Divergences in Following Patterns between Influential Twitter Users and Their Audiences across Dimensions of Identity


  • Suyash Fulay Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Nabeel Gillani Massachusetts Institute of Technology Northeastern University
  • Deb Roy Massachusetts Institute of Technology




Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media, Psychological, personality-based and ethnographic studies of social media, Social network analysis; communities identification; expertise and authority discovery, Web and Social Media


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 (how salient different aspects of one's identity are to oneself) and external identity (how salient different aspects are to the external world). 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. Using these following patterns we calculate a corresponding salience metric that quantifies how important a certain dimension of identity is to an individual. We find that relative to their audiences, influencers exhibit more salience in race in their ego-centric profiles and less in religion and politics. One practical application of these findings is to identify "bridging" influencers that can connect their sizeable audiences to people from traditionally underheard communities. This could potentially increase the diversity of views audiences are exposed to through a trusted conduit (i.e. an influencer they already follow) and may lead to a greater voice for influencers from communities of color or women.




How to Cite

Fulay, S., Gillani, N., & Roy, D. (2023). Divergences in Following Patterns between Influential Twitter Users and Their Audiences across Dimensions of Identity. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 17(1), 1123-1127. https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v17i1.22220