Social media is now a daily phenomenon in the digital world and sharing, uploading and accessing content has never been so widely available than it is now through social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest; social sharing sites such as Digg, Technorati, Reddit, and participating in blogs and forums.
Developing research methods with the evolution of social media, Twitter is a great tool for academic research; if you know how and where to look for it. Once you’ve signed up to the social networking site you can begin to tweet, join in the conversation, and use the free data available straight away. In fact, there are many institutions that are already on Twitter such as Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University and OCVC.
For those of you who are not already fellow Tweeters, Twitter is a free micro-blogging network which allows people to ‘Tweet’ messages with a maximum of 140 characters. Tweets can include links to online material – web pages, photos, videos, blogs etc. – and can be sent from a computer, smart phone or tablet. You choose the people that you follow, in regards of your personal and academic interests, and their tweets will be displayed in your personal feed. You can also use Twitter’s search bar to find tweets on any topic or word (which we will discuss in detail later).
Now you are clued up on Twitter, here are some tips on how to use Twitter for research:
To Ask or to Search? The two main ways of conducting research on Twitter is either to ask questions or search for answers.
- You can ask questions to your followers or you can directly target people you want to answer the questions by tweeting to their username – @username.
- Add hash tags to your tweets – #tag – on the topic you are asking the question on, in order to be found in people’s #tag searches. For example, if you’re question was about science you could use the hash tags, #science #biology, to categorize your question.
- You can direct followers to a survey of questions on a webpage by including a link in your tweet.
Searching for Answers
- Tweets are publicly accessible so you can use Twitter’s search bar to search for answers to questions, topics and keywords
- Search #tags to find relevant information about trends
- You can search tweets from certain followers and see answers to their questions.
Searching for the correct information you need on Twitter can be complex. Here are some tools to help with research on Twitter and how to find the relevant information you need from the data available online.
- Twitter Advanced Search Feature offers more search options, allowing you to categorise your search queries.
- Conversation Search provides links in the search results to relevant conversations on the topic you are researching – with the link ‘see conversation’.
- Geographical Search allows a particular geographical area to be researched. You can use twitterlocal.net as a tool to search tweets on any topic in a particular location.
- Industry Experts in the area you are researching on Twitter can help to find research. Search their @username on tweetstats.com to monitor their tweets and see which keywords and trends they tweet about the most.
- RRS Feeds allow you to sign up to Twitter tool’s feeds and monitor them by streaming search queries. Hootsuite.com is also helpful for monitoring searches for keywords and hash tags on your desktop.
In effect, Tweeters are making history in ‘real-time’; which makes Twitter a great place for finding research. Tweets are publicly available and archived online, meaning that in the future as more people continue to Tweet, more historical data on any topic tweeted about will be available to find online.