shelasher  asked:

I know this is an old piece but I wanted to let you know I enjoyed it. "Re blogs and content sharing on Tumblr: a personal network analysis"- I am very interested in the "tipping point" of tumblr blogs. ie how many followers to you need before your followers begin to generate exponentially? How do you find the "connectors" and "influencers" on Tumblr? Its all interesting stuff but quite hard to track! thanks- E

Digging into my Ask box and responding to very old questions - this one on this post doing a little network analysis of reblogs from Dec 2012

1. How many followers do you need before your followers increase exponentially?

That’s a tricky one - mostly because Tumblr doesn’t make follower counts public on people’s blogs or in the API, so it’s fairly impossible to do objective research. What I can say though is that follower numbers matter a lot less than your position within Tumblr social networks - that is, it’s about community.

When I say community, this can mean self-identifing communities such as TV fandoms or Feminist Tumblr (ok, lots of communities within Feminist Tumblr!) However, it’s not the self-identification as part of a community that’s what really matters. What’s actually important is the habitual pattern of who interacts with who through reblogging and commenting on each others’ posts. It’s community as defined by social network analysis.

Become a part of a really active community, put a lot of time into writing good posts, following people and reblogging - and your follower count could increase very rapidly.

On the other hand, having loads of followers doesn’t necessarily get you anywhere. I’m a great example! So I have 164,00 followers because I was Tumblr tech listed & recommended to new users on sign-up. That gave me 250 new followers per day. Now that’s stopped, I get maybe 5? Two main reasons:

  • Essentially all the people who followed me were newbies with zero network power (and most of them probably stopped using Tumblr really quickly), so they provide no network advantage to spreading my posts.
  • I don’t really participate in any Tumblr communities so I am relatively marginal within the network.

(My network power is much stronger on Twitter despite far fewer followers - but that’s another post…)

2. How do you find the connectors and influencers on Tumblr?

As I said, with no publicly visible follower counts, there’s no easy way to do this. You can do it through social network analysis, collecting a big pool of posts and analysing who reblogs who. However, you need proper social media research resources to do this (API access, some Python skills, and use of programs like NodeSQL or Gephi). This happens to be my job - but I work alongside a developer team to do the data wrangling.

But all is not lost! From the principles of network analysis we can draw out some rules of thumb that can provide pretty good proxy methods for finding these super-connectors in the Tumblr niche you want to be part of. So:

1. Look at a Tumblr post you like/admire, and expand the list of notes so you can see everyone who faved & reblogged it. Posts with 100+ notes are most useful here, as are ones where a bit of a “reblog conversation” has gone on.

2. Looking at the message body, make a note of:

  • original author
  • rebloggers who’ve added comments that have then become part of the ‘reblog tree’ discussion

3. Looking at the list of notes for the “A reblogged B” format, identify which Tumblr users seem to have been reblogged the most.

4. Repeat this for 10-20 more posts, so you’ve got a pool of 50+ names. Are any names starting to recur? This indicates they’ve got high “network centrality” - that means influence.

5. Take the list of names you’ve got (heavily-reblogged original authors and popular rebloggers) and go to their Tumblrs to see what’s going on. Check out:

  • The note count on their original posts (if they make any): what kind of engagement are they getting?
  • Their follower count (some people do list it in bios, and of course the more influential are more likely to brag!)

This will help you rank your list of names.

6. Iterate the process. Look at the Tumblrs of the top 10 most influential people you’ve identified, and explore who they’re reblogging, who’s mentioned in their posts, and who’s heavily reblogged in their Notes.

Add these people to your Influentials list.

7. Follow the people you think are really interesting. They might not necessarily be the most influential ones on the list - but you’ll have a better chance of making a connection to them if you think alike.

Bonus step 8:
To get influential users to interact with you, the best way is probably to reblog something they’ve written, adding an interesting comment or question on the bottom of it. They’ll be pretty likely to reply & check you out, creating the opportunity for them to decide to follow you.

People also use Ask boxes to make themselves known to others and build relationships - but you do need to have something more interesting to say than “Please will you follow me back?”


What do you reckon, Social Network Analysis Tumblr? How’s my heuristic? Anything I’ve missed out?