How to solve a problem like Twitter? - Adam Parker

How to solve a problem like Twitter? - Adam Parker


Lissted's Adam Parker finds a powerful purpose for Twitter in surfacing insights from niche communities. He cites the example of the UK public relations community. Two weeks ago Twitter’s share price jumped over 20 per cent. This was due to reports of a potential bid for the company.

On Monday this week the price fell back when all the supposed potential bidders: Disney, Google and Salesforce apparently counted themselves out.

There's been suggestions that Salesforce may still be thinking about it, but CEO Marc Benioff seemed to be talking things down last week.

Twitter’s user weakness

If Twitter does throw in the towel as an independent company a key reason will be lack of growth in its user base. The company reached 300 million monthly active users at the start of 2015. That number hasn’t shifted much since.

Twitter’s user base has two main groups. A (relatively) small group of very active and engaged users, and everyone else.

This has proven to be a big problem for Twitter. The vast majority of people don’t want to post things in a public space like Twitter. They never have.

Facebook isn’t like this. People think of Facebook (rightly or wrongly) as a more private space, leading to a much higher level of posting.

Twitter’s user strength

So Twitter might have a small group of very active posters, but what a group! Pick a topic. Any topic. And you’ll find a significant number of the most influential people and organisations sharing views and content.

A key problem for Twitter has been how to get this content and insight in front of the less engaged and the uninitiated?

The company has tried a few things - its new home page, Twitter Moments, Highlights and While you were away - but it appears none of them have moved the dial much.

The home page and Moments give users a taste of what’s being talked about, but the editorial curation means they only cover a small number of topics. Plus Moments isn't part of the standard stream experience.

Highlights and While you were away only help if a user invests the time following a bunch of people to show what they’re interested in. Even then they are pretty limited in scope.


Lissted started experimenting with auto curating Twitter two years ago. We were interested in seeing if we could identify the most influential tweets.

We created an account, @tweetsdistilled. The account automatically retweets items it thinks are of interest based on various signals and has been described as

"one of the best ways to find out what are the key things happening on Twitter at any given moment."

A little later we added a few more related to specific areas, including UK Politics (@PoliticsUKTD), UK Health (@HealthUKTD) and UK Education (@EducationUKTD).

For each of these accounts Lissted has used its proprietary algorithms to identify between 1,000 and 3,000 of the most influential people and organisations in the particular area. It then uses the Tweetsdistilled process to identify top tweets in these communities in near real time.

The benefit of this approach is a user can follow one account and get to see quality tweets from a community within the native Twitter stream format.

This is important because it means such a user would still be served Twitter ads. The selection of the account itself would also provide a good basis to establish the relevance of the ads themselves.

The accounts have been referred to as Twitter’s best kept secret. The UK Politics account for example has less than 1,000 followers and yet is one of only eight accounts that all these political influencers follow.

Seasoned Twitter users find the accounts a valuable way of making sure they don't miss something important.

So it’s a fair bet they’d be a great start for someone new or less engaged.

PR UK Distilled

We decided recently we would create a few more Tweetsdistilled accounts. One of our new accounts is based on the UK PR community - @PRUKDistilled.

This account is tracking the tweets of Lissted’s current top 900 UK PR community accounts. The accounts are mostly UK based, but it does include some people and organisations from outside the UK who Lissted calculates have influence in relation to the UK PR community e.g. @Global_Alliance and @PRNews.

The members will vary to some extent over time, as Lissted updates its rankings. You can see if you’re one of the initial 900 here.

Between them these accounts are tweeting thousands of times a day. In the three weeks it’s been running @PRUKDistilled has selected over 1,000 tweets from 651 unique users. Around 1 out of every 100 tweets.

Tweets from outside the community

Of the 1,000+ tweets around one in three have been tweets from outside the community that appear to have resonated with UK PR people. Examples include:


So far the tweet from a member of the UK PR community with the most engagement in the form of retweets and favourites is this one from @HelReynolds.

But the tweet with the most reaction from our specific 900 accounts is this:

Most featured accounts

The accounts that have been featured five or more times so far, and whose tweets were retweeted by the most unique members of the 900 strong list are:


Even though this analysis is only based on three weeks of PRUKDistilled operating we can already get a good indication of what represents a significant level of performance in the UK PR community e.g.

  • being retweeted five or more times by @PRUKDistilled in a three week period (only 25 accounts achieved this).
  • generating retweets from 14 or more distinct members of the UK PR community over a three week period (as this would have put you in the top 10).
  • receiving 10+ retweets and favourites combined for a specific tweet (based on the average RTs + favs of these top accounts).

Top terms used

And what has the community been talking about? Here are some word clouds of top nouns, adjectives and questions.


Recent events such as the CIPR elections and the ICCO Summit, as well as the new #Futureproof book and the launch of the Unawards are all prominent.

The adjectives used are almost exclusively positive and I’m not sure what it says about the community that it appears to ask or state how a lot more than why?

Future: strength and insights in niche communities

If Salesforce, or someone else, acquires Twitter it is going to need to find a way of re-engaging more marginal users and attracting new ones. An approach similar to Tweetsdistilled may be the answer.

Otherwise there’s a danger the very people who make Twitter valuable, simply drift away leaving the acquirer with very little. I'd call this the Bake Off approach to acquisition.

If you’d like to learn more about @Tweetsdistilled, our influential content identification or Lissted’s influencer analysis application that powers them, please contact me at

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