The Fallout From The Top 100 Adelaide Twitter List

A recent Sunday Mail article listing South Australia’s most prolific tweeters has stirred up a lot of discussion.

I was briefly quoted in the article, and in this post today I’d like to make some observations about the fall out.

From Sunday Mail, 18March 2012
From Sunday Mail, 18 March 2012

The article set out to “reveal our 100 most active tweeters”. Most active was measured according to the number of tweets that have been sent from the account. The article then commented on the demographic profile of the most prolific tweeters: most being female and young. Twenty eight males were on the list. The Sunday Mail then attempted to explore why the list has a greater female representation.

Criticism of the article

I’ve seen tweets and blogs criticising the article for:

  • Basing an article on number of tweets rather than, say, influence measures or the number of followers
  • Listing people who have only recently joined Twitter
  • Listing people who, in the opinion of the complainers, tweet ‘spam’
  • Focusing on ‘quantity’ rather than ‘quality’, whatever that means

What a lot of snobs we are.

So what

So what if the list entrants tweet a lot? So what if they joined Twitter just six or 12 months ago? So what if they tweet about transport, Justin Bieber, their homework, their breakfast, what they’re watching on TV. So what if they don’t have as many followers as you? So what if they score low on a social media influence tool?

They can tweet about what they like. Social media is there to be used and enjoyed as we see fit. Who are we to determine what type of tweets are valid and what constitutes spam? Who are we to say what ‘quality’ is?

We were all beginners on Twitter once. We’ve all shared vacuous tweets (and always will), we’ve all had people unfollow us for varying reasons.

I’ve seen some local Twitter users and bloggers disseminate absolute rubbish. I’ve seen them pontificate about subjects I couldn’t give a hoot about, sharing opinions I disagree with, bombing hashtags without regard to that hashtag community, whining about their illnesses and their employers and their ex lovers. But it’s their right. And if they’re enjoying social media, if it’s helping them fill a need in their lives, more power to them.

We don’t know why some individuals are extremely prolific on Twitter. We don’t know their personal circumstances. What if they’re housebound? What if they’re an international student struggling to find friends in Adelaide? What if they’re finally stumbled onto a sensational tool like Twitter, which enables them to share their thoughts with their followers and feel like they have some connections for the first time in their lives?

We don’t know why some tweeted their way onto the most prolific list, but I sincerely hope they’re having a good time and that the fallout from the news article hasn’t deflated them.

The list interested me …

… and some people won’t admit, but the list interested them too. I wasn’t aware of who tweeted the most in South Australia. Were you?

I had never heard of the top three. That’s interesting to me.

I had never heard of a lot of people on the list. Sometimes I think I operate in my own little Twitter vacuum and need to get out more, especially when I often interact with groups like the @socadl community. There’s a danger that you can tend to think you know the local ‘Twitter crowd’ when in fact there are many more out there enjoying the platform – apparently using  it voraciously – who  you didn’t even know existed.

As for the veracity of basing an article on numbers, we analyse by numbers all the time. Yes, you’re the Devil if you focus on stark numbers in social media land. But we crunch the numbers in newspaper and online articles all the time – because it generates discussion. Who has the leading number of possessions in the AFL right now? How many outstanding questions is the Government yet to answer on the Questions With Notice list in Parliament? How many trains were late this month? How many call outs did the SES attend during the last storm?

Who tweets the most in SA? It’s entirely valid to take a look.

We get our best social media news and analysis on social media platforms

I don’t turn to mainstream press for social media analysis. I don’t expect the Sunday Mail or The Advertiser or West Australian or Sydney Morning Herald to trawl through influence tools to try to ascertain Who Wins Twitter.  I read Mashable and TNW and RWW and countless other blogs. I follow links shared by others, and I ask and answer questions in social media communities.

You know what? It’s the same in a lot of other industries and we should get over it. Do you think lawyers, doctors, teachers, vets, scientists turn to mainstream daily papers for insights into their craft? Of course not. They have their own journals, blogs, online communities and papers  that they trust.  And they’re similarly frustrated when a mainstream newspaper can only take a slice, a peek, at their craft.

In any case, if influence tools were used for the Sunday Mail article, we all know there’d be an incredible fuss about that. “Why was that influence tool used?” “ That influence tool fails to measure this this and this.”  “How can that person be more influential than that person?” and of course “What does influence really mean, anyway?”

