A recent study by Yahoo! Research dived into Twitter to get a handle on production flow and consumption of information on the microblogging site. The group made a distinction between "elite" users and "ordinary" users and reported some interesting information.
The study found that the Internet is fostering a change in basic communication. While until recently there were considered to be two distinct channels - mass media in which the communication was largely one way from media to consumers, and interpersonal in which consumers shared information - changes in technology have brought about a merging of the two.
The fragmentation of media into cable TV, satellite radio, specialized publishing, and of course the Internet and blogging, have brought about a change in "mass media." News is now published on different levels and targeted to specific niches. It is becoming more specialized.
At the same time, interpersonal communication has been amplified by technology, with people finding their public voices through blogs, podcasts, video and other Internet-enabled technology.
The authors of the study utilized Twitter lists, which allow users to organize and group their information into specific categories and, if they choose, make those lists public. The study found that a full 50 percent of URLs consumed are produced by only 20,000 elite users (who make up only .05 percent of the Twitter population). While media produces the most information (see last month's article), celebrities are still the most followed group on Twitter.
Interestingly, the research determined that celebrities tended to follow celebrities, media followed media, bloggers followed bloggers, etc. While media generated the most short-lived attention, with major stories becoming propagated by influential bloggers and tweeters, user-generated content such as videos and music dominate long-lived URLs.
In order for marketers to generate buzz and gain attention in today's markets, a multi-faceted PR campaign that attracts the attention of both the media and influential "elite" individuals would cover more territory and lead to higher success.