How to Become a Twitter Influencer: Science and Practice

social media how to

Do you want to be a sought-after resource in your niche?

Do you need tips on how to become a Twitter influencer?

To be a leader on Twitter, it’s important to understand the dynamics of Twitter conversations and the role of influencers.

In this article I’ll show you the two most important types of Twitter influencers and how you can become one.

become a twitter influencer

Find out how you can become a Twitter influencer.

Study and Map Twitter Conversations

Recently, the Pew Research Group and the Social Media Research Foundation conducted an in-depth study of Twitter conversations. They examined thousands of conversations, including the roles of hashtags, retweets, follows, mentions and specific words. They then created maps of multiple subjects to discern patterns and structures.

twitter conversations mapped

Mapping Twitter conversations shows how they spread.

What they found was a “a taxonomy of six distinct types of conversations” each a different size, with varying levels of interconnectivity and an array of discussion subjects.

twitter conversation types

There are six distinct types of Twitter conversations.

Additionally, the study revealed the presence of “influencers” and provided hints as to how an individual becomes one:

Network maps show that each kind of social media crowd has a distinct structure of connection and influence. Key users occupy strategic locations in these networks, in positions like hubs and bridges.

This is the part that fascinates and interests me. I realized that if I could uncover the data characteristics of influencers, I could understand how to become one.

Influencers are the glue of Twitter networks, providing tweet fodder and inspiring passion among followers. Conversations don’t exist without them, and their position within networks is a critical component of their influence.

The more capably you navigate the Twitter social sphere, the more influential you become. Based on the Twitter study, there are two types of Twitter influencers—hubs and bridges.

Become a Hub Influencer

The most powerful type of influencer is known as a hub. They are, according to Pew, “[k]ey people who are at the center of their conversational networks.”

Hub influencers create virality by starting movements, creating hashtags and populating the trending board. In many cases, a hub is an influential individual or a media organization.

As the center of a conversational network, a hub influencer tweets new information to a large network of followers, and those followers retweet that information.

mapping a twitter hub's conversations

A hub’s tweets rely on original content and information.

In the example above, Paul Krugman wrote an article discussing a government fiscal issue with political implications and the need to “mint that coin!” The content was original and proposed a massive idea that would revolutionize governmental spending.

Because Krugman is a hub influencer, his article was tweeted by a large number of followers and was inflammatory enough to spawn trending hashtags such as #mintthecoin, #rethuglicans and #krugzilla, among others.

paul krugman twitter profile

Paul Krugman is a hub influencer.

The resulting Twitter discussion fell into two of the conversation types Pew found: Broadcast Network and Polarized Crowds.

Becoming a hub isn’t easy. You must produce original information and that information has to be noteworthy enough to warrant retweets. And not only do you have to publish original information, but you also must have enough of the right kind of followers to gain retweets.

You can’t be a hub without having a niche. The very word “hub” implies a wheel—a sphere of influence or effect. You need to know your niche, and then become highly familiar with its nuances, vocabulary, hashtags and personalities.

Once you settle into your niche, it’s important to form connections. Many hubs have a limited number of people they follow and their influence depends on those who follow them.

If you’re just getting started as a hub, you should follow the most significant people in your network. Most importantly, you should connect to “bridges” (discussed in the next section).

Become a Bridge Influencer

While hub influencers create viral movements and hashtags, bridge influencers create virality by sharing relative content and connecting related groups.

Pew defines bridge influencers as playing “the important role of passing information from one group to another.” Bridge influencers may not produce information, but they publicize it.

Their influence depends on their position. Bridges stand between two or more groups, connecting the thoughts and ideas of one group to another. They identify relevant points among groups, and serve as a channel for that information. That sharing is often identified as the point at which a message goes viral.

In the example below, there was one group that originally discussed #mla13 (indicated by the number 1). A bridge was responsible for bringing that hashtag virality to another group (number 2).

mapping a twitter hubs conversations

A bridge influencer identified a popular conversation in a different niche, and then introduced it to their own niche.

