Twinfluence is About Community

Two days ago, Patrick Gavin wrote an article for Politico titled, “The 10 most influential D.C. Twitterers,” but in fact what he wrote was an article about the 10 most influential people who happen to use Twitter. People on the list like David Gregory and Ana Marie Cox are not “bad” at Twitter (though one could argue that Barack Obama and Al Gore are), but the list simply does not live up to the title of the article. Fortunately for Gavin, in response Mark Milian from the LA Times issued an even worse list, based strictly on the number of followers for each account.

What Gavin and Milian share is a lack of understanding about what Twitter really is, and how that makes one influential. Twitter is not a messaging service for blasting out text-sized press releases. Twitter is a giant, deconstructed conversation where people share information with each other.

These two journalists (and many others) lack this understanding because, frankly, they don’t really understand Twitter that well. For example, Gavin suffers from the fact that only about 5% of his tweets are conversational – and interestingly, many of the ones that are happen to be with people who made his list. What is more damning than them not being Twitter mavens themselves, however, is the fact that they seem to not have interviewed any, either.

People who are truly influential – “twinfluential” if you will – have one important thing in common: they’re part of a community. Stemming from this participation, their tweets are copied and talked about regularly, their knowledge of social media enables full time consulting work, and their connections can get hundreds and even thousands of people to network with other social media mavens.

Based on my own experiences and some private polling of the Twitter community, here is my informal list of the 10 most influential D.C. Twitterers – what you were promised by Politico and the LA Times.

David Almacy is currently Senior Vice President for Digital Public Affairs at Edelman, and he blogs about many aspects of social media, including its use in healthcare. But in a previous incarnation as George W. Bush’s White House Internet Director he networked communities of government employees.

Andy Carvin is best known as the social media maven making things happen at NPR, and became particularly well-known during presidential election season. But perhaps more importantly, he used social technology to selflessly mash up information for relevant communities about hurricane season.

Peter Corbett is CEO of iStrategyLabs, which creates interactive web experiences for clients as diverse as Rockstar energy drink and the DC government. But his influence in the community widens as founder of the Twin Tech event series, which networks thousands of people in the country’s largest technology community (yes, DC).

Chris Dorobek is anchor of The Daily Debrief on Federal News Radio 1500AM, where he concentrates on the intersection between government and technology. Formerly of the influential publication Federal Computer Week, Dorobek is an influencer in both old and new media communities.

Jill Foster is the editor of and a fixture in the DC social media scene. As co-founder of DC Media Makers, she throws giant events that bring together the communities of old and new media in a classy and exciting way.

Bob Gourley is a former chief technology officer of a US intelligence agency, and currently blogs at and is a private consultant. His high-level connections in the tech community combined with his low-profile approach make big things happen under the radar.

Frank Gruber wears a number of hats, working for AOL among them. But he is also an influencer as co-founder of the national Tech Cocktail events series, which develops community socials, conferences, and opportunities for tech startups to present their products.

Geoff Livingston is the principal at Livingston Communications, where he consults corporate and non-profit clients on how to utilize social technologies to communicate with communities of customers. He is also the author of Now is Gone and runs the excellent event BlogPotomac.

Jim Long is the ultimate example of modesty. While his motto may be “I’m just a cameraman,” working with some of the biggest names at NBC he has an all-access pass – making him influential in the community. Meet the Press anchor David Gregory, among others, has learned about social media from Jim.

Nick O’Neill runs Social Times, which includes among other things the AllFacebook blog. Whereas most people think of Silicon Valley and New York City as the centers of technology news, Nick is breaking news from the social technology community right here in DC.

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This post was written by:

Mark Drapeau - who has written 225 posts on Dr. Mark D. Drapeau.

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20 Comments For This Post

  1. James S. Walker Says:


    Glad somebody did this. I saw the Politico piece and thought influential to whom?! These people, while influential in their offline spheres, aren’t really engaged in the DC twitter community. You’ve got some great people listed. I would add one more though: Shireen Mitchell @digitalsista.

    James Walker

  2. Larissa Fair Says:

    Hi Mark – I love this list! It really highlights some of my fave people. :) There are so many great Web 2.0 events in this area (Twin Tech, Tech Cocktail, SMC, Govcamp, Healthcamp, Blog Potomac and others), so it’s nice for this group to be recognized as real Twitterers of influence.

