Imagine a world where James Ramsbotham is more influential than Ant and Dec, where the Journal’s Business section is one of the most important voices in the North East.
Lissted, part of the Real Wire group of businesses based in Newcastle, is a social media monitoring company which mixes technology with human judgements to find out who is the best at using tools like Twitter and Facebook to spread their message.
“Lissted ranks users based on the relevance of their Twitter relationships and interactions,” says Real Wire chief executive Adam Parker.
“Most tools focus on who produces content and conversations on a topic. This places too much emphasis on who’s noisy, and noise doesn’t equal influence. It’s a lot harder to get a relevant and influential Twitter user to follow you, than it is to generate tweets on a topic.
“Relationships on Twitter are also proxies for someone’s potential influence in the real world. It’s why famous people have so many followers even when they don’t say a lot.”
Lissted works by taking millions of Twitter accounts and ranking them according to their influence. Rather than simply counting numbers of followers or numbers of tweets, the firm examines who each count is interacting with to determine whether or not they are reaching people of influence.
“We’re interested in who might actually be influential,” Adam says. “Warren Buffett is a good example of someone who hardly ever tweets but he’s clearly influential.
“So we built up a manual list of influencers, and that includes journalists, authors, politicians, people who are at the top of their professions. We didn’t need a tool to tell us they were influential, we just knew it to be true. We classified them on Twitter and used to that to rank the accounts we were looking at.
“If you can get the attention from those people, the chances are that you might the potenfial for influencing. You aren’t just a spammy account sticking out lots of tweets, people that matter have chosen to follow you. We’re tying to extract accounts that have the potential to influence because they have got the attention of people who do.”
That theory was put into practice earlier this year when Lissted produced a table of the 250 most effective Tweeters from the North East.
As might be expected, that table was topped by Sunderland-born DJ, writer and TV presenter Lauren Laverne, who has more than 350,000 followers on Twitter and will regularly tweet dozens of times a day with her thoughts on music, fashion and whatever takes her fancy.
She is followed by North East-born comedians Sarah Millican and Bob Mortimer, while pop star Cheryl Fernandez-Versini, TV hosts Ant and Dec, BBC business reporter Steph McGovern and businessman/TV star Duncan Bannatyne are also in the top 10.
The company has also produced what it called its Lissted North East 250, ranking Twitter users that are influential within the region - “The North East related people and organisations who appear to matter most to the other members of the North East Twitter community.”
Topping the list is The Chronicle, followed by The Journal. The Twitter feed of the Journal’s business section is at Number 10, while “traditional” media companies BBC Newcastle and ITV Tyne Tees come in at five and seven respectively. The Sage Gateshead is at six, but the Top 10 is finished by three Twitter networking accounts: The North East HUB, North_East Tweets and #Northeasthour.
Top ranked individual in the North East list is James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce, who comes in at number 59, followed by Peter Barron, editor of the Northern Echo (who at 66 is one place ahead of Ant and Dec).
The Lissted North East 250 also throws up some surprises in terms of the business that do well. The mmm_newcastle account represents a small but much loved deli in Newcastle’s Grainger Market and comes in at Number 16 in the list, well ahead of big multi-national companies based in the region. (The Grainger Market must have some hold over Twitter because the French Oven Bakery also ranks highly in the list.)
Adam said: “The top five accounts, and eight of the top ten, are either media or Twitter networking related.
“The media accounts in the top ten are hardly surprising – The Chronicle, The Journal, BBC Newcastle, ITV Tyne Tees and Journal Business.
“Three quarters of the media accounts are also selective, demonstrating both the interest that people have in them, and often their broadcast nature on Twitter. Meanwhile, the three Twitter networking accounts in the top ten show the appetite for curation that exists within relevant communities.
“Whilst it’s fun to see who ranks where in such a list, a tweak of the algorithm, or a change in the sample of accounts we used to build the list, and the exact order would change.
“I personally think it’s much more useful to look collectively and say, have we got a lot of the accounts we might expect, and are we missing any that surprise us?
“On the first question, I think the answer is yes. On the question of omissions, the obvious ones for me are footballers and Geordie Shore cast members.
“North East footballers such as Jonas Gutierrez and Ryan Taylor are close to being on the list. However they don’t rank as highly because the vast majority of their North East followers have little or no Twitter presence of their own. They are fans who mostly use Twitter to consume content.
“True, this means they both have a significant potential reach with Newcastle United fans, many of whom may only follow NUFC related accounts. Outside this group, it suggests their influence is more limited.
“A similar situation applies to Charlotte Crosby of Geordie Shore fame, who’s also only a little off the pace. Though in Charlotte’s case a much higher proportion of her fans are from outside the region.
“This analysis is here to illustrate the ranking process. Lissted’s methodology takes account of more factors than just a simple count of relevant followers.”
Adam has now used Lissted’s methodology to rank the top 25 North East businesses for their influence on Twitter.
Topping the list is Nike, followed by Barbour, Great North Run organisers Nova, Greggs and Arriva.
Many of the region’s household names are in the top 25, but there are a number of large companies which are obvious omissions while others – mmm..., Fentimans and Beckleberrys ice cream – are clearly punching above their weight.
“Our analysis demonstrates that North East businesses of all sizes, from an SME like Thinking Digital to Sage Plc, are successfully using Twitter to help support their activities across the rest of the UK,” Adam said. “However, it also highlights the missed opportunity Twitter represents for other notable North East brands that appear to have not yet invested sufficiently in building their national social media presence.”