To become a bridge influencer, position yourself solidly by connecting to the sources of primary information (hubs) in your niche, as well as those in niches that have an effect on your primary niche.

For example, let’s say a hub such as Search Engine Journal (SEJ) publishes an article on “Conversion Optimization and SEO.” The followers of SEJ are primarily in the SEO niche. However, there is another niche comprised of conversion rate optimization (CRO) experts.

Members of the latter niche may not follow SEJ, but the article is relevant to their industry. This is where you, as a bridge, bring the SEJ article to the attention of the CRO community—connecting the SEO hub and the CRO community.

To be a successful bridge influencer, it’s imperative to understand the conversational structure in which you exist. If you’re situated within a Polarized Crowd (defined by the Pew research study), you need to understand that these people do not talk much to other groups:

In the Polarized Crowd network map, two large dense groups of people talk about the same subject, but do not connect to each other or use the same words, URLs and other hashtags. There are few users who bridge connections between these groups. Few people who talk about this subject are “isolated” from others; most users are connected to at least a few others.

As a bridge, you can serve as the link between the polarized network and outside conversations.

Finally, you’ll need to discern what type of information is going to serve your niche. If you go too far off topic, you’ll become irrelevant or ignored by your niche. You need to sustain a balance of niche-relevant tweets and bridge tweets.

Conclusion

There is nothing easy about becoming a Twitter influencer. It requires intention and strategy. But once you position yourself as a hub or bridge, you’ll be far more adept at shaping your niche and leading others.

What do you think? Are you a hub or a bridge influencer? What content is most popular with your followers and groups? Leave your comments below.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, Stride, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. Other posts by »




More Info
  • Jitendra Padmashali

    Great post Neil, Here you included each and every thing in detail, so I really like this post of your , thanks for sharing such a valuable knowledge.

  • http://beta21.circussocial.com Avtar Ram Singh

    How’s it going Neil? I think one very important thing that you forgot to mention here – is that you can’t just become an influencer. It’s not possible. It takes a lot of hard work, and that’s primarily because influencers need to be smart, unique, creative people who understand the market well. Of course, I’m talking about a specific type of influencer here. Take any influencer in the world. They either have the first mover’s advantage, they’re either a celebrity, or they had a very unique idea and they ran with it. They all have something to show for it.

    Yes – it’s possible for you to become part of various networks, for you to be well connected and for you to be part of a ton of conversations. But at the end of the day, it’s hard work, it’s long work, and using a route like this one is going to be the long way. I’m not really sure if any “guide” out there or any article is going to truly put someone on the path to becoming an influencer. My $0.02. Perhaps your post would be a lot better if titled “Habits, Behaviors and a Study of Influence” – or something along those lines.

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Hey Avtar – Thanks for your comment. However your assessment about what it takes to become an influencer is simply inaccurate. You said, “…you can’t just become an influencer. It’s not possible. It takes a lot
    of hard work, and that’s primarily because influencers need to be smart,
    unique, creative people who understand the market well.”

    I agree that becoming an influencer takes hard work, but it is not impossible and you don’t have to be super smart, unique or creative to make it happen. Instead you need to consistently provide value to an audience. We ALL influence people in different walks of our life.

  • http://beta21.circussocial.com Avtar Ram Singh

    Hey @mikestelzner:disqus, good to see you! :) I didn’t intend to say that becoming an influencer is “impossible” – of course it’s not. I’m responding to a comment from one right now! ;) But as you mentioned, to be able to consistently provide “value” to an audience – you need to have something unique to showcase, you need to be smart about how you go about it and do need to be creative. In my mind – something that’s valuable is something that offers me an insight, teaches me something new, makes me laugh, makes me appreciate it – and that comes from something that needs to be at some level, creative in nature, fresh, unique, new, thought-provoking – and it’s not a skill that be “learned”, but one that can be honed, I’m sure – over a period of time and yes – eventually, it comes down to hard work, as you also agree.

  • http://www.rallycapsocial.com RallyCap Social

    Seems like the point is that one cannot just decide to “be an influencer”. Sure, we all influence one another in our own ways, but to consistently create content that is unique and original enough that everyone shares it, that takes a special person with a certain amount of experience.

  • rachelcabose

    Just launched a Twitter page for a brand-new online magazine, so this is very timely! Our niche is fairly small, so hopefully we can act as a bridge as well as evolve into a hub with strong original content.

  • http://www.Fastpitch.TV Gary Leland

    How do you find out if you are a Twitter influencer?

  • http://www.veritas-consulting.co.uk/ David Cant CMIOSH

    A superb post Neil, as always very valuable insights to take away. I love twitter and think you have nailed it with becoming an influencer, thank you.

  • Pingback: Marketing Day: Twitpic Closes, Reasons Apple Rejects Apps & AdWords’ New Callout Extensions

  • http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/ Michael A. Stelzner

    Well said :)

  • Marion Mertins

    It is an interesting article…thank you it is also very helpful. Sure, one has to work at it – also one has to be creative and think not so much mainstream.
    If you’re a crack in the pod – it’s so much easier and felt less as hard work.
    Me?
    I love Twitter! It’s alive and buzzing…
    …and this is a brilliant connection – thanks again ! ;-)

  • Cheval John

    This is a great post. I think I am a bridge influencer because it seems that I have followers from different niches. For example, some travel writers follows me and some public relations professionals are followers as well.

  • http://www.comment-devenirriche.com/ Comment DevenirRiche

    “Becoming a hub isn’t easy.”
    “There is nothing easy about becoming a Twitter influencer.”
    No offence, but your post doesn’t give any help about the HOW, just information about those who already are twitter influencers.

  • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

    Thanks Jitendra! Glad you like it. :)

  • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

    Awesome @rachelcabose:disqus! Looking forward to see your progress.

  • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

    We all influence our engaged Twitter following to a certain point. Good metrics to gage your “influence” are Twitter following, Twitter engagement, Twitter visibility, and credibility.

  • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

    Thanks @davidcant:disqus! Glad you enjoyed the post.

  • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

    Glad it’s helpful @MarionMUC:disqus, and yes, you need to work hard and smart.

  • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

    Thanks @chevaljohn:disqus! You’re a good example of a bridge influencer.

  • Cheval John

    Thanks, Neil for the encouragement.

  • http://www.Fastpitch.TV Gary Leland

    So, Twitter does not have a method of rating users, and labeling some as influencers?

  • http://www.buildandbalance.com/ Michael_N

    Everything you’ve written here makes complete sense, Neil. I think the challenge is when you’ve gone about the process of using Twitter in a willy-nilly fashion and followed many people in different niches because they’re interesting (and sometimes followed you first). Unfortunately by going about it this way you don’t establish yourself as a Hub or Bridge Influencer. I suspect a lot of people use Twitter in this way because it feels like a natural progression and they never strategized from the beginning to be rigid about who they followed and what they tweeted.

  • http://ampleindsol.com/ Dilbag Koundal

    i have good Twitter Bag.. i wish to increase it and put interesting Tweets to grasp more people around.

    Thanks Neil

  • Pingback: Facebook marketing weekly review (September 12th 2014)

  • http://www.yingyingshi.com/ Ying Ying Shi

    Thanks Neil for putting the key points from the study into this blog post. You saved lots of time for your readers! :)
    I like how you say that to become a hub, you need to have enough of the right content. That is indeed how it actually works. Just having a piece of good content is good, but not enough, we need more of them to attract attention.









Pinterest
Check out the Social Media Marketing Podcast!
Join our Social Media Marketing Networking Club
Download the free Social Media Marketing Industry Report
Get Your FREE Copy of the 2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report
Wondering how your peers are using social media? Get this free report (50 pages, 80+ charts) and never miss another great article from Social Media Examiner.