Where the article did fall down

The headline. The Sunday Mail headline let it down and set everyone a flurry.

“They’re tops when it comes to Twits”.

One: the use of the term Twits is derogatory and overdone by the media. We know it’s to help non-tweeters laugh at us. We’re Twits. It’s now time to point fingers and laugh at us.

Two: the use of the term ‘tops’ may have given quick readers the impression it was a piece that looked at the quality of a Twitter account, or the number of followers. But on reading the first few paragraphs, the list is quickly put into context.

Just carry on tweeting people, and do please try to enjoy.

31 Comments Add yours

  1. Brilliant post Prakster! I thought it was a brave thing for the Sunday Mail to do and I was waiting patiently for the furore that it would cause.
    I would LOVE to see the SM do more Twitter lists frequently – perhaps different categories etc?

    I was so devastated that I didn’t make the list that I’ve started tweeting so furiously that I have foregone a lot of sleep… yikes!

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Ruby. Are you serious about wanting to make the list? What if they never write about this again? 🙂

  2. Sam Jeffries says:

    Well said, Ms Prak. Also, if we (the individuals that make up the twitterverse) don’t like what people are tweeting, their views, their lifestyle choices… well then, don’t follow them.

    One of Twitters great attributes is choice.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Sam. So true: Twitter is what we make it, our own stream based on our tastes.

  3. Ben Teoh | hellobenteoh says:

    Clearly, Klout should have been used to see who the most influential Tweeters are in Adelaide

    I thought it was cool to see Twitter given such a huge spread in the paper, and I hear it time and time again that Adelaide rocks when it comes to the Twitter usage. Let’s celebrate that.

    No list is going to be perfect, and I’m still yet to be convinced on how we measure who’s “tops.”

    However, there are people who are learning about Twitter and the Sunday Mail may be their insight into how its being used. They’re not the social media practitioners but may be decision makers in organisations or businesses about its use – and it would seem that the Twitter action in Adelaide has been misrepresented.

    In general, it would be great to see the mainstream press demonstrating a better understanding of social media in their reporting or whenever they include social media in their stories.

    Anyhoo – It was a fairly light hearted article and I didn’t think too much about it… until now, and I was MUCH more interested in Tarale and Posty’s story. Loved it.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Ben. And thanks for mentioning Tarale and Posty’s story. That was a great piece.

      1. Ben Teoh | hellobenteoh says:

        No worries… also looks like it left out the 😉 at the end of that first line, doh! The sarcasm is lost without it! I know how much you care about Klout 🙂

      2. Prakky says:

        Noted. Now, do I put the 😉 into the post and delete that comment? Editing is hard work …

    2. Ben, there is another influencer tool you may want to look at http://kred.com – indeed @prakky has already started to have a look at Kred given my article on this subject at http://lc.tl/sm100

      I agree with Michelle and others that the Sunday Mail may not be the best place to provide a “most influential list”.

      I am ex-Adelaide and I run Kred so I’d encourage you to have a look.

      Our differentiators are: real-time, fully transparent (we show you why your score changes) and community – we show influence in different communities.

      Actually the whole article could have missed out the top 100 list and instead concentrated on the Twitter-related stories, that perhaps would have been even more interesting with some more of these stories.

      Regards,
      Andrew Grill
      CEO. Kred
      @andrewgrill

      1. Ben Teoh | hellobenteoh says:

        Thanks, Andrew. Having a look at Kred now, and thanks for your insights into the issue too.

  4. well done, Michelle…once again a brilliant piece from you that is thoughtful and intelligent 🙂 I really do love your work

    1. Prakky says:

      Very kind, I appreciate that.

  5. Jennifer Greer Holmes says:

    Well written, Michelle. A perfect take on the situation. The negative response to the list was a small part of the reason I thought I’d give twitter a break for a week. It all seemed so petty.

    1. Prakky says:

      Cheers Jennifer. I wasn’t going to say anything, then finally thought there were a few things worth reminding people about.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Andrew, yours was a good read.

  6. andydrogers says:

    Reblogged this on Andrew Rogers – PR Student and commented:
    Interesting! Ive always wondered if social media limits our effectiveness of communication, despite the fact that it increases information. I heard an interesting quote last night on Q&A, “I believe social media has increased friendship by breadth rather than depth”.

