Twitter conversations can be divided into six distinct groups, each with more social marketing opportunities than the last.

The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project recently studied how Twitter users, hashtags and topics are organized on the network. The results are very intriguing for web marketers looking to better understand how to they can execute strategies on this platform. Here the groups Pew has identified, ranked from most to least useful for promotional engagement.

1. Tight crowd

This is exactly what it sounds like: A group of people talking about the same subject, with very few autonomous topics or users. A tight crowd is usually organized around a real-world subject, conference or hobby, and highly engaged. It’s easy to see why this should be the ideal group a business is targeting on Twitter.When a company finds a tight crowd speaking about its core offerings, services of business values, it can directly share brand content with a pool of ideal prospects.

2. Community clusters

While a tight crowd represents a single group focused around a subject or topic, community clusters occur when an idea has led to multiple viewpoints or opinions. For instance, an industry that is occupied by multiple schools of thought or sub-industries would split into community clusters. If businesses are trying to target a niche group of customers within in industry, they should pay attention to this phenomenon an identify the smaller clusters within larger discussions.

3. Brand clusters

Brand followers are quite loyal to the companies they connect with on Twitter, but there is much less engagement. People in brand clusters are less like to participate in back-and-forth conversations, and there are fewer interactions between the brands and their followers. Instead, brands broadcast messages – which can be very useful, but it doesn’t produce nearly as much engagement as other kinds of topic groups.

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4. Polarized crowds

A contentious issue, industry or topic can lead to a split down the middle: Pro and con, one tactic versus another or one major company against a competitor. Polarized crowds can help brands find passionate and interested followers, but it does mean arguments or polarized discussions can crop up.

5. Support network

Pew identified this kind of topic as a mostly commercial conversation between existing clients and companies providing them with customer service. This is a great way to retain contacts and follow up on complaints, but it isn’t exactly a primary way to find new business. Still, it provides brands with a chance to demonstrate their commitment to quality service.

6. Broadcast network

News topics and breaking news are usually disseminated through Twitter broadcast networks, following a path from major journalism hubs outward. Companies can turn their social marketing profiles into valuable news sources, though this less promotional tactic might not drive quite as many leads. A soft touch like this can keep companies in the minds of consumers, though businesses will still need to determine how to then integrate a call to action or sales pitch.  

Other social networks follow different organizational patterns, but these results show how Twitter offers an invaluable lesson to marketers: Find the most consolidated community of users interested in the topics on which you produce content. These tight concentrations of qualified leads and interested prospects will provide the best opportunities to drive social ROI.

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Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.