Twitter study reveals hidden depths in 140 characters

TwitterWho would have thought that Twitter could be an informational and educational tool better than traditional media? That’s the implication of work by Benjamin Gleason, a researcher at Michigan State University. But this notion is based on evidence. The study collected all the Tweets produced about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement and placed them in a database where proper analysis was conducted.

The data shows that there are a wide array of viewpoints expressed and that these represent a much more complete picture of the subject than found in a newspaper. As a result, people could get a better understanding of a topic if they follow it on Twitter than if they rely on mainstream media.

Of course, this rather depends upon the involvement of people on Twitter. If you set up a series of Tweets and chat away about your ideas on a topic, yet no-one else says a word, then the Twitter stream would be biased and much less informative than a newspaper article where the reporter would at least attempt to strike a balance between different sides of the argument.

However, for mainstream topics it could well be worthwhile following the discussions on Twitter to get a better picture of the subject and enhance your understanding.

The easiest way of doing this is with HootSuite, where you can set up a separate stream for each topic you want to follow. Either set up a “search” for the topic or a column for a popular hashtag. That way you will be easily kept updated on the subject and be able to see all the various views.

If the research on Occupy Wall Street is right, then you could well learn more from doing this than if you rely on mainstream magazines to keep you updated on topics.

2 thoughts on “Twitter study reveals hidden depths in 140 characters”

  1. Thanks for the heads up Graham, although honestly, I’ve felt social media is more representative than the traditional media for some time now.

    The recent death of Margaret Thatcher was a case in point and exposed the media to be very London-centric and driven by Westminster as what they were saying was not reflecting the negativity and crucially neutrality of tweets using the variety of hashtags,

    There was even a infographic (below) that analysed the sentiment of hundreds of thousands of tweets and the results were very different from the reporting of the national media. Blogs reported the infographic, but missed it if it was in the traditional media.

    As a former print journalist turned PR, I do despair at the blindly grasping way the traditional media try to engage with social media. Sharing hard news it is hard to beat the way they use it, but capturing the ever evolving essence is something that escapes them and sadly alienates potential readers who have a sense that there is always more out there than there is on a broadsheet or tabloid page.

    • Thanks for the insight Nigel and the infographic. I agree, it is almost unbelievable that much mainstream media is still operating in some kind of isolated bubble, working as if they hope this interweb thingy will disappear…!

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