  3. Shaun Dakin Says:

    Good post. I was waiting for someone to do this.

    The problem is: It depends.

    It depends on what sphere you are trying to influence.

    Marketing 101 says that you engage your customer / prospect where they live / work. You find out what their problems are and you create a dialogue (see Seth Godin for all his work on this way before there was a “WEB 2.0″ or Social Media term of art.

    So, who is most influencial on Twitter depends. Right?

    In DC govt / tech world (people who care about govt and tech) I’d say you are on target with yourself (of course) and Peter, etc..

    However, if you are talking about Transparency and government you would have to include Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation (@EllnMllr) as she has had an incredible influence on transparency in the USA.

    If you are talking about pure influence from a journalist perspective, then you would have to include Anna Marie Cox, Mike Allen, and the gang because, like it or not, they have a platform (their media outlets) and they do have the connections to actually be talking to people like, say, President Obama.


    Shaun Dakin
    The National Political Do Not Contact Registry
    The 2008 Mashable Open Web Award Winner for non-profits

  4. Cameron Barry Says:

    Mark — Thanks for publishing this list and offering sound reasons why these folks are truly “twinfluential.” Your post introduced me to some new people that I’m looking forward to following.

  5. Alex, aka SocialButterfly Says:

    I’m with James…that’s a great addition! And, just to push the envelope, I think in different pockets, the “10 Most Influential” differ, perhaps even from person to person. As, I would add Jefrey Levy in there too.

    Just for fun, these questions come to mind: But what’s the measure of the person’s influence or their social capital, and why does it matter? Ok, I was going to go on, but I understand the point of your article and the other article. Two different perspectives and angles….but I would say that both are needed. =)

  6. Susan Strayer Says:

    I would defintely ask why the list had to be all politicians or Capitol Hill related. DC is more than just politics.

    But community influence is different than twitter influence. I would look at who in DC is using Twitter and how are they using it?

    I have a pretty decent Twitter Grade (if we use that measurement) but I follow alot of people b/c I need to understand what’s going on out there and that brings me down (go figure).

    I also think it’s important to recognize those who are using Twitter creatively and not just tech community leaders we’re already so fmailiar with. If we all only do lists based on our own experiences rather than the research to see who in DC is out there, our list becomes “top ten most influential to me” rather than “top ten most influential to the larger DC community.”

    Susan Strayer

  7. Geoff Livingston Says:

    Thanks for including me in this list! It’s always an honor.

    Lists are always hard to accept as legitimate due to subjectivity, and often are based on perception and past performance. What you do moving forward is really the thing that matters.

  8. andy carvin Says:

    Just wanted to echo Geoff and say thanks for including me on the list. It’s always really tough to do these things in a definitive way; as Shaun said, it depends on what sphere you are trying to influence. For example, I think Politico was right to have @PatrickRuffini on their list, because he’s done a great job of raising the profile of social media among conservatives and is figuring out best practices for making it politically useful. So in certain spheres, Patrick is very influential. In other spheres, none of us mentioned so far might appear, and it’d be an entirely different list. But I’m really interested in the role of social media in politics, so it’s not a surprise I’d have him on a list. I definitely second @digitalsista as well, who’s been a long-time technology advocate for women of color in DC. Same with @EllnMiller and her work for govt transparency.

    Again, though, it all depends on your interests and goals. Would be interesting to see a list of most influential people on Twitter when it comes too food, DC voting rights, local music, etc. Different spheres, different influence – but all welcome additions to the conversation.

  9. Allyson Kapin Says:

    It’s great to see Jill Foster on this list. She is fantastic. Too bad that 90% of your list is comprised of men that are “twinfluentials” though. Are “twinfluential” women just not in your twitter universe?

  10. andy carvin Says:

    Allyson, is there anyone you would recommend?

  11. drapeaum Says:

    Lists are always subjective. But I did poll numerous people to get input, and I had a list of 20 or so that I thought about for a while in terms of their “360 influence” and how much they use Twitter to talk with their communities. Frankly, while I know the people you’re messaging, I think that with regard to Twitter (which this is specifically about) they fall short. Of course, my list is not definitive, nor even about me (I’m not exactly a regular reader of, and I haven’t even met everyone on the list) – the point was that people who impact their communities are the ones with influence.

