140 Characters, Six Conversation Categories

All that tweeting may boil down to a map with six clusters of conversations, including one that features polarized politicos talking past each other, like they do in real life.Fourteen percent of the U.S. population uses Twitter to talk about almost everything. But Pew Research says all those 140-character tweets break down into six groups.

Much like in real life, there is the Divided group, consisting of a lot of politically polarized tweeting that rely on different sources of information by people who rarely intersect online — and maybe in real life.

Other groups include brand clusters, people who comment on brands, but have virtually no interaction with each other, and tight crowds, a type of online insider who tweets at live events to a usually well-defined group of followers and friends.

Community clusters occur when groups comment on topics that spill over into the domain of other groups, such as might have occurred when the United Nations released its report on human rights abuses in North Korea, angering a wide swatch of people.

Broadcast networks involve media types and bloggers getting out the word on their stories or blogs or retweeting stories and blogs from people they follow. This parallels the news aggregator role Twitter has absorbed in its evolution. 

Support networks are where large companies monitor for consumer complaints, then respond quickly with the goal of turning an online gripe into a compliment.

With the millions of tweets out there, it seems hard to believe they would fall into so few categories.

Pew researchers say social media has assimilated broadly enough into our society to yield a meaningful picture of human relationships. Certainly the picture of polarized political factions talking past each other squares with other survey work and with everyday observations.