Topic Enthusiasts: Twitter’s Genuine Influencers

We help brands reach their target audiences by identifying experts and conversation leaders on Twitter.

Influencers. For many, that word generates the image of people with hundreds of thousands–maybe even millions–of social media followers. Of people who document their entire lives on social media. Of people who get paid to promote products to their enormous followings. We may hate them, we may love them, we may love to hate them. But they’re not going anywhere. For many brands, influencers deliver results. Influencer marketing is far from dead.

At Arboretica, we don’t offer traditional influencer marketing services. Instead, we help brands identify topic enthusiasts on Twitter. We think of topic enthusiasts as genuine influencers: they are conversation leaders who can speak to a certain subject with trust and authority. They are obsessed with a specific topic, and will talk about it whether they get paid to or not.

Understanding who these topic enthusiasts are is critical for brands seeking access to and insights from their target audiences. Topic enthusiasts, as conversation leaders in domains audiences care about, hold the key.

What is a topic enthusiast?

Group of 3 people having a conversation

A topic enthusiast is a leading voice within a micro- (or macro-!) community on Twitter.

This individual is a trusted authority in their subject-matter of choice, whether that’s climate activism or cabinet-making. 

In many ways, topic enthusiasts are community leaders: they are the most vocal and influential within a conversation topic. Often, that topic is their full-time job or full-fledged passion. They may not have the most followers within that community, but they have high engagement. They are also connected with other conversation leaders who have even bigger audiences. 

Topic enthusiasts typically don’t get paid to post: they are obsessed with a conversation area and will discuss it no matter what. In this sense, topic enthusiasts are genuine influencers. They move conversations and can influence behavior and thought through their sheer expertise and reputation. 

How do brands work with topic enthusiasts?

There are many ways in which topic enthusiasts can be strategic partners for brands. After all, they have the direct ear of the brand’s target audience. 

Here are four ideas for how brands can work with topic enthusiasts:

  1. They can leverage them as traditional influencers. For example, the brand can offer to pay for specific tweets or content. The topic enthusiast could use their platform to build trust in the brand.
  2. They can partner with them on user research. For example, the brand can consult with the topic enthusiast to learn more about what the community values. The topic enthusiast might be able to give feedback on a product or an ad campaign.
  3. They can collaborate on broader marketing strategies. For example, the brand can ask the topic enthusiast for the best channels through which to reach the community. The topic enthusiast might be able to provide recommendations of events, media outlets, and more that the community enjoys.
  4. They can seek their assistance in public affairs. For example, a brand could work with a topic enthusiast to influence debate in their industry and / or areas of interest.

How does Arboretica identify topic enthusiasts?

We turn influencer research on its head. Instead of looking at an individual’s number of followers or engagement rates, we start with conversations. Within these conversations, we identify the people who are most vocal and influential. These are the genuine conversation leaders: they may not have the biggest followings, but they have high engagement. At Arboretica, we call these individuals the topic enthusiasts.

Step 1: Conversations and Topics

We ask our clients: what conversations do you want your brand to be involved with? What conversations do you want your brand to start? What topics do you want to be familiar with? Using these starting points, we identify relevant tweets and Twitter profiles.

Step 2: Network Analysis of Twitter Users

Our proprietary algorithms reveal how each user is connected to the rest of the community having these conversations. This surfaces insights about:

  • The centrality of each individual within the conversation community
    • We can build the conversation community based on people who tweeted or engaged with the target conversations
    • Within that community, we can identify who is the most-followed individual by other members of the community 
  • Sub-communities focused on sub-topics in the broader conversation
  • The number of tweets and average engagement of the community


Step 3: More Opportunities Through New Communities

Our work can find new communities of interest to extend our clients’ reach. We can identify “bridge topic enthusiasts” who are connected to current communities of interest as well as to the new ones. 

Chart explaining topic enthusiast

Case Study: New Spirits Brand

Arboretica recently worked with an up-and-coming spirits brand to identify topic enthusiasts that the company could use to raise awareness. 

After working with the brand to outline the target conversation topics, we scraped the relevant tweets and user information from Twitter. We developed a network analysis of the conversations to identify the best topic enthusiasts for the company to use.This included mixologists, journalists, and even baristas. 

Our analysis also:

  • Surfaced a large, previously-unknown community: premium spirits NFT aficionados.
  • Found the most influential industry media outlets and spirits events across the globe, thanks to our multi-language analytics capabilities.
Network Analysis Map of Topic Enthusiasts

Our work is the foundation for the next phases in the spirits brand’s marketing and PR strategy. The company now knows which news outlets to approach, which events to target, and which topic enthusiasts to engage. Now, the company has the confidence to allocate marketing budget to these initiatives knowing that they will reach target audiences in a meaningful way.

Post Script

Just for fun, of the tweets about premium spirits that we scraped, we manually analyzed the top 100 sorted by engagement. A traditional agency might turn to those tweets first as a way of finding promising influencers for a brand.

We found that 70% of the users who tweeted those messages didn’t have anything to do with the spirits industry. Many are random people whose tweets happened to go viral. Some are influencers who tweeted once about a cocktail. None of their followers include people who truly are interested in premium spirits.

Interested in finding topic enthusiasts for your company? If so, contact us to see how we can help.