5 Degrees of Twitter Separation

June 23, 2010

This article is included in these additional categories:

Analytics, Automated & MarTech | Data-driven | Media & Entertainment | Retail & E-Commerce | Social Media | Technology

Almost all users on Twitter are within five steps of each other, according to recent data from social media consulting firm Sysomos.

Eight in 10 Twitter Users Within 5 Steps or Less
On average, Twitter users have five degrees of separation between each other – meaning nearly everyone within Twitter is only five steps away. Of all friendship distances, five steps is the most common (41%), while a friendship distance of four steps is the second-most common (37%). Much smaller percentages are three and two steps away, leading to a total of 85% of all users being within five steps of separation.

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Of users beyond five steps away from each other, the most common distance is six steps (13%), with 2% being seven steps away.

Reachability Nears 100% Within 6 Steps
One way to measure the connectedness of Twitter is by looking at the percentage of Twitter users that can be touched by reaching out a certain distance. Using the Twitter network graph, Sysomos analysts determined that, on average, a Twitter user will encounter 83% of all other Twitter users by visiting everyone’s friends up to a distance of five steps.

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If the user visits all friends of friends up to six steps, 96% of all Twitter users will be covered. This means, the Twitter network has good social connectivity, and that, in theory, a re-tweet does not have to propagate that much to reach a potentially large number of people.

Twitter is Highly Local
On average, it only takes 3.32 steps for a user to find someone who is following them (with a standard deviation of 1.25 friendship distances). This means, if a user traces their friends, and their friends and so on, in 3.32 steps on average they will discover a follower of their own. This means there are many small, circular connections on Twitter.

Celeb Twitter Followers Have Low Authority
Celebrities seem to have large amounts of followers with low Twitter authority levels (based on factors such as a user’s number of followers, following, updates and retweets), according to other recent Twitter-related data from Sysomos. Of five celebrities examined, the average follower of President Barack Obama had the highest authority rating on a scale of 0 to 10, 2.4. The most common authority score among Obama’s roughly 4.2 million followers is 1, held by 20%.

Celebrities seem to have large amounts of followers with low Twitter authority levels. This could be because they attract everyone from all walks of life. Some people may only be on Twitter to see what their favorite stars have to tweet about. In addition, most celebrity followers tracked by Sysomos had few followers themselves, pushing down their authority scores.

About the Data: Sysomos examined 5.2 billion friendship connections on the Twitter network. Based on analysis of this network, Sysomos determined how connected the users are to each other.

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