Walking Through Twitter: Sampling a Language-Based Follow Network of Influential Twitter Accounts


Twitter continuously tightens the access to its data via the publicly accessible, cost-free standard APIs. This especially applies to the follow network. In light of this, we successfully modified a network sampling method to work efficiently with the Twitter standard API in order to retrieve the most central and influential accounts of a language-based Twitter follow network: the German Twittersphere. We provide evidence that the method is able to approximate a set of the top 1% to 10% of influential accounts in the German Twittersphere in terms of activity, follower numbers, coverage, and reach. Furthermore, we demonstrate the usefulness of these data by presenting the first overview of topical communities within the German Twittersphere and their network structure. The presented data mining method opens up further avenues of enquiry, such as the collection and comparison of language-based Twitterspheres other than the German one, its further development for the collection of follow networks around certain topics or accounts of interest, and its application to other online social networks and platforms in conjunction with concepts such as agenda setting and opinion leadership.

Social Media + Society
Ben Thies
Ben Thies
Strategy Consultant / Researcher