This study follows on the heels of a similar study conducted by the authors and now in print in Computers and Human Behavior. That study examined the role of link posting on Facebook…this study builds on that and recent research into motivations for the use of varying social media platforms.
We all know Twitter has exploded as an information hub. People search out and share everything from Super Bowl commercials to Pink’s newest video to breaking news about North Korea. There are more than 500 million users, roughly half of them active, now posting more than a billion tweets, photos, videos, and links each week. There are a bevy of social media platforms, but Twitter is unique in that people actively seek and share news-related information alongside the commentary they would normally find in other spaces like Facebook. Part of this seeking and sharing involves links…broadly, “What drives people to include links in their tweets?”
Hyperlinks allow users to direct one another in digital spaces while displaying their own interests. They are a fundamental part of today’s communication and help promote knowledge across digital spaces. They are, in a sense, digital markers showing people where to go for more information. Much research has explored the motivations for using social networks and social media spaces, but few have looked at the reasons people use links on these sites.
Twitter has allowed users to break out of the old news cycle, or the old news jar, so to speak. They can communicate in almost any fashion they choose, and can also serve as conduits of breaking news and information. Studies have shown that people are using Twitter to monitor and select important content and to engage in conversations about the news. They have also shown that people enjoy being social, making friends, and making new contacts while engaging in content sharing. If, as Humphreys and Hermida have suggested, Twitter helps users connect, coordinate, and catalogue information, then it is important to consider motivations for all types of content being posted. Links are a key cataloguing and connective device, therefore we should ask why they are employed.
Thinking about the continued pressure from public health officials to alter their reporting tactics, and given that gain and loss frames can play a role in persuading people to certain health actions, this study sought to identify if journalists’ efforts in reporting health matched up with public responses. That resulted in the following research questions.
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Frequency of posting links was measured with a 6-point scale ranging from never to more than four times per week. Respondents were 68.7% female, between 24-35 years old on average, and had a four-year college degree on average. They had 269 followers on average, followed 240 users, and spent approximately 22 minutes on Twitter daily.
Info. Sharing might be “to share news” or “to share information that others might find useful.” Interpersonal utility might be “to meet people with similar interests” Passing time might be “because I have nothing better to do” Convenience and entertainment might be “because it provides a distraction” Information seeking might be “to get information quickly” Control and promoting work might be “to promote the work of others I know” “to promote my own work.”
Thus indicating that journalists are paying attention to the urgings of public officials, attempting to plug more thematic frames into stories and balancing the gain and loss frames. But what does this tell us about public reaction, which is what the public health officials are really after?
A regression controlling for variables revealed the above. We expected control and promoting work to be a significant predictor (and especially information sharing), but information seeking as the biggest predictor surprised us. In terms of r-squared change (percent change), demographics predicted 7% of the link-posting frequency, amount of use predicted 47%, number of followers predicted 16%, and the measured motivations predicted 4%....all at the statistically significant level. Our model predicted 74% of the change, which is terrific, but also means there’s another 26% out there unaccounted for
Adamic (2008) discussed he possible role of the social hyperlink, and other scholars have explored this… Generally noting that links may play many roles other than simply laying the foundation for new communities or conversations. Indeed, the results here showed that information sharing was indeed a major motivator of linking, but it was not an indicator of link frequency. Instead, information seeking was. This may seem counter-intuitive until we stop and think about how we post information to Twitter. Take the mot recent threats North Korea has been making. People have shared information via Twitter and they have also asked a wealth of questions, posing them often alongside information they found. The same goes for complex medical issues. People find interesting information about nanotechnology, share it with others and pose a question at all once. In this way, they are creating communal spaces where reciprocity is expected. Communal reciprocity is part of today’s Twitter-sphere and can help Twitter users as well as media organizations understand and develop stronger approached to communication via Twitter and other social media.
Socializing, communality, and other motivations
for linking on Twitter
@AveryHolton | Kang Hui Baek
@MarkCoddington | Carolyn Yaschur
RQ: What are Twitter users’ motivations for
sharing links on Twitter?
RQ: Do Twitter users’ motivations for sharing
links influence their frequency of link sharing?
Motives generated from open-ended responses
and coded into 8 motives using prior research
(Holton et al., 2011; Kim et al., 2011; LaRose & Eastin, 2004;
Papacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Sun et al., 2008)
Convenience & Entertainment
40 items measured the eight motives.
A factor analysis revealed six categorical groups:
Convenience and Entertainment
Control and Promoting Work
* Information sharing most salient (16.48%)
* All factors correlated at the .01 level.
* Information sharing/control and promoting
work & information sharing/convenience and
entertainment were the highest correlates
* Control and promoting work was a
significant predictor of link-posting frequency
( =β .13, p <.01)
* Passing time presented a negative
association ( = -β .10, p <.01)
* But the biggest predictor was information
seeking ( =β .16, p <.001)