Centres of gravity in the Irish Twitterverse.
Determining a list of the most influential tweeters can be a thankless task. Influence can mean many things to many people. For some, it’s purely a numbers game; those with the most followers are the most influential. For most however, influence is defined by a range of subjective characteristics so broad and personal that no two lists are the same.
When compiling this list of Irish Twitterati, we looked at several factors; how many followers they had, how many they followed back, how many tweets they had notched up, and whether these tweets were actually interesting and inspiring, or of the Jed-prefixed variety. However, the deciding factor was, as ever in these cases, a subjective choice. So, while many will feel that this list is inherently flawed, we can at least console ourselves in the knowledge that theirs is too.
@glinner: Graham Linehan rose to prominence as the co-writer of seminal Irish sitcom Father Ted. He has also put his name to comedy shows such as Brass Eye and The IT Crowd. It is not unusual for the mind behind so much cult comedy to have the 126,593 followers Linehan has at the time of writing, but his use of Twitter extends beyond the usual celebrity self-indulgence.
Linehan has used his influence on the social network to campaign for a variety of issues in Ireland, the UK and the United States, and was especially outspoken during the recent hacking scandal. He also started the #welovethenhs hashtag campaign in August 2009 in response to right-wing American criticism of the UK health service. The campaign was supported by then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his successor, David Cameron.
@topgold: Multimedia lecturer Bernie Goldbach is an American living in Cashel, and a stalwart of the Twitter and blogging communities here. He acknowledges that Twitter can mean different things to different people; some prefer casual online chat with acquaintances, while others glean more value from hashtag threads of interest such as the #edchatie thread he follows himself.
“I think influence is a measure of persuasiveness”, explains Bernie. “Over time, minor voices can have a measure of influence if those voices offer listeners value. On Twitter, that can be ambient intimacy, pointers to valuable content, or information about upcoming events. That’s how I decide who or what to follow.”
@davidcochrane: The editor of Irish political forum Politics.ie, David Cochrane is never far from any Irish political issue on Twitter. His stream is a great source for links to discussion threads on the political issues of the day as well as some lively political debate.
@arseblog: Andrew Mangan, aka Arseblogger, has been blogging about Arsenal Football Club since 2002, and is renowned for both his passion for the club and for his acerbic wit, for example this rather pointed barb at Welsh football pundit Robbie Savage. Interaction with his followers is key to his large following, even if he acknowledges that, “you can’t reply to all of them, it’s just impossible physically to reply to all of them”.
However, he notes, “Unless you reply to some of them, I don’t see what you get out of it, to be honest, because you can debate things, or have two people coming at the same thing from different angles. Without interaction, it just becomes a soapbox.”
@miriamocal: Television personality Miriam O’ Callaghan’s balanced and unwavering anchoring of current affairs show Prime Time, coupled with her popularity with the Irish public, led to her being mooted as a potential candidate for President of Ireland recently. Despite such high standing, Miriam is an extremely responsive and engaged tweeter, whether raising awareness about a particular issue, or magnanimously apologising for her employer’s failure to cover Shamrock Rover’s latest game.
@sendboyle: Green Party politician Dan Boyle may not have the same influence out of office, but few can claim to have ousted a government minister via social media. Boyle’s tweet expressing his lack of confidence in Willie O’ Dea set in motion the machinations which led to his resignation in 2010.
Should the Green Party ever recover from its damaging flirtation with Fianna Fáil, Boyle’s forthright, some would say naïve, insistence on tweeting things more suited to private conversation will likely have more ramifications than we can expect from more high-profile, and reserved, politicians’ tweets.
@conor_pope: Irish Times journalist Conor Pope’s consumer advice is much sought-after these days, and he often mines Twitter for sources for his Pricewatch column. Conor is always willing to engage with fellow Twitterers, meaning that for aggrieved consumers, help can be just one tweet away.
“It has to be interactive”, he says of his tweeting. “You can’t just post self-publicising, puff, tweets. It has to be engaging, so it has to be interesting to people. You have to interact with people, and you have to really understand the medium, and not take yourself too seriously.”
@nialler9: Niall Byrne is the editor of State magazine, and the recognised point of first contact for Irish music fans looking to hear the best new music, at home and abroad. Boasting an impressive 22,943 tweets under his belt, nialler9 is a bountiful source of streaming and download links for the best new talent out there.
@guidofawkes: Like him or loathe him, there’s no denying the ability of British-born Irish citizen Paul Staines to stick in the craw of the administration and the established media in Britain. Under his would-be gunpowder plotting alias, Staines uses Twitter to take all the whispered rumour and plotting of Westminster and broadcast it to the masses.
@marklittlenews: Former RTÉ news reporter Mark Little didn’t cower with the rest of the Luddites, waiting for online journalism to sweep his job away in a sea of unverified comment, opting instead to meet the challenges presented by citizen journalism head-on. Liberated by the interaction afforded by Twitter, he founded Storyful, a news curation service, which sifts through the reams of citizen sources on the Internet, and presents the reliable, newsworthy sources as news.
Mark sees authenticity, quality of content, and engagement as the key factors in having influence on Twitter, “I don’t necessarily think you have to constantly answer every query or engage with every person who retweets you or mentions you, but there has to be a solid level of engagement with people who follow you”.
So, while Jedward, Ronan Keating and their ilk may remain top of the Twitter charts, the clear consensus among influential Irish Twitter users is that the pursuit of knowledge and engagement, rather than followers, is at the heart of Twitter influence. 140 characters is the great leveller in this case, as it is the quality of what you tweet, rather than your offline profile, that sets you apart.