‘Measuring networks of influence on Twitter. Why, how and what then?’

Dr Alistair Willis, The Open University

Conference of International Broadcasters’ Audience Research Services, Bonn, Germany, 15-18 April 2018.

Attempting to measure media influence is difficult, and the results are often inconclusive and unreliable. Yet how to measure that influence has remained one of the most important and stubborn questions throughout the history of audience research. The advent of social media has, if anything, made this question even more important. Twitter, because of its open nature, lends itself to researching networks of influence, but what conclusions can we draw about influence by looking at networks of Twitter users, and how reliable are these results? This presentation describes our attempts to analyse networks of influence around RT using computational tools. We offer some preliminary findings reflecting on clusters of accounts followed by RT’s audience, and how to identify the more influential users in the network. This work feeds into our wider discussions: Who is RT trying to influence and why? Are their goals and strategies of influence so very different to other international broadcasters? If influencers can be identified, what then?