Talking in circles: A UGA prof studies Twitter speak

People talk about a lot of things on the social media giant, but the patterns are pretty predictable

More than just a home for breaking news and Bieber babble, Twitter has become a modern-day agora. University of Georgia assistant professor of telecommunications Itai Himelboim worked with the Pew Research Center and Social Media Research Foundation on analysis that revealed users of the social media behemoth interact with each other in patterns that fall into just six categories.


1. Polarized Crowds
Fueled mostly by politically charged tweeters, these conversations are made up of large groups who tweet to each other but completely ignore the opposing side. Each group links to certain news sources and uses its own hashtags.
You fall here if: You gab with fellow followers of @bwbblog but wouldn’t dare tweet at @PeachPundit. Or vice versa.

2. Tight Crowds
Just the opposite: These groups always chat with each other and share resources. Think of it as a hobby club, digitized.
You fall here if: You love talking about your home-grown lettuce with fresh foodies such as @GeorgiaOrganics or @TLWUrbanAg. Or you’re a total walker stalker and follow fan outlets such as @WalkingDeadArmy.



3. Brand Clusters
If you’ve ever tweeted about a TV show you watch, the soda you slurp, or the device you tap away on, you’ve likely fallen into this category. These users mention specific brands but don’t connect with others on the subject.
You fall here if: You sometimes feel compelled to inform the world your @SPANX are riding up.


4. Community Clusters
Once people start talking about brands to others, they form tiny groups. These clusters also pop up during big news events.
You fall here if: You shared snarky suggested logos for the Cobb County–bound #Barves when the team announced its big move, or you swapped #Hothlanta stories with folks stranded during #Snowpocalypse.


5. Broadcast Networks
For many, tweets provide the daily news. Followers of Twitter’s many “broadcasters” retweet and spread their messages but rarely interact with others who follow the same accounts.
You fall here if: You’re a news outlet churning out the day’s stories, such as @wsbtv or @cl_atlanta, or a personality with a big following, such as CNN’s @DrSanjayGupta.


6. Support Networks
Many companies set up Twitter handles to serve as digital customer service agents. Support networks speak directly to the people they assist, but those frustrated customers aren’t striking up conversations with one another.
You fall here if: You’re one of the poor souls at @DeltaAssist trying to help frazzled passengers rebook canceled flights.

This article originally appeared in our June 2014 issue.