RTÉ broadcaster Des Cahill, aka @sportsdes, is the most influential journalist on Twitter, according to the #murraytweetindex, a new ranking by public relations firm Murray.
Cahill, who describes himself as "RTÉ sports broadcaster, after-dinner speaker, conference host, sex symbol!!"on his profile, triumphed over Newstalk presenter and rugby pundit George Hook (@ghook) in second place and Irish Times consumer affairs correspondent Conor Pope (@conor_pope) in third. Hook's account is partly maintained by his production team.
Murray reviewed more than 300 Irish journalists’ Twitter usage in September and October and came up with a ranking based on popularity, engagement and level of activity.
Sports journalists did well overall on the list, with the chief sports writer of the Sunday Times, David Walsh (@DavidWalshST), in fourth place.
Three RTÉ journalists were in the top 10, with broadcaster Philip Boucher-Hayes (@boucherhayes) in fifth and rugby commentator Michael Corcoran (@MichaelC_RTE) in tenth.
Sunday Independent columnist Shane Ross (@Shane_RossTD), Irish Times journalist and TG4 broadcaster Una Mullally (@UnaMullally), Today FM political correspondent Gavan Reilly (@gavreilly) and academic and journalist Elaine Byrne (@ElaineByrne) are also in Murray's overall top 10.
"This research shows that Twitter has empowered journalists to extend their reach and influence, and to build a personal brand that enhances their capacity to attract consumer and advertiser interest for their employers and for themselves," says Murray managing director Pat Walsh.
However, this poses “an interesting dilemma” for media organisations, as though they benefit from “the halo effect of popular journalists”, they also risk losing that social media audience if a high-profile journalist defects to a rival.
The study also ranked journalists' influence on Twitter in a range of different categories. Irish Times Washington correspondent Simon Carswell (@SiCarswell), who was 11th in the overall list, was found to have the most influence in the general news category, with Sunday Times editor Frank Fitzgibbon (@FrankSunTimes) and Irish Independent associate and legal editor Dearbhail McDonald (@DearbhailDibs) close behind.
Gavan Reilly headed a politics category that also included Irish Times political correspondent Harry McGee (@harrymcgee), Independent Newspapers group political editor Fionnan Sheahan (@fionnansheahan), TheJournal.ie political editor Hugh O'Connell (@oconnellhugh) and new UTV Ireland political editor Mary Regan (@MaryERegan), previously of the Irish Examiner.
RTÉ's Ear to the Ground presenter Ella McSweeney (@ellamcsweeney) emerged as most influential for agriculture, Newstalk business editor Ian Guider (@ianguider) for business, Independent Newspapers technology editor Adrian Weckler (@adrianweckler) for technology and Sunday Independent chief feature writer Barry Egan (@realbarryegan) for entertainment.
Measuring the clout of individual Twitter accounts has been a popular sport of late. The Murray study follows the publication in October of WHPR's #Power100, which focused mainly on politicians but included some political journalists, while in Britain, Press Gazette recently named former Daily Mirror editor Piers Morgan the most influential UK journalist on social media, ahead of Times columnist and critic Caitlin Moran and PoliticsHome.com editor Paul Waugh.
Murray used the analysis tool Twitonomy to calculate the journalists’ total number of followers, total number of retweets, percentage of tweets retweeted, total number of favourites, percentage of tweets favourited and number of tweets per day. These six metrics were then accorded different weightings to assess the overall ranking.
Although David McWilliams has the most followers with more than 113,000 accounts following @davidmcw, he was ranked just 23rd overall.
Football writer Miguel Delaney (@migueldelaney), who contributes to the Irish Examiner, sent the most tweets per day, while Simon Carswell attracted the most retweets and Conor Pope the most favourites.
The top 50-placed journalists and other findings from the study is available on MurrayConsultants.ie.
"This study is focused on the mass market influence of journalists rather than their relationships with the power elite. As such it probably provides a better benchmark of which journalists are most effective at reaching out to the general public," says Murray senior account director Doug Keatinge, who led the research.
“Editors recruiting journalists may find it sensible to consider a strong Twitter profile as one of the elements they would like to see in a candidate.”