A Breakdown of Twitter Conversations

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Last month, Pew Research came out with an article that presented the findings of a study done to map different types of Twitter networks. Smith, Rainie, Shneiderman, and Himelboim characterized different Twitter interactions into six different archetypes:

  • Polarized Crowds
  • Tight Crowds
  • Brand Clusters
  • Community Clusters
  • Broadcast Networks
  • Support Networks

After reading this article, I realized that, although I had never thought of these things before, a lot of these archetypes could be found in my daily Twitter usage. Twitter is a public forum, and although it is considered “micro-blogging” because of character limits, tweets and how they are received and responded to can be a big deal. Out of the people I follow, I have noticed some trends:

Most celebrities I would categorize under the “Brand Cluster” area. A lot of their Twitter activity is one-sided, unless they are having a public conversation with another celebrity. Many famous people get tweeted at almost constantly, but would never take the time out of their day to read or respond to every fan (or hater, because those exist too).

Creighton University, to me, is categorized as a community cluster. The only reason I am receiving so much traffic about it, is because I choose to follow fellow Creighton students as well as Creighton accounts. Let’s be honest, on game days, tweets about the men’s basketball organization make up around 75% of my timeline. But my best friends from home aren’t part of the Creighton community and only see my tweets and retweets about them because they choose to follow me. This community cluster can talk about multiple topics, including Doug McDermott, upcoming Creighton events and news, or our collective hatred for the Wichita State Shockers. The opinions of these subgroups spark conversation, but if someone isn’t in the community and the tweets don’t get a lot of outside traffic, they might not go far outside of the cluster.

These subgroups could be categorized into tight crowds, because not a lot of Creighton people disagree with each other regarding these topics centering around the Creighton community. We are a mainly united front, and since we are a smaller school, we are a pretty tight-knit group.

When these smaller tight crowds, however, disagree with another group, say, Wichita State, a polarized crowd takes place. Creighton students are not tweeting directly at Wichita State students, but we tweet our opinions about them freely, and I’m sure they do the same for us. When the Shockers got knocked out of the tournament just hours before the Jays did, we were all ecstatic because of the rivalry. I wouldn’t expect anything else of the Shockers to feel the same way about us when we lost, but I also didn’t see any online arguing between the two schools. We both have a mutual disrespect and rivalry for each other, but we keep it to ourselves because what’s the point of arguing? No one’s going to change their minds.

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