A new report from Pew suggests that communities on Twitter gather in very different ways around different things, from politics to brands, news to entertainment.
If you want to know how communities form on Twitter, you'd first need to know what the topic of conversation is.
If it's politics, you can almost be certain that people are talking to each other in partisan groups, mainly agreeing with each other, and pretty much ignoring the other side. If it's an entertainment or a professional subject, groups form tightly and talk deeply in distinct topic groups.
On the other hand, massive numbers of people may talk about brands, but have little interconnection between each other. And global news will likely generate large numbers of social hubs that each generate multiple conversation groups.
These were some of the findings of "Mapping Twitter Topic Networks: From Polarized Crowds to Community Clusters," the latest study from the Pew Research Center and the Social Media Research Foundation.
The study, released Thursday, found six distinct types of communities that form on Twitter, each dependent on what's being talked about. Each is functionally different and bears little resemblance to the others. Yet what was striking (though perhaps not all that surprising in retrospect) in the findings, suggested the report's authors, is just how much behavior in social media conversations -- on Twitter, at least -- mirror that of society in general.
Social media is increasingly home to civil society, the place where knowledge sharing, public discussions, debates, and disputes are carried out. As the new public square, social media conversations are as important to document as any other large public gathering. Network maps of public social media discussions in services like Twitter can provide insights into the role social media plays in our society. These maps provide insights in a similar way to aerial photographs of a crowd, showing the rough size and composition of a population.
The six types of communities were: