Identifying Opinion Leaders: Influence, Twitter, and Canadian Politics [Social Media and Society Presentation]

We know how to find politicians and journalists online – in a Twitter network they are often the most central accounts. They are visible, they have a mass following of people they have never met and with whom they rarely have meaningful conversation. They may be best placed in the network to send a message widely, but they probably aren’t best placed to do the hard work of convincing someone to change their mind about a particular issue. As agenda-setting theory notes – they tells us not what to think, but what to think about.

So who does that hard work of influencing on a local level? We call them the opinion leaders and this presentation is an exploration of how to identify them on Twitter. I first presented this work at the Social Media and Society Conference which was hosted by the Dalhousie Social Media Lab in Halifax, NS, Canada. Devin Gaffney and I will keep you posted as our work progresses.

* The graph below is the #CDNpoli ego-network of @HuffPostAlberta. Over the course of one month we collected all #CDNpoli tweets, then we made a list of all the accounts who made those tweets. Next we wanted to see who followed who. In this image we see only accounts who follow or are followed by @HuffPostAlberta. The biggest nodes (circles) are the accounts followed by the most others in this ego-net. @HuffPostAlberta is a public influential, nodes along the edge of their network are likely candidates for opinion leadership as they are connected to public influentials but not embedded in their social group – we need to look at the ego-nets of those individuals in order to understand whether or not they fit the bill for opinion leadership.



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