Twitter’s 6 Distinct Communication Networks and How to Utilize Them

While Twitter is considered a social media network, many people think of it as another version of Facebook, simply a place to “follow” people and “like” things. However, Twitter is becoming more useful for information, news, business, and politics. Twitter is definitely more than “just another Facebook,” as people are starting to use it in political fields, to get a specific message out to followers, as a means of networking, and as a way for businesses to reach out to and communicate with their customers.


Graph courtesy of Pew Research

As a whole, Twitter is one large social media network. However, it can be broken down into six different communication networks, each with a specific purpose. Many people can easily fit into multiple categories, as the communication networks are so diverse. According to Pew Research, they break down into six separate networks that require a bit of explanation: divided, unified, fragmented, clustered, in-hub and spoke, and out-hub and spoke.

  1. Divided or Polarized Crowds: This communication network breaks down to two large groups, typically made up for different opinions or opposing viewpoints. Usually, group members of the divided communication network focus on topics such as politics that operate with separate “echo chamber” structures. More often than not, these “polarized crowds” function not by arguing, but by simply ignoring one another. In terms of politics, the best way to utilize the divided communication network is as a sort of platform. While their communication network is not a close reflection of the whole U.S. population, they are able to reach out to their followers (and occasionally their opposition) by use of hashtags within their tweets.
  2. Unified or Tight Crowds: This communication network is made up for two to six medium-sized groups. The unified communication network focuses more on hobbies and professional topics, with little to no involvement from outsiders. The participants in the tight crowds are much more interactive with each other and often encourage the introduction of new members. They follow one another (and frequently encourage their followers to follow others in their groups) and interact more with one another than those in the divided communication network. The best way to utilize the tight crowds of the unified communication network (whichever group you may be involved in) is simply to be active. Tweet using hashtags, respond to tweets, and follow people within the network.
  3. Fragmented or Brand Clusters: The fragmented communication network is made up of many small groups, focusing on brands, popular subjects, or big events. When topics this large are tweeted about, the groups involved are large but the participants in the groups are much more isolated from one another. For example, if two Twitter users mention the same even or celebrity, it’s likely that they have no other connection to one another. The utilization of this network is simply the passage of ideas from one person to another, with very little connection otherwise.
  4. Clustered or Community Clusters: The clustered communication network is made up of many small or medium-sized groups and circulates around larger events. A good example of community clusters is a global news story being reported by any of the major news stations. Each news station has their own followers; those followers make up the community clusters specific to each news station. It’s similar with the more sensationalized celebrity news, radio stations, and even sports teams. Each has a specific version of the message to get across, but the followers of each can be broken into separate, clustered groups of followers.
  5. In-Hub and Spoke or Broadcast Networks: The in-hub and spoke communication network is often made up of one large group and some secondary groups. This communication network is largely based on repeating and retweeting what is posted by media organizations and news stations. The “hub and spoke” structure is the media or news outlets (the hub) that originally posts the information or content and the followers (the spokes) who retweet the messages to their followers. The majority of the utilization and involvement in this communication network is from the spoke angle, those who repeat the message given out by the hubs.
  6. Out-hub and Spoke or Support Networks: Similar to broadcast networks, support networks are made up of one large group and other secondary groups. In support networks, however, the hub replies to the spokes, creating the opposite hub-and-spoke structure of the broadcast networks. In both networks, the spokes are the very disconnected secondary groups, while the hubs are the large groups. A good example of support networks are the customer service departments of some major businesses.

By first deciding how you want others to perceive you on social media, you begin to identify which communication network(s) you will likely become a part of. Any one person can be involved in more than one network, but it depends on how you want to use your profile—some become active to get information about politics, some view it as the news at their fingertips, some use it to get more involved with causes they believe in, other use it to connect with people than share their interest. By deciding your profile early and utilizing the communication networks you are part of, you set the tone for any future connections. ~Holly



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