21st Century Cartography: Twitter Mapping

To reiterate myself from previous posts, Twitter is definitely my favorite social media site. Thus, I’m confident that I am able to pinpoint several, if not all, of the six Twitter conversation crowds that have been defined by the Pew Center (what a strange name) in its Internet Research Project. The six archetypes are divided, unified, fragmented, clustered, in-hub & spoke, and out-hub & spoke. “But, Jack, what in the world does that mean?” I’ll tell you. Of the aforementioned media structures, here are the four that rule my Twitter feed.

Unified: Tight Crowd

For the record, I’m not and will never be a Minnesota Vikings fan. But judging by the amount of Vikings fans in South Dakota, I might as well be from this mystical land of way too many lakes. Needless to say, my Twitter feed is packed with Vikings chatter. No matter how horrible the Vikings perform each year, the same diehards stay true to their beloved purple and gold. How they do it, I will never fathom. Sunday after Sunday, year after year, this tight-knit group of fans takes to Twitter to cheer for, rant about, and cuss out their doomed professional football team so everyone can witness their excruciating pain. Ultimately, the rest of us are left dumbfounded as to what mysterious personality trait or, quite possibly, birth defect fuels the fiery passion of this surprisingly loyal fan base that refuses to accept any outsiders. The Vikings faithful is the epitome of a tight-knit, unified crowd.

Fragmented: Brand Clusters

There are two brands that immediately come to mind when I think of Twitter brand clusters – Apple and Starbucks. For Apple, I am primarily referring to the rise of the iPhone. There was a period in time not that long ago when ditching your dinosaur of a flip phone called for an announcement on Twitter. This was done by simply tweeting “#TeamiPhone”. While I certainly did not use this ridiculous hashtag when I made the leap from the Stone Age to the 21st, plenty of people did. My guess would be they were trying to connect with their fellow iPhone “teammates”, but what do I know. Another example of a brand cluster on Twitter is Starbucks. I think it safe to say that the average female I follow has tweeted about her tall, half-caff, soy latte at 120 degrees (yes, that’s real) at some time or another. This just goes to show that social media truly has the power to unite complete strangers over something as simple as cup of coffee.

In-Hub & Spoke: Broadcast Network

It’s March. And with March, comes madness. The season finale of college basketball is finally here, which means avid fans of the game like myself are bound to tweet about the nonstop entertainment that comes from 68 teams with a common goal – winning a national championship. While I like to flatter myself by thinking I know a great deal about basketball, there are in fact individuals out there who analyze this sport for a living. This is their time to shine. Nowadays every major sporting event provides an opportunity for celebrated sports analysts like Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless, and sports media outlets like ESPN and Fox Sports 1 to release trusted information for all to consume. Because these famed Twitter identities receive higher levels of replies, retweets, and favorites, there is very little audience interaction. In essence, this Twitter crowd is composed of the most elite sports analysts who prefer to interact with one another.

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Image from @RealSkipBayless

Out-Hub & Spoke: Support Network

When you enter Creighton’s Brandeis Dining Hall, the TV in the entry way can often be seen flaunting this mediocre lunchroom’s social media shout-outs. The vast majority are comments about last night’s artery-clogging late night meal, or today’s macaroni and cheese. However, once in a blue moon, an especially unsatisfied and/or repulsed student calls out @CreightonDining for all to see. Whether it’s the undercooked omelets in Brandeis, the ridiculous meal exchange prices in Skutt, or the caterpillar in the Becker salad bar (my personal favorite), these confrontations are always awkward and amusing. However, @CreightonDining is usually pretty good about handling the issue at hand over social media. This characteristic classifies @CreightonDining as a support network structure, at least to some extent. In sum, a portion of its Twitter activity is comprised of customer satisfaction.

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Image from @DoubleGfor3

As you can now see, twitter mapping is important for several reasons. It allows us to recognize which types of users are inclined to interact with others outside of their crowds, and which ones are not. It allows companies to decide where they should promote their products and services, and where they should not. And lastly, it allows us to pinpoint trends and points of interest using social media demographics. Overall, this was an intriguing study that will likely be utilized for many years to come.