Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Twitter Loves You 70% More Than Oprah

One of the first things you notice about twitter is what a positive, happy place it is. In fact, Tweeters are 51% more likely to show love than the world at large. Facebookers show 10% more love than average. Oprah.com, on the other hand, shows 11% less.

How can I possibly know this?

By using Google as a semantic mining engine to assess a web community's culture. While there's a lot noise and inference in this data, it's still interesting and revealing.

For the Google index at large, love dominates hate by an impressive 9 to 1 margin (that stat makes me happy). On Twitter, love wins by a wider margin: 14 to 1. On MySpace, love eeks out a more modest 6 to 1 spread.

I calcuated these ratios by using the results from these Google searches:
site:{sitename.com} love
site:{sitename.com} hate
To decide if the ratios were higher or lower than the world at large, I compared them to the simple ratio of "love" and "hate" search results on google overall. There are large sample sizes-- Google has 1.7 billion results for "love".

While Twitter gives a lot of love, some sites give even more, like ancestry.com (248% more) and modelmayhem.com (389% more). I guess we do love our families a lot, and fashion models even more.

There are some surprises among sites that give less love. Oprah.com shows 11% less love and BarackObama.com shows 55% less.

Moving beyond the headline-grabbing fun, this analysis is a small example of ways to assess the culture of an online community. By using variations of the same technique, you can gain some inference into issues such as:
-- how happy or sad does the community report being? (symmetrical antinonyms make for easy analysis)
-- how analytical is the community (for example, BarackObama.com has 3X more relative usage of the word "analysis" than the internet overall)
-- how active or passive are the participants in a community? (Tweeters use active voice verbs far more often than Facebook or MySpace.)

While the possibilities never end with this analysis, we are only at the beginning of a trend to study virtual community cultures. I think we will discover that these tools help us to at least partially explain and predict their relative success and failure.

For example, if Twitter is a more "loving" community, does this speak to its relative success, or not? And what about Twitter would make it a more "loving" community?

I suspect that the answers will prove to be similar to what we generally know:
- Community culture is very important in driving behaviors-- and is critical to community survival, growth, and success
- Community culture is determined by the participants and strongly influenced by the governance methods
- Critical issues become: Who governs? How is governance shared? To what ends? With what methods? How is governance allowed to evolve?

I give the Twitter founders a lot of credit for establishing a great culture, including its degree of love and fun. Now it's up to them and the Twitter community to maintain and adapt this culture through their hyper-growth cycle-- no easy challenge. How they choose to govern (including the degree of technological and management openness) will be important.


  1. so if i use your methodology, i find that yahoo has 255% more love than google. why is that? i'm thinking it's because yahoo must have some intrinsic social community characteristics, which points to the value of its traffic. perhaps they should argue that this intangible is worth another couple billion. but then again, how can you put a price on love?

  2. Here's an interesting site that shows this dynamically for any topic: