I am so grateful to the 27 people who opted to complete the little survey I placed on this blog approximately a month ago. It was a class exercise – and not the best executed class exercise, either – but it was the best I could do given the general context of life and priorities.
That being said, some very interesting thoughts and ideas came out of the results for me…enough so that I thought I would share it with you. None of what I’m about to report out is even close to being identifiable – and I did mention that I might report out results in the previous post and received no communications of concern or objection. And so, here’s a small portion of the report that I’m about to turn in. Nothing here is conclusive – in fact the survey was fatally flawed, but as I said, I found some of it interesting. You might too. Thanks again for your support.
Professional Twitter Use: Survey Instrument Development
Background. Twitter is a common social media platform where participants “microblog” or create and share any combination of short messages, images, videos, and hyperlinks within a network of followers. Early studies describing Twitter culture suggest that the participants microblog to discuss day-to-day activities, engage in conversations, seek information, and report news or other current events (Java, Song, Finin, & Tseng, 2007). Since then, microblogging has evolved beyond purely social contexts to include professional uses. Documented examples include using Twitter to build professional relationships and report on professional or academic conferences in real-time (Zhao & Rosson, 2009; Kim, 2014). A brief literature review suggests that limited information exists regarding these professional uses and how they might differ from purely social uses of Twitter.
Survey Purpose. The purpose of this survey is to explore the extent to which Twitter users adapt the empirically established but thus far socially contextualized purposes of Twitter (conversation and seeking and sharing information) for professional activities. Research questions include:
- How do people use Twitter in a professional context?
- How does it relate to their other uses of Twitter?
- What are their perceptions of others’ professional use of Twitter within their profession or field of expertise?
Demographics. Of the 205 Internet users who viewed the survey on the researcher’s blog, 27 completed the survey for an estimated 13% survey response rate. This does not take into account the pool of individuals who might have seen the recruitment tweets but failed to click the link to the blog post containing the survey. As expected, a majority (62.8%) of participants self-identified as professionals in the education/training/library services fields with healthcare (12.5%) being the next best represented field.
General and Professional Twitter Use. Results suggest that participants use Twitter for “general” (M = 4.33) and “professional” (M = 4.21) purposes at least once a day. Although participants reported their “general” and “professional” use at almost equivalent levels, their responses to questions about specific activities suggest otherwise.
Professional Use by Profession. The extent to which different professions use Twitter for professional purposes can be explored through the use of this survey, but not with the current sample population, which is too homogenously employed in education/training/library sciences. A larger and more heterogeneous sample size could correct this problem.
Perceptions of Others’ Use. Results suggest that participants believe others in their professional domain use Twitter for professional purposes as much as they do. A large majority think others in their profession use Twitter moderately or frequently for professional relationship building (79.2%), learning profession-specific information (83.3%) or sharing profession-specific information (83.3%).
- Results suggest that the sample population uses Twitter primarily for professional purposes and that their activities mimic the previously established but socially-contextualized activities of interpersonal interaction, learning, and sharing. These findings are consistent with previous studies, which conclude that Twitter users with the same intentions tend to cluster; as the researcher tends to use Twitter for professional development in the educational fields, it follows that a convenience sample consisting of her followers might do the same (Chen, 2011).
- Contrary to Zhao and Rosson (2009) who conclude that professional tweeting consists primarily of socially-based chatter that enables better understanding between coworkers, this study suggests that tweeters build professional relationships around the exchange of profession-specific information rather than purely social chatter, in which participants report they rarely engage (M = 1.08).
- Finally, the sample population believe others in their profession use Twitter as much as they do. Since evidence exists to suggest that Twitter is an emerging rather than mainstream tool for professional development in most fields, the results suggest that there may be some insularity of perspective among the survey sample.
- Additional data is needed to support all or any of these conclusions. Moreover, they aren’t even close to being generalizable. But I still think it’s interesting :).
AFL-CIO Department of Professional Employees. (2013). The young professional workforce. Retrieved from: http://dpeaflcio.org/programs-publications/issue-fact-sheets/the-young-professional-workforce/
The survey provides insight into appropriate methods for classifying professional domains.
Chen, G. M. (2011). Tweet this: A uses and gratifications perspective on how active Twitter use gratifies a need to connect with others. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(2), 755-762. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2010.10.023
This study uses a hierarchical OLS regression of survey results from 317 Twitter users to describe the relationship between Twitter users.
Java, A., Song, X., Finin, T., & Tseng, B. (2007). Why we twitter: Understanding microblogging usage and communities. In Proceedings of the 9th WebKDD and 1st SNA-KDD 2007 (p. 56-65). San Jose, CA: ACM.
This frequently-cited article employs social network analysis and qualitative content analysis in one of the first attempts to classify Twitter-based activity.
Kim, D. (2014, December 4). The rules of Twitter. Hybrid Pedagogy. Retrieved from: http://www.hybridpedagogy.com/journal/rules-twitter/
This recent article updates previous descriptions of Twitter as a mediated public space, including its professional use in real-time information sharing and learning.
Pew Research Center. (2014). Social networking fact sheet. Retrieved from: http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/#
The most recent statistics on social media use from a historically reliable resource on this subject.
Vagias, W.M. (2006). Likert-type scale response anchors. Clemson International Institute for Tourism and Research Development, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management. Clemson University.Retrieved from: http://www.clemson.edu/centers-institutes/tourism/documents/sample-scales.pdf
This resource provides validated anchor options for Likert scale survey items.
Zhao, D., & Rosson, M. B. (2009). How and why people Twitter: the role that micro-blogging plays in informal communication at work. In Proceedings of the ACM 2009 International Conference (p. 243-252). San Jose, CA: ACM.
This small study uses semi-structured interviews to explore uses of Twitter in professional settings. It suggests that it enables professional relationship building, more efficient collaboration, and real-time, work-related information sharing.