The stability of Twitter metrics: A study on unavailable Twitter mentions of scientific publications

Authors : Zhichao Fang, Jonathan Dudek, Rodrigo Costas

This paper investigates the stability of Twitter counts of scientific publications over time. For this, we conducted an analysis of the availability statuses of over 2.6 million Twitter mentions received by the 1,154 most tweeted scientific publications recorded by this http URL up to October 2017.

Results show that of the Twitter mentions for these highly tweeted publications, about 14.3% have become unavailable by April 2019. Deletion of tweets by users is the main reason for unavailability, followed by suspension and protection of Twitter user accounts.

This study proposes two measures for describing the Twitter dissemination structures of publications: Degree of Originality (i.e., the proportion of original tweets received by a paper) and Degree of Concentration (i.e., the degree to which retweets concentrate on a single original tweet).

Twitter metrics of publications with relatively low Degree of Originality and relatively high Degree of Concentration are observed to be at greater risk of becoming unstable due to the potential disappearance of their Twitter mentions.

In light of these results, we emphasize the importance of paying attention to the potential risk of unstable Twitter counts, and the significance of identifying the different Twitter dissemination structures when studying the Twitter metrics of scientific publications.