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  • 20 Apr 2019 10:01 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    As we enter into a new political campaign season, it's good to review research on fake news. This article digs and is informative. 

    Americans 65 and older share more fake news than other age groups. Why?

    Fake News

    Credit: Adobe Stock

    Fake news sharing was an epidemic in 2016. But according to researchers, those claims seem to have been exaggerated. In a recent study, over 90% of 3,500 respondents surveyed shared no fake news at all. If most of us don’t think we were sharing fake news, who makes up the 10%?

    The study, published in January from Princeton University, looked at sharing habits for so-called “fake news domains” — outlets that published false stories intentionally designed to look like news articles and mislead the reader. Though sharing this content was still a relatively rare activity, the study found that Facebook users who shared the most fake news — nearly seven times as many articles as any other — were ones over 65. Older Americans shared more fake news stories even when researchers held all other factors constant, including political ideology.

    “Age was significantly associated with sharing more articles from designated ‘fake news’ domains, on average,” said the lead author of the study, Andrew Guess, an assistant professor of politics and public affairs at Princeton. “No matter which way we tried to slice it or how we did the analysis, that finding kept coming up.”

    It’s a Collective Harm

    Facebook has seen a huge growth in older users, according to a Pew Research Center study published in February. Forty-one percent of Americans 65 and older use Facebook — more than double the amount from 2012. Yet even with that growth, Facebook’s practices remain opaque to most of its users: According to the same study, more than half of the platform’s adult users don’t understand how their newsfeeds work.

    Research hasn’t proven much help on that front, either. Because each user’s newsfeed is created by Facebook’s internal algorithm, a mixture of personalized statistics and advertiser priorities, the Princeton study lacked the ability to see exactly what on its respondents’ feeds led them to share fake news stories.

    That confusion creates an opening for potential scammers with political motivations. Guess likened the rise of fake news on social media to the early-2000s trend of email chain letters, which also often involved false or misleading news articles. Email financial scams frequently target older Americans, but Guess noted that an information scam has different consequences.

    “The harm done isn’t on an individual level,” he said. “People aren’t necessarily losing their savings. But there is potentially a collective harm, in the sense that the overall information environment could be degraded and it just adds to confusion.”

    The Emotional Manipulation of Fake News

    The sheer amount of fake news stories online has grown exponentially in the last decade, as coordinated political groups have exploited the behavior of social media users. “Most of the content is reproduced, amplified and spread by people who don’t know that it’s false,” said Kate Starbird, an assistant professor in the department of human centered design and engineering at the University of Washington.

    Over the last decade, Starbird has studied the ways people share news on social media — particularly on Twitter — after crisis events like mass shootings. She didn’t start out analyzing disinformation, she says, but that portion of her work has grown over the years as disinformation campaigns have became more widespread.

    A common characteristic of the most successful fake news stories, Starbird said, is that they play on the reader’s emotions. “When you’re feeling really angry or really upset or really disgusted, that’s kind of a hint that someone’s trying to manipulate you,” she said.

    Starbird particularly noted this phenomenon in the wake of the Paris terror attacks and the Umpqua Community College mass shooting in Roseburg, Ore., both of which occurred in fall 2015 as the U.S. presidential campaign was heating up. Almost immediately on social media, Starbird said, disinformation campaigns worked to ascribe political ideologies to the attacks. In some cases, bogus stories created “false flag” conspiracy theories questioning whether the attacks had even taken place.

    The trend of politically-inflected fake news accelerated through the rest of the 2016 presidential campaign.

    According to the Princeton study, nearly half of the misinformation released during the period played on conservative, explicitly pro-Trump or anti-Hillary Clinton viewpoints, often from domains disguised to look like legitimate news organizations, like “The Denver Guardian” and “abcnews.com.co.”

    Much of it did come from well-publicized Russian operations, which often targeted online political communities ranging from fans of Fox News host Sean Hannity to members of Black Lives Matter. But Starbird said other groups were behind the disinformation, too, including Iran, Hezbollah and the Syrian government.

    How Did We Get Here?

    Why is sharing fake news more common among older Americans? Starbird doesn’t work directly with age demographics in her research, but she has some ideas:

    “Older adults who might have come of age in a different information environment may not be as savvy or have the same skill-set, or even the same training, to be able to manage some of the ways that … misinformation and disinformation come at them online,” she said.

    But other digital media researchers who do work more closely with age populations want to draw a distinction between older users and social media newcomers, which often, but not always, overlap. “I hesitate to conclude this is only an age problem,” said Robin Brewer, assistant professor in the University of Michigan’s School of Information studying accessibility in computing across age groups and other demographics.

    “I think it’s more likely that newcomers are more likely to share ‘fake news’ because they are unable to adequately identify cues that the information isn’t from a reputable source,” Brewer said. But, she noted, “older adults are not new to the internet.” They simply aren’t the target demographic for a platform like Facebook, so they’re more likely to approach social media as newcomers.

    Guess is also hesitant to draw too many conclusions about the culpability of older Americans in spreading fake news.

    “Maybe it’s true that people over 65 have always been more susceptible to political misinformation,” Guess said. “But also it could just be true that this could be a weird feature of the 2016 election.”

    Innovative Fact-Checking Is the Future

    How can social media users address the problem for future election cycles, especially when many sharers of “fake news” have told researchers, including Starbird, they don’t care whether the stories they share are true?

    Starbird believes early detection can still prevent the spread of fake news, because it prevents would-be amplifiers from having to rationalize their actions after the fact (or fake).

    To that end, several colleges and startups are developing real-time fact-checking procedures, powered by everything from crowdsourcing to artificial intelligence, with the goal of catching and flagging disinformation before it spreads.

    And Facebook has gradually instituted new attempts to make its platform more transparent and cut down on fake news sharing. The company is providing more information to users about why its algorithm is generating certain posts in their newsfeeds, and, most significantly, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently floated the idea of creating a new section of the platform dedicated to “high-quality news.”

    Already, some fake-news proprietors who made healthy profits off of Facebook shares in 2016 have had to drastically scale back operations after the site tinkered with its algorithm.

    False or misleading political information existed before social media, and it’s unlikely to completely disappear from the public space. But controlling its spread in the present day requires properly understanding it.

    Put astutely by