A new study has found that tweets from celebrities like Conan O'Brian, sometimes beat out news organizations and reigned as Twitter's top influencers on big news stories.
"The New York Times was the top influencer on the Gulf oil spill, which was the top topic of the year," said Alok Choudhary at Northwestern's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.
"For the topic of Haiti, however, singer Adam Lambert was the most influential tweeter. For the Chilean miner rescue topic, comedian Conan O'Brian was the most influential, and singer Ricky Martin was number two."
Choudhary added that when a celeb tweets regularly about specific events, his or her opinions become more popular than news stories and can even influence them.
"Adam Lambert tweeted for earthquake relief. Top influencers are very heavily dependent on the topic they are tweeting about and the area of the topic," said Choudhary, who created the website www.pulseofthetweeters.com, which analyzes data from Twitter in realtime.
Through www.pulseofthetweeters.com, Choudhary and his team use data mining, social network analysis and sentiment analysis to determine top influencers and sentiment distribution of the topics trending on Twitter.
A special algorithm ranks the most influential people tweeting on trending topics. To qualify as a top influencer on a topic, the user must actively tweet about the topic and have a following that also tweets about the same topic.
Here are some more insights:
People: Lady Gaga, Mel Gibson and Justin Bieber were among the most tweeted about people in 2010, but no individual tweeter emerged as the most influential in this category when tweeting about these people.
News events: NPR News, The New York Times, Time.com, CNN and The Wall Street Journal were often top 10 influencers on topics related to politics and world affairs.
Television: E! Online was consistently the top- or second-ranked influencer on the topic of award shows such as the Grammys, the American Music Awards and MTV award shows.
Sports: Lebron James, Brett Favre, Michael Vick, Wimbledon and Manchester United were among the top sports topics in 2010.
Technology: Techmeme, Mashable and MacTweeter consistently ranked as top 10 influencers on trending technology topics of 2010, such as the Apple iPad and Google Android.