What Retweet and PageRank have in common

by Sherif

I’ve been thinking about how important the retweet feature is for Twitter. I’ve concluded that ‘Retweet’ is as important to Twitter as Google’s PageRank algorithm is important to Google.

The Google PageRank algorithm allows Google to efficiently order search engine results in order to provide the most relevant, accurate site for your search from a reliable source. A PageRank value is assigned to a webpage based on it’s relevance (through some form of content analysis) and it’s reliability. How does Google know the site is a reliable source? From what we know, it estimates this value through a wide variety of factors:

  • Who links to the site
  • How many people link to the site
  • How official is the site (eg is it a .gov? or have some sort of reputable status?)
  • How many people go to the site
  • .. and a whole bunch of other stuff
  • Factoring in all these elements and more, Google produces a PageRank value for each site. PageRank has become critical to Google’s business. It’s what differentiates Google from other search engines. It has become Google’s bread and butter on which they have built their business on top of.

    So what’s this got to do with a retweet?
    Here is the problem with Twitter: How do I know a tweet is accurate, reliable and is from who it says it’s from?

    Twitter is going through what Google faced in it’s early days – spammers, impostors and a general lack of quality content (useful tweets).

    Twitter is still working through all those issues. For example, they have been trying to tackle fake accounts by introducing verified accounts. Spam continues on, and the security issues of Twitter aren’t helping either. So what’s the answer?

    Crowd-source your problem
    You see, Twitter can’t just use the total amount of followers as a way of identifying useful and reputable content on Twitter. Twitter’s retweet feature allows them to crowd-source their problem. In a sense, they are allowing everyone contribute in the quest of identifying quality and helpful information on Twitter. If you retweet something from someone you follow, you are acknowledging their validity. If one of your followers retweeted you, it would have the same effect. In ‘PageRank terms’ this could have the same effect as linking to your site.

    A Twitter PageRank Algorithm?
    If Twitter were to have an equivalent algorithm it could involve a mix of the following elements:

  • How many people retweet a user (a high weighting could be placed on this)
  • How many people send a user @Replies
  • How many people follow a user (a lower weighting)
  • How many lists a user appears on
  • How many people favorite (or ‘star’) a users Tweets
  • The consequences of Twitter’s efforts on the retweet feature and API are twofold:

    1. Users are able to find reputable, quality and useful Tweets
    2. Twitter begins to identify the influencers and trend-setters

    The first point above ensures more and more users stay on Twitter’s microblogging platform – which is critical for Twitters success. Secondly, identifying influencers presents a huge monotization opportunity for Twitter… but that’s another blog-post!