Jun 22, 2010

Twitter Without Celebrities? The Same or Different?

hursday, May 13th, 2010 at 7:00 am   ShareThis
Twitter is teeming with high profile users: Ashton Kutcher, Oprah Winfrey, Barack Obama, Britney Spears, and the list goes on. What if these celebrities decided to leave Twitter? Our findings suggest it would be the same old Twitter, at least with respect to social connections.
Last week, we analyzed more than 5.2 billion friend/follower connections within the Twitter network to understand it better. We discovered, there is only five degress of separation. This means nearly everyone on Twitter is just five steps away from each other.
Just five degrees of separation seems really small for such a huge world, and many people suspected that celebrity users may skew the results due to their high level of “connectedness”. In a sense, celebrities act as hubs within the network because they have so many followers.
To get a better handle on the “celebrity factor”, we removed all users with more than 10,000 followers from our database. We then reexamined 5.2 billion friendships, which we define as friend and follower relationships.
We discovered that even after removing all users with more than 10,000 followers, the Twitter network structure does not change significantly from our original report’s findings. The highlights include that:
  • The most common friendship separation (how far you are away from any other user within Twitter) is still five steps.
  • The second most common friendship separation is still four steps.
  • The total reach-ability of the Twitter network and the rate of reach did not decrease in a major way. It means that, on average, a Twitter user will encounter 72% of all other Twitter users by visiting everyone’s friends up to a distance of five steps. If a user visits all friends of friends up to six steps, 93% of all Twitter users will be covered.
  • Within four steps, a Twitter user can discover 28% of the total network, compared to 42% previously.
  • It takes an average of 3.44 steps to find one of your followers, compared with the previous finding 3.22. The standard deviation is 1.37
Distribution of the Twitter Friendship Distance
Below is a pie chart showing the distribution of the Twitter friendship distance:
Twitter friendship
Here’s a table showing the distribution of the Twitter friendship distance:
Twitter friendship distance
The following table shows the reach-ability of the Twitter network:
Twitter network
Twitter network table
Our statistical analysis suggests that Twitter would be the same without any celebrities. What do you think? Leave us a comment to let us know.

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