to view Australian society – not by where people live or what job they do, but by how they connect to each other through Twitter”.


“It gives us a strong sense of who is using Twitter, why and how. When a big issue comes along, you can see parts or all of the network lighting up,” Bruns says.


By comparing tweets with and without web links in them, the researchers were able to show how some people used Twitter to comment, while others used it to share information.


“For example, in a crisis like the Queensland floods, we saw a lot of people spontaneously sharing information to help one another,” Bruns says.


“There have been many claims made that online media fragments society and reduces links between people. Our maps demonstrate categorically this is not the case.”


“They provide clear evidence of both the strength and complexity of connections among Australians – at least those who use Twitter.”


With regard to business, Bruns says there are several points to take away from the Twittersphere map.


“The first point is that the Australian Twittersphere is wide and varied. It covers a broad range of topics,” he says.


“This very wide spread means for many businesses, ignoring social media is something they do at their own risk. If they don’t become a part of the Twittersphere, their competitors will.”


Bruns believes businesses need to monitor the Twittersphere on a regular basis.


“Get a sense of the footprint for particular discussion groups, themes… [including] whether people are sharing links to particular sites. This can be done on a day-by-day basis,” he says.


“Also, monitor whether a particular tweet [of your own] hits the mark… With everything you do, the impact can be measured by the people following you.”


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