The Power Twitterians: Who They Are and What They Want

They may sound like the villains from an ancient episode of Dr Who, but the Power Twitterians are, in fact, Korea’s most influential users of Twitter. And in what is surely the most authoritative such study yet undertaken in Korea, the Yonsei University Cyber Communications Lab (YCCL) recently asked: Power Twitterians: Who Are They?

In order to find their “Power Twitterians,” researchers from YCCL compiled a list of the 15,000 most followed Twitterers in Korea, which they then whittled down to 4,000. Of those, they chose 491 deemed to have given the most “valid” answers, and compiled a series of graphs and statistics. This was how they broke down:

Without going into too much detail, the graph above shows that the surveyed Power Twitterians are mostly IT professionals, students or PR/marketing types, are mainly in their 30s (but with a large number also in their 20s or 40s), are overwhelmingly university graduates, and are male.

The growing power of Twitter to dispense information, and its potentially damaging effects, have been much debated in Korea recently, so the researchers were keen to find out where the Power Twitterians got their information from.

They discovered that a big majority (almost 70 percent) spent between 30 minutes and two hours daily scouring news sources, of which 68 percent were online and 20 percent from SNS. Of the people who got their news online, 43.4 percent said they got it from “news services,” 21.8 percent from “reference services,” and 27.5 percent said it came from Twitter, showing just how pervasive Tweets, whether true or not, can be once they’re in circulation in Korea.

As this fascinating recent piece in the Korea JoongAng Daily explained, Koreans place an inordinate amount of faith in online sources, so it should come as little surprise that tech-savvy Twitterers base their worldview largely on online sources as well.

Next up, the researchers asked the Power Twitterians how they had got into Twitter. The top three answers were “curiosity,” “to for relationships with new people,” and “to get information.” In another sign of the yawning chasm between Twitter and Cyworld (and presumably Facebook), just 1 percent of respondents said they used Twitter to maintain relationships with existing friends.

Elsewhere, the study discovered that Twitterians with more “following” than followers were primarily motivated by a desire to bump up their numbers of followers or to “follow back” people with the same interests. However, people with more followers than “followings” were more interested in gaining sources of information and were more prone to follow specific people first.

Among its other results, the study discovered:

  • Respondents were quite happy to “follow back” people they were acquainted with offline or with whom they shared similar interests, but — in contrast with conventional Twitter wisdom — they were not, on the whole, especially swayed by extensive bio information including blog URLs and places of work. However, they were drawn by people in the same line of work or with similar political persuasions.
  • Broken down by age, Power Twitterians in their teens were more interested in celebrities, while those over 40 felt reassured by people who’d filled in their profile, and…
  • The most common reasons for retweeting were that the Tweet was poignant, had a specific point that the Twitterian could sympathise with, or showed a good sense of humour. However, very few of the respondents expressed an interest in retweeting messages “for the sake of taking part in an event” — which, the article surmised, is bad news for Korea’s periodic RT marketing promotions.

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