Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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Twitter adoption different for Dems and GOP, but old media still rules

You know something has reached a certain maturity (or at least notoriety) when sober academics conduct research on it, and it seems that Twitter has reached that point. But you may be surprised by the results.

Researchers at the University of Toronto took a look at how those Twittering fiends in the House of Representatives use the microblogging service, and concluded that it’s different depending on whether a Democrat or a Republican is at the computer keys. Democrats have transparency motives, whereas Republicans use Twitter for outreach.

Apparently the number of bills in play at any one time influenced the adoption of Twitter, especially by Republicans. The perceived benefit of using Twitter for outreach is directly related to its potential for influencing political rivals who are also on Twitter, the researchers found.

They say that “the rate of adoption is higher if a representative has sponsored a large number of bills and belongs to committees with a large proportion of Democratic Twitter adopters. The benefit associated with outreach is substantial if Twitter can be used to garner public support for certain policies, which in turn generates support from political rivals.”

No mention was made in the research about the potential influence of the current election cycle on each party’s use. One curious finding, however, was that those members who belong to a large number of committees are less likely to adopt Twitter, as are committee chairmen.

They also mention that much of the initial Twitter adoption occurred around January 2009, when new staffers started work for representatives. That could bias things, the researchers suggest, since staffers likely assist in both the initiation of bills as well as activity on Twitter. Unsaid is the influence these mainly young, and presumably more tech-savvy, staffers had on their bosses’ adoption of Twitter.

However, don’t go too wild about the influence of Twitter and all things social media, at least not just yet. A study by the American Customer Satisfaction Index says that many consumer don’t find soclal media all that satisfying. In fact Facebook, which is far more widely used than Twitter, scored lower in user satisfaction than even IRS e-filers.

What do users find the most satisfying online experience? Cable news sites such as Fox News, MSNBC.com and CNN.com, as well as those of major news outlets such as the New York Times and USA Today. That doesn’t mean to say that eyeballs are veering away from social media, though, and since politicos always go to where the numbers are, Twitter and its social brethren are probably safe.

 

Posted by John Stein Monroe on Jul 21, 2010 at 12:20 PM


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