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks for taking the time to read, and to share, Andy.

  7. Cate P says:

    Well said Michelle. As a ‘prolific tweeter’ (refraining from saying I’m a ‘top twit’) I took notice of some of the fallout and couldn’t believe anyone would try to dissect such a piece. All it means to me is that I talk too much, and I said so, and then had a huge laugh about it with all my friends. So what? I’m just miffed I wasn’t called ‘stalker BFF of Lance Armstrong’.
    It was a light piece. Take it lightly, people.

  8. All people need to know is that I am No 1 in Middleton.

  9. Cat says:

    Totally agree with everything you’ve said. Some people tweet for fun, others business & networking. It’s a forum that’s easy and quick and i think people can dip in and out as they choose. Such snobbery really bothers me. Well said 😉

  10. Kate says:

    I was surprised to learn that the worlds top tweeter so much , twitter addict . I like how you pointed out about people making meaningful connections I think this is a big part of why twitter is so successful.

  11. yani says:

    I was one of those people that did have a problem with the article. If it had been a post on someone’s website, then I don’t know that I would have been bothered but the fact that it was in our only major newspaper and presented as “news” did kinda bug me.

    I also could have forgiven it a little more if it had just been some random reporter who didn’t really know Twitter from a hole in the head, but the fact that it was someone who is part of the “Twitter community” also bugged me.

    Clearly it’s an almost impossible metric to quantify… who are Adelaide’s “top” Tweeters? What does “top” even mean? Do you take into account signal vs noise, number of followers vs number of tweets, length of time on the platform vs number of tweets… and I can’t think of any metric that would actually provide something that would be worthwhile. Interesting maybe, but not worthwhile.

    And what was the article trying to prove or report on? If anything I think it just reinforced the “only young people use Twitter to talk about rubbish” thought that the general community often already has.

    Or I could just be turning into (even more of) a grumpy old curmudgeon…

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks Yani, I’m glad gravatar finally let you through! I think that perhaps one of the reasons the ‘tweet number’ metric was chosen was precisely because “good tweeting” is hard to quantify and even so-called experts can’t agree.

    2. Ben Teoh | hellobenteoh says:

      My guess is they just wanted to ‘wow’ people, and the easiest way to do that is by numbers – in this case, the number of tweets. 150k+ tweets is impressive.

      Maybe we should create our own list? If it was me, @AdelaideTweet would be top of the list. It represents much of the heart and soul of the Twitter scene here in Adelaide.

  12. becstar says:

    I now wish I tweeted more vacuously instead of waiting until I had something interesting/funny/entertaining to share (okay so only I may find them interesting/funny/entertaining). But it’s good to note, that I can be more shallow in twitterverse without fear…

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks for the comment Becstar. It all depends on your reasons for using social media – and your own personal brand. I’m happy with my level of tweeting, which helps me reach business and personal objectives. But I wouldn’t be motivated by lists that come and go. 🙂

  13. bigwords says:

    Love this. You know I didn’t even read the Sunday Mail story. I don’t seem to go there for news much, but I do get a lot of interesting news bites on Twitter. I use Twitter a lot for many purposes, mainly to promote my blogs and to chat with many good friends I have made through the medium. I love it. I know many people who roll their eyes whenever I mention it and I am sort of happy because if everyone I knew started using Twitter I think I’d go elsewhere! It’s fun, witty, smart and addictive.

  14. missbriss says:

    Great piece, as usual, Prakky. I guess I found it interesting, and a bit disappointing, that the sunday mail article didn’t actually go into a bit of detail about how many different ways tweets and tweeting can be measured. It was a lost opportunity to educate non-tweeters, I think. PS I can’t believe you only spend half day as the article claims?? I can easily spend a guilty half hour while-I-should-be-getting-dinner flying through the afternoon’s tweets, not even reading stuff properly, just trying to catch up!

    1. Prakky says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting. All up, I do spend about 30 minutes a day (tops) on Twitter. It doesn’t take me long to write what I want to share; also I use Twitter Lists extensively to ‘get to’ the interesting people I follow. This doesn’t take into account the amount of time I spend reading tweeted links though!

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