    I deliberately didn’t choose anyone on the original list. I do feel that (say) Ana Marie Cox is influential. So is John Culberson.

  12. Mark Milian Says:

    I chose to arrange my list by number of followers because that’s the least subjective way. After all, those with the most followers do, indeed, have the most reach across the Twittersphere, and therefore, one can assume, have the most influence.

    I’m not sure what your protests are to arranging the list by most followers. You seem to imply that doing so indicates I have a “lack of understanding of what Twitter really is.” To many, Twitter is a popularity contest.

    That’s not the way I use it (@mmilian — as you can see by my lack of followers. :) But for many, it’s all about reach. And if 19,000+ people are OK with being fed straight blog spam via @ObamaNews, then who’s to say that’s not what Twitter is about?

  13. drapeaum Says:

    Mark: Thanks for writing. Influence is subjective by its nature. You seem to be confounding “popularity” with “influence” but the original Politico post is about influential Twitter users. So if you want to say that you have compiled the definitive list of “most followed” Twitter users in DC – congrats. Sites like Twitterholic and TwitterLocal and Twellow have been doing that for quite some time. But thinking that number of followers = reach = influence is not really correct. That’s like thinking that all LA Times readers also read your columns. The reality is, based on metrics like ReTweetRank and ReTweetist, the people whose messages spread the most (”memes”) are not necessarily the most followed people at all – but one could argue that those are the influencers. While some of them are also very popular, it is not a prerequisite for influence.

  14. Bob Gourley Says:


    I really appreciate you placing me on the list. I’m honored to be associated with the folks you put there.

    I also appreciate your comments about community. My hope is that folks I connect to on Twitter share common views about some important things and like to, as Tim O’Reilly says, “work on things that matter.” I also hope I’m part of a community that appreciates a bit of humor, and wish I could tweet more funny stuff myself. Till I grow my sense of humor more, I need to recommend that everyone should follow @rainnwilson


  15. Mark Milian Says:

    I agree with you in a way. I certainly get more value out of a conversational, more human approach to Twitter. But that doesn’t *define* the service. To quote Twitter’s daddy, Jack Dorsey, “Twitter is whatever you make of it.”

    If thousands of people are using it as a shoddy news aggregator, then they still factor in as part of the Twitter population. I don’t think they should be counted any less than someone who’s constantly invoking and participating in conversation.

    But to be fair, we never called our list the “most influential.” Just the top 10 in DC, ranked by followers.

  16. andy carvin Says:

    @mmilian: I think it’s fine to list tweets according to subscribers – and I swear I’m not saying that just because @nprpolitics fared well on your list. :-) I think the big takeaway from all this is that there are lots of ways of perceiving value on Twitter. For some, it’ll be subscribership. For others, the # of times their tweets are retweeted compared to others. And yet others, like Mark and I wrote, look for people that have influence in areas that we care about. Then again, maybe I’m just saying this because I like lists in general. :-)

  17. Ari Herzog Says:

    Echoing everyone else, Mark, this is a great compilation!

    But I have a question. Focusing on Chris Dorobek, for instance, as one of the few in that list who I’ve tweeted with, would you define his “Twinfluence” as a direct result of his other lives in FCW and radio? Or, do you include him because of his organic twittering and relationship-building that are irrespective of his other hats?

    In other words, is one’s Twitter influence confined within Twitter or beyond? I’d argue the latter; but if that’s so, then it works both ways and one is against odds to build a Twitter influence without being known outside.


  18. drapeaum Says:

    Ari – These are all people that tweet as themselves and are fairly authentic. So, who they are and what they are doing (jobs, event planning, and so forth) cannot be separated from their “Twitterselves” – These are all people that use Twitter to reinforce what they are already doing, and so in that sense have influence both within and outside Twitter. IMHO many people on the original Politico and LA Times lists have influence mainly outisde Twitter.

  19. Jill Foster Says:

    Thanks Mark(!) for the commentary and mention on the list. And resonating above, @digitalsista and @womenwhotech are strong voices on Twitter and off.

    It’s been an ongoing, fruitful exchange with Twitter — of learn, listen, serve, repeat I believe. It’s an incredible idea community and source for offline collaboration too; I’m grateful.

    …exceeding 140 characters, Jill F.

  20. Sarah Says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


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