HP Study Shows Mainstream Media Influences, Social Media Amplifies

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Following up on Text 100 SVP David Bailey’s recent Hypertext post about the results of a Hewlett-Packard study on how conversations become trending topics on Twitter that were released on February 15, we wanted to expand the discussion around the data. Results of the study showed that despite the perception that Twitters users with the most followers drive trends, mainstream media have the biggest role in shaping which subjects receive the most attention, reminding us of the importance of balancing outreach to the entities writing the news and those amplifying it.

Although the Twitter handles of mainstream media may not have the most followers (the most followed accounts tend to be those attributed to celebrities: Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Brittney Spears currently round out the top three), the study found that traditional media outlets like CNN and the New York Times act as feeders for trends and that the rest of the Twitter community then serves as a filter and amplifies information shared by these outlets.

The findings make sense given that the recent Pew Research Center Study “Who Tweets?” found that more than 50% percent of Twitter users share links to news stories on a regular basis, and over ten percent do this at least once a day. Average Twitter users are frequently leveraging the platform to share the news that they find interesting and valuable, amplifying the content from traditional news outlets.

The HP study also found:

  • There were 22 users who were the source of the most retweets when a topic was “trending.”
  • Of those 22, 72% were Twitter streams run by mainstream media outfits such as CNN, the New York Times, El Pais and the BBC.
  • 31% of tweets of trending topics are retweets.
  • Most topics don’t spend much more that 40 minutes at the top of the list of trending topics.

The results of the study highlight the importance of targeting the right mix of traditional influencers and social media amplifiers when building awareness for your brand. Although social media entities and personalities have increased their influence, traditional media continue to be a trusted source of information, and as the producers of reliable content, will likely generate the topics that will become trends in the social realm.