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Is it Really About Me?

In their recent paper, Is it Really About Me? Message Content in Social Awareness Streams, Mor Naaman et al of Rutgers University, School of Communication and Information, examined the characteristics of social activity and patterns of communication on Twitter, a prominent example of the emerging class of communication systems, which they called “social awareness streams.” The authors used system data and message content from 350+ Twitter users, applying human coding and quantitative analysis to provide a deeper understanding of the activity of individuals on the Twitter network. In particular, they developed a content-based categorization of the type of messages posted by Twitter users, based on which we examine users’ activity. Their analysis shows two common types of user behaviour in terms of the content of the posted messages, and exposes differences between users in respect to these activities.

Interesting conclusions indeed.

We have performed an analysis of the content of messages posted by individuals on Twitter, a popular social awareness stream service, representing a new and understudied communication technology. Our analysis  extends the network-based observations of Java et al, showing that Twitter users represent two different types of "content camps": a majority of users focus on the "self", while a smaller set of users are driven more by sharing information. Note that although the Meformers’ self focus might be characterized by some as self-indulgent, these messages may play an important role in helping users maintain relationships with strong and weak ties. Our findings suggest that the users in the “information sharing” group tend to be more conversational, posting mentions and  replies to other users, and are more embedded in social interaction on Twitter, having more social contacts. We note that the direction of the causal relationship between information sharing behaviour and extended social activity is not clear. One hypothesis is that informers prove more “interesting” and therefore attract followers; an alternative explanation is that informers seek readers and attention for their content and therefore make more use of Twitter’s social functions; or that an increased amount of followers encourages user to post additional (informative) content. A longitudinal study may help us address these alternatives.

Finally, we did not address in this work the relationship between social network structure and social influence to the type of content posted by users. It is certainly possible that users are subject to social learning, and are influenced by the activity of others they observe on the service. We assume that theories such as social presence and social capital can help inform a theoretical understanding of the type and characteristics of content published in the service. We intend to explore these associations in future work.

Yes, as our previous researched showed, Twitter is all about "me" indeed.

The PDF version of the report can be downloaded here.

All references: [1 - 3]

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3 Responses to “Is it Really About Me?”

  1. 1

    Another good article about personal blogging and branding: http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1007366

  2. 2

    In fact, they say it is the curse of the whole “Me” generation: http://mashable.com/2010/01/15/me-generation/

  3. 3

    It is now all about dollars: http://tweetvalue.com/