Career Insights with Upasana Gupta

It's Not the Tweet, It's the Thought

To be a Twitter Influencer Requires True Expertise
It's Not the Tweet, It's the Thought

"People think that just because you have a massive followership, or if you tweet often, you may potentially be an influencer, and that is not the case," says Alok Choudhary, the chair of the electrical engineering and computer science department at Northwestern University. "Who influences is very topic driven and based on real-time dynamic responses."

To be an influencer on Twitter, according to researchers at Northwestern University, individuals must pursue deep interaction on a specific topic and engagement with people.

People think that just because you have a massive followership, or if you tweet often, you may potentially be an influencer, and that is not the case. 

In other words, it isn't who knows you that counts, but rather what you know.

For the uninitiated, Twitter is the social networking and micro blogging service, that enables its users to send and read other users' 140-character messages, which are called tweets.

Choudhary, along with a graduate student at Northwestern, developed a website,, to mine millions of tweets, then find and rank the most influential users on Twitter. The researchers use data mining tools, sentiment analysis, and network analysis algorithms to determine who is most influential.

Ashton Kutcher and Oprah Winfrey do not make their list. But interestingly, on the topic of 'Oprah' Nancy 0'Dell, author and co-anchor of 'Access Hollywood' rank high. Again, on the topic of "Bin Laden," for instance, the top influencers are BBC World and NPR News.

"Influencers are those that dynamically change the opinions and thoughts of people on specific topics in real time," says Choudary.

So what does influence mean here? Does it mean persuasion or being a thought leader in our area of expertise?

I will go with the latter, as the main point here is engagement and being responsive to bring about a difference, a change in the way they think about a particular topic.

This brings me to think about how I use Twitter. I basically use this social media site to bring attention to the content my colleagues and I create for people who may be interested in reading about information security related news.

But perhaps I am taking the wrong route. If I and others want to be influencers, maybe we have to think beyond just tweeting and creating a followership. We need to move from a passive state-of-mind to becoming active in knowing who our followers are? What kind of topics are of interest to them? What sentiments and opinions do they hold on targeted topics? What makes them laugh? Then we need to engage them in real-time discussions.

The key to understand here is that there is no thought leadership - until we create that magic connection with people.

What are your thoughts on the topic? Share with me. Let's be influencers.

About the Author

Upasana Gupta

Upasana Gupta

Contributing Editor, CareersInfoSecurity

Upasana Gupta oversees CareersInfoSecurity and shepherds career and leadership coverage for all Information Security Media Group's media properties. She regularly writes on career topics and speaks to senior executives on a wide-range of subjects, including security leadership, privacy, risk management, application security and fraud. She also helps produce podcasts and is instrumental in the global expansion of ISMG websites by recruiting international information security and risk experts to contribute content, including blogs. Upasana previously served as a resource manager focusing on hiring, recruiting and human resources at Icons Inc., an IT security advisory firm affiliated with ISMG. She holds an MBA in human resources from Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa.

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