Divergences in Following Patterns between Influential Twitter Users and their Audiences

Identity spans multiple dimensions; however, the relative salience of a dimension of identity can vary markedly from person to person.  Furthermore, there is often a difference between one’s internal identity (a personal view on the relative saliences of different aspects of one’s identity) and external identity (the external world’s view on these relative saliences). We attempt to capture the internal and external saliences of different dimensions of identity for influential users (“influencers”) on Twitter using the follow graph. We consider an influencer’s “ego-centric” profile, which is determined by their personal following patterns and is largely in their direct control, and their “audience-centric” profile, which is determined by the following patterns of their audience and is outside of their direct control. We find that relative to their audiences, influencers exhibit more salience in race and gender in their ego-centric profiles and less in religion and politics. 

Additionally, we investigate clusters of influencers with different patterns of divergence in salience from their audiences. We discover one cluster in which the influencers exhibit a significantly stronger salience in the LGBTQIA+ dimension of identity. This suggests a large divergence between their internal LGBTQIA+ salience and their external one, as they follow many  more LGBTQIA+ users than their audience. On a practical level this finding, and other findings like it, could be useful in identifying users that can act as a bridge between traditionally underheard communities and audiences that they do not directly interact with.

Below is an example of how an influential user's ego and audience centric profiles are calculated. The teal arrows indicate the follows of the influential user, while the red are his audience's follows. These two following patterns determine the ego and audience centric profiles. We find that influencers tend to exhibit more salience on race and gender and less salience on religion and politics relative to their audiences