Posted by Jackie Wallentin
Justin Bieber, the young child phenomenon, has 5,459,881 followers. International sensation Britney Spears has 6,018,900 followers. The unique and usually inappropriate Lady GaGa has 6,512,394 followers. I have 98 followers.
Not surprisingly, celebrities on Twitter gather fans almost as fast as their incomes rise. People stare at their computer screens amazed at what these famous ones can spout in 140 characters. These tweets give crazed and curious fans a glimpse into the celebrities’ personal lives, deep emotions and random opinions. However, a recent study suggests this may not be the case.
A study conducted at Northwestern University found that celebrities with millions of Twitter followers have very little influence and are mostly ignored by their followers. The researchers used special mathematical algorithms to find the most influential people on Twitter and how they began the trending topics, the most popular ‘tweets’ at any time.
These ‘trenders’ were experts in their own fields, close to and knowledgeable about the topics. Rarely are celebrities grouped in this category. In a celebrity’s case, this would only be true if they ‘tweeted’ about their own expertise–a baseball player talking about the game, a political commentator discussing Congress, etc. The researchers broke down the widely held myth that those with the most followers hold the most power. I am a fan.
The researchers, Northwestern professor Alok Choudhary and graduate student Ramanathan Narayanan, set up a website called Pulse of the Tweeters to accumulate their results. The site lists the top trends based on their developed algorithm, as well as the most influential ‘trenders,’ or users, for each trend.
Currently, the masses seem to be very interested in the #newtwitter. So am I. In the past year, the simple social media site has made me into a more sophisticated, knowledgable journalist. I receive breaking news from The New York Times and The Des Moines Register. Twitter enables me to keep up with the world, as unbelievable as that sounds. I’m intrigued to see how the site will further improve its usability.
However, I have yet to cave and follow certain celebrities. Cynical or not, I feel most celebrities would not benefit my newsfeed in any way. This recent study further increased my confidence in Twitter as a reliable news source, knowing that the majority of America does not look to celebrities for their world views either.
Has Twitter been beneficial to you? Are there celebrities to follow that offer helpful comments? Maybe Lady GaGa’s ‘tweets’ are intelligent. I doubt it.