Content Marketing Blog

News providers setting the agenda on Twitter

News providers are responsible for setting the agenda on Twitter, according to a new study.

Rather than members who tweet the most or who have gathered the highest number of followers, it is the mainstream media that starts trends.

A study commissioned by HP, the IT firm, found that the wider Twitter community, rather than starting trending topics, acted as a "filter and amplifier of traditional media in most cases".

An analysis of more than 16 million tweets during a 40-day period at the end of last year identified 22 users who were the source of the highest number of re-tweets when a topic was trending.

Of these Twitter trend-setters, 72 per cent were major old media brands like The New York Times, the BBC and CNN.

The study shows the power of original news content on popular social media platforms and also the influence wielded by traditional media outlets.

Bernardo Huberman, who led the research, said getting mainstream news exposure was still the best way to get social media conversations started.

"Being on the news for several days is enough to start a conversation about that topic," he said. "In social media, a few hours might do as well, but we have no evidence yet that it is the case."

The full report, Trends in Social Media: Persistence and Decay, is available on

Big media brands on Twitter
New York Times (US) – 2,992,991 followers
CNN (US) – 1,624,784 followers
ABC News (US) – 1,203,984 followers
Fox News (US) – 464,939 followers
El Pais (Spain) – 398,397 followers
Le Monde (France) – 181,948 followers
BBC News (UK) – 88,532 followers
ABC News (Australia) – 56,845 followers
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) – 18,198 followers

Most popular people on Twitter
Lady Gaga – 8,180,448 followers
Justin Bieber – 7,273,832 followers
Britney Spears – 6,838,191 followers
Barack Obama – 6,652,633 followers
Ashton Kutcher – 6,338,504 followers
Kim Kardashian – 6,303,327 followers
Ellen DeGeneres – 5,880,219 followers
Katy Perry – 5,742,864 followers
Taylor Swift – 5,294,546 followers
Oprah Winfrey – 5,096,126 followers

Twitter stats courtesy of