Tweet me a URL and make your communication richer

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: URLs

Some of the previous studies suggested that URLs in tweets are a sign of engagement given the URL purpose to provide additional information and therefore engage a follower with the page content of the URL.

Although this might be the case, it is difficult to trace and monitor the clicks on the links, unless specialised URL shortening services also provide analytics along with the shortening tool service. Therefore the URL category was not treated as an engagement parameter in this research project.

“Sharing links is a central practice in Twitter” (Boyd et al[1]., 2010, p.3), therefore it is common practice to add links (URLs) to a tweet body to enable followers find out more about the tweet content.

All URLs employed in tweets are normally shortened either by the tweet author (using a shortening software tool) or by Twitter itself.

The URLs in a tweet are a way to promote information in all formats such as pictures, video and texts. The URLs employed by Social Europe, EURes and Commissioner Andor provide relevant information about what type of content they recommended on Twitter, and in what format this content was delivered to the audience.

The three account holders placed 1415 URLs in 1255 tweets out of 2048 (the total amount of tweets). There were 21 URLs either broken or mistyped, therefore I discarded them and considered 1394 URLs, which I validated myself, while visiting the webpages to identify their content category and format.

URLs and tweets with URLs vs. total of tweets

In terms of tweets employing URLs vs. tweet volume per user, EURes leads with 77%, followed by Commissioner Andor and Social Europe, 62% and 54% respectively, while 61% represents the user average (Table 1).

Table 1: URL overview by account

Table 1: URL overview by account

The number of URLs vs. the number of tweets including URLs is higher, meaning that there was more than one URL in each of the tweets (Table 1). Commissioner Andor led with 120%, followed by Social Europe with 107% and EURes with 104%, while the user average is 111%.

Figure 1: Links and tweets with links vs. total of tweets

Figure 1: Links and tweets with links vs. total of tweets

It is worth mentioning that 61% of tweets published by the three account holders contained 1394 URLs, meaning 1394 webpages. This is a remarkable volume of information which was distributed through Twitter to the three account holders’ followers in 2012. It would be interesting to find out how many people clicked on the URLs and why, but this is not the subject of this research.

Websites linked in the tweet body

I identified nine major groups of websites (where the 1394 URLs from the tweets highlighted) while visiting the websites linked by the URLs in the tweet bodies (Table 2). The information in the table is sorted in descending order of the URL total, from the largest to the smallest number.

Table 2: Website categories

Table 2: Website categories

The three account holders together had a particular preference for recommending other websites (20%, 284 URLs), employment policies (16%, 228 URLs) and employment policy news (16%, 222 URLs) published by the European Commission. The statistics in both Table 2 and Figure 2 reveal that EURes, Social Media Networks, other EU institutions, EC other departments, EY2012 and Commissioner Andor websites follow on in the next six positions.

Figure 2: Categories of websites linked in the tweet body

Figure 2: Categories of websites linked in the tweet body

In terms of individual use of URLs the results indicate that Social Europe focused more on promoting “EC EMPL Social Europe” (11% policies), the European Commission (EC) news covering mainly its policies and EURes activities. EURes focused more attention to its own website (10%). In second position was the “Social Media Networks”, where EURes was more active, while the “Other websites” category came in third position. The preferences of Commissioner Andor were “Other websites” (14%), in the first instance, followed by “EC News” in second position and “EC EMPL Social Europe” (employment policies) in the third position.

Websites’ languages

In terms of user average the website language options were as follows: approximately 68% of the URLs pointed to English content, 13% pointed to content in 23 languages and 9% pointed to bilingual content (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Websites' languages

Figure 3: Websites’ languages

At individual level, the results illustrate different preferences: 1) Social Europe with 69% to content in 23 languages, 34% to content in English and 33% to bilingual content; 2) EURes with 87% of content in 25 languages, its own website, 44% of content in 4-22 languages and 24% English content; 3) Commissioner Andor with 61% trilingual content, 54% bilingual content and 42% English content. The figures validate the statements made by the three account administrators during the interviews. They explained that their preference for English content was based on website content being available mainly in English and also on the available human resources to handle this content on Twitter.

Content categories

In terms of content category the first preference of the three account holders was to link their tweets to mixed content (69%), while their second preference was the “Text only” category (17%). The third preference was the “Video only” category with 12%, mainly video content on Youtube and EC Audio-visual gallery (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Content categories

Figure 4: Content categories

Social media and social networks are well represented among the nine website categories. The three account holders gave equal attention to linking their tweets to mixed content (69%). It appears that the most efficient communication occurred when the followers are redirected to a combination of text, pictures, videos, and rarely sound. The second option was to link to “text only” category (17%), mainly documents and other text-based communications (Figure 4). The third option was the “video” category (12%) which account administrators believe have some significant impact.

Content format

Most of the content recommended by the three account holders to their audiences (Figure 5) was in HTML format (93%), followed by PDF format (7%, mainly policy documents) and PPT format (0.1%).

Figure 5: Content format distribution by user

Figure 5: Content format distribution by user

About 3/4 of the tweets were linked primarily to webpages with content covering employment, social affairs and inclusion policies. This is an important achievement which shows the need to bridge the EC’s communication needs and readers’ expectations. It is obvious that the most featured websites through Twitter URLs are websites managed by the departments of the three accounts. The other websites contained related information to the tweets’ subjects which will be introduced in the next sections. It is worth noting the information volume that was handled through a 140 character content unit. The tweets occasionally contained more than one link depending on the communication needs of the users.

There was a balanced option of the three account holders to tweet links to HTML format (25%, 18%, 25%), which accounts for 93% of the user average, while PDFs came in the second position, the most utilised format for documents and other publications (7%). Surprisingly, Commissioner Andor occasionally linked to PowerPoint presentations (0.1%).

The most balanced language group was English where the three account holders are closer: Social Europe with 34%, EURes with 24% and Commissioner Andor with 42%.

Previous articles on the same subject

Case study: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Time metrics

The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012: Content languages and hashtagging

Why mentions on Twitter help people communicate: The European Commission’s EMPL presence on Twitter in 2012

[1] Boyd, D. et al. (2010), Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter, HICSS-43

Social media versus social networks

Social media versus social networks

Murthy[1] (2013) provides a detailed introduction to Twitter and all its functions. He initially examines theoretical concepts and mechanisms and proceeds to relevant examples of good and poor practice on Twitter. He distinguishes between social media, social networks and micro-blogging and defines each of them through their own attributes.

A metaphor picturing social media and social networks

A metaphor picturing social media and social networks

According to Murthy, Twitter belongs to social media because it enables users to share content that is public by default. Murthy believes Facebook and LinkedIn are social networks where following users implies reciprocity and only “friends” or connections are able to access the content, which does not happen on Twitter. Therefore, according to Murthy, Twitter belongs to social media while Facebook and LinkedIn are social networks.

Citing Boyd and Ellison (2008, p.211) Murthy[2] (2012) states that social networks are “web services which facilitate users maintaining a ‘public or semi-public profile within a bounded system’ and through which they can ‘articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection’”.

Social media is actually an environment where “‘ordinary’ people in ordinary social networks (as opposed to professional journalists) can create user-generated ‘news’ (in a broadly defined sense)” (p.1061). The social dimension of social media makes it different from “traditional media” as the former “is designed to facilitate social interaction, the sharing of digital media, and collaboration” (p.1061).

In support to his statement Murthy (2012) explains:

For the sake of clarity, I define microblogging as an internet-based service in which (1) users have a public profile in which they broadcast short public messages or updates whether they are directed to specific user(s) or not, (2) messages become publicly aggregated together across users, and (3) users can decide whose messages they wish to receive, but not necessarily who can receive their messages; this is in distinction to most social networks where following each other is bi-directional (i.e. mutual) (p.1061).

In contrast with social network sites where “users often interact with people they know offline (Boyd, 2007; Ellison et al., 2007), users of social media often consume media produced by people they find of interest, leading to interactions with strangers and, albeit more rarely, celebrities” (Murthy, p.1061).

Image source

[1] Murthy, D. (2013), Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age, Cambridge, Polity Press.

[2] Murthy, D. (2012), “Towards a Sociological Understanding of Social Media: Theorizing Twitter” in Sociology, 46(6), pp. 1059-1073, Sage

Being High Tech And All

I used to think that being high tech is a geek thing. Poor old me thought that it was enough to have a MacBook and a Facebook account to call someone high-tech. Such a joke… I used to think that “less is more” when it came to mobile apps and didn’t even bother downloading Twitter or Instagram on my phone. What’s the use? It’s going to eat up all my mobile data and battery. All that talk on iOS being better than Android or vice-versa was making me dizzy. I couldn’t even see the difference…

I used to shrug at iPads… until I got mine. That’s when my world got shaken by the high-tech earthquake. Major life-changing purchase. Probably the best investment I’ve ever made in my life (thank you, graduation gift)! This love story started in a supermarket. Seriously, keep on reading. An Apple store is way too cliché. In Belgium, most of the Carrefour supermarkets have an IT aisle (I don’t even know if that’s the proper name) where they show on display new phones, new computers aaand – yes – iPads to play with. All the kids go there which makes the toys aisle a sad and forgotten place. I wasn’t really fancying trying out iPads and see their features, especially when seeing 10 kids fighting for one (almost like fighting for life). Sigh. When I was a kid, I used to fight for a swing because it was my turn. One day, while every kid in town was at school, I decided to pack up my courage and finally pick up an iPad and see what the fuss is all about. Bang, I fell in love! “Oh my Goood, look at this! It’s brilliant! You can slide the apps! Oooh, let’s see the apps! Hmm, music, video, iTunes… iBooks?! Oh my everlovin’… did you see the image resolution? Free books?! You can highlight things in a book? You can make notes? You can bookmark it? Face Tiiime! Even better than Skype (well, actually I wouldn’t know… most of my friends have Skype instead so I don’t use Face Time that much). There’s an app for playing the piano? And drums!” And this and that and… I had to lie down. I had to buy an iPad. Well, after reading 10 275 reviews on it and see how to make the most of it, I have finally ordered it online last year. Best investment ever.  For free time but also for university: pairing it with a Logitech keyboard makes it a tiny laptop that you can easily carry with you. That’s for my love story. This should be turned into a romantic comedy.

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What’s quite funny is that I’m a lover of all things vintage. Throw me anything vintage or vintage-inspired, I will take it. A few years ago, I wasn’t the least bit interested in this addictive high-tech world. I used to be against smartphones and Kindle readers. As an avid reader and old books collector, Kindle seemed like a slow poison for the publishing industry. A while ago, I have actually realised that you have to be open-minded and keep an eye open for everything evolving out there. I would hate to see e-readers replacing real books because there is no better feeling that buying a new book and hold it in your hands. Books are an object of art, there is a lot of work behind them. I have a friend working in the publishing industry and told me that a book certainly doesn’t get published overnight. But, let’s be honest: if I had to travel somewhere for a long time and wanted to pack 5 books with me, I’d much rather download them on my iPad because it takes less space. From a practical point of view, e-books have the upper hand. But this doesn’t mean I will throw away all my printed books. Each book I own has a story and memories behind it: my childhood, my obsession with horses at twelve, my teenage years, my poetic self at sixteen, my university years where I had to read French, Italian and Spanish classic authors… It’s hard to throw that away. Even if the pages are yellowed or if the spines are bent, flipping through the pages brings back all those memories.

On top of all of this, I also bought a real smartphone. A Samsung Galaxy S3 to be exact. You know, the one which was voted the best smartphone in 2012. By the way, Amazon, I love you for your crazy deals! I don’t know how I managed to live without one before… Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and LinkedIn grouped on HootSuite? Yes, please! Of course, there are many drawbacks to having a smartphone, like becoming utterly addicted and anti-social with people around you. Balance is the key. When I’m with friends, I don’t dive into my phone, refreshing every news feed. But I guess it’s reassuring to know that you can keep in touch with everyone. Sure, a simple phone call is easier but who said you can reach everyone with phone calls nowadays? There are plenty of people who don’t even bother answering anymore because you’re interrupting their tweet… 

Even if I decided to keep pace with the era I live in, this doesn’t make me inconsiderate towards old things because I still appreciate their value. For some things, I’m really old-fashioned. But, turning into a high tech gal made me aware of new interesting things. and the best is yet to come! I think this is closely related to my newest addiction to social media. Ok, “addiction” is a big word. Let’s say, “affection”. That sounds even more creepy. Well, you get the idea! 😉

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