Marketing, PR & Advertising

What are the 6 types of Twitter conversations?

February 28, 2014
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In the early days of social media, self-appointed gurus of the medium pointed out the wisdom of keeping social channels distinct.

Distinct types of networks to build, types of topics to share and types of conversations. 

A conventional metaphor was that Twitter is like a cocktail party, Facebook is like a class reunion and LinkedIn is like a business convention.

In other words, there was great variety of context among the social platforms.

Well, Twitter debuted in 2006. Eight years later, after explosive growth in the social space, we can see that there is much variance in types of conversation within social platforms. Wise users of social media will learn to notice the patterns and adapt.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center reveals six specific types of Twitter conversations.

It’s more nuanced now than the random chatter of a "cocktail party." In fact, the study is a form of advanced academic exercise called network analysis.

6 types of conversation networks on Twitter

1. Two large, divided, polarized groups. Usually characterizes political topics.

2. Two-six medium, unified groups. Usually for hobbyists or professional interest.

3. Many small, fragmented groups. Typically for brands, public events and popular topics.

4. Many small-to-medium clusters or communities. Typically of discussions about global news.

5. Inward-bound hub and spoke pattern. Characteristic of news media outlets and famous individuals.

6. Outward-bound hub and spoke pattern. Characteristic of customer service support.

You can read the full report online for more details and charts explaining the six types of networks.

Consider the conversation

This can seem complicated and overwhelming, but if given some thought, it can make the use of Twitter simpler and more strategic for someone who manages a Twitter presence for a brand, company, nonprofit or political entity.

Assuming you can just tweet and reach your followers is old school. Even using lists, hashtags and promoted tweets only gets you so far anymore.

Instead, thinking of the big picture and who is engaged in different types of conversations and how can affect Twitter use.

As the Pew study summary notes, "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.”

In some networks, communication is with like-minded people passionate about a subject, and there is little chance of influence, but only of nurturing existing communities.

In other cases, communication is more dialogic and engaging in a way that could be persuasive and influential.

Other networks are simply conducive to information sharing.

Thinking about Twitter in this way takes more effort, but can yield more benefits and results. The old-fashioned consideration of audience, objective, message and channel/network has found a new application in this new medium.

The cocktail party has sobered up.

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