This article examine aspects of the dissemination of hashtags in Twitter, aiming at understanding the process of propagation of innovative hashtags in light of linguistic theories.
Hashtags are used in Twitter to classify messages, propagate ideas and also to promote specific topics and people. In this paper, we present a linguistic-inspired study of how these tags are created, used and disseminated by the members of information networks. We study the propagation of hashtags in Twitter grounded on models for the analysis of the spread of linguistic innovations in speech communities, that is, in groups of people whose members linguistically influence each other. Differently from traditional linguistic studies, though, we consider the evolution of terms in a live and rapidly evolving stream of content, which can be analyzed in its entirety. In our experimental results, using a large collection crawled from Twitter, we were able to identify some interesting aspects – similar to those found in studies of (offline) speech – that led us to believe that hashtags may effectively serve as models for characterizing the propagation of linguistic forms, including: (1) the existence of a “preferential attachment process”, that makes the few most common terms ever more popular, and (2) the relationship between the length of a tag and its frequency of use. The understanding of formation patterns of successful hashtags in Twitter can be useful to increase the effectiveness of real-time streaming search algorithms.
By Cunha at al.