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Following the Followers – and Leaders – on Twitter is All About Triangulation

By Sree Sreenivasan | February 8, 2010 11:09am | Updated on February 8, 2010 11:04am
Twiangulate.com
Twiangulate.com
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By Sree Sreenivasan

DNAinfo contributing editor

There are myriad tools online that purport to make the Twitter better, but one in particular has changed my tweeting life: Twiangulate.com.

As with many Twitter tools (and perhaps like Twitter itself for most people), I wasn't sure of the site at first. But then, I got it. Twiangulate helps me find and follow the most relevant people in any topic or area by showing me who the people I'm following follow in common.

In other words, if social media is all about "listening" to interesting people, then Twiangulate can tell me who the people I listen to are, in turn, listening to.

Here's how it works. I enter the names of up to three Twitter feed names I follow into the boxes for the "Common Friends" tab. I then click search, and a list appears of the Twitter feeds they have in common. I can decide then whether I want to follow any of those feeds.

This all might sound confusing, but once you start playing with it, you are going to discover all kinds of interesting and valuable folks to follow. In recent weeks, I have demonstrated this in social-media workshops in newsrooms at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Boston Globe and the Orlando Sentinel, and in each place this was the tool that elicited the most response. 

One feature to note is the "Watched" section. Here you can keep track of particular searches to see if there are any changes to the followers it turns up. It can even send you a weekly alert about new folks the folks you follow are following.

Henry Copeland, the creator of Twiangulate and founder of the popular Blogads service, explained some other features to me.

Beyond the original "common friends of," we've added three extra features that might be helpful for journalists either seeking new sources or trying evaluate the stature of potential sources.

a) An individual's biggest followers: Here we weed out all those people who follow more than 11k, figuring those follows are automatic or spam. What remains are pure influentials. For example, here are your most influential followers.

b) An individual's smallest friends: We figure that the smallest tweeps that a big tweeter follows are probably some of the most interesting and personally relevant to that person.  For example, here are @GStephanopoulos's smallest friends.

 c) The top followers of two or three people.  I'm still trying to figure out why this is actually useful, but several people have asked for it, so we've done it.  See this, for example.

Given all the attention that the Twitter war between possible Senate-race rivals Kirsten Gillenbrand and Harold Ford Jr., has drawn, I thought it would be fun to see who they were listening to. Alas, it turns out that neither is a good listener. As I write this, Gillenbrand only follows 11 people and Ford 0. 

I'd love to listen to your thoughts on Twiangulate, as well as suggestions for cool, useful searches we should know about. Please post in the comments section below.

Every Monday, DNAinfo contributing editor Sree Sreenivasan shares his observations on the intersection of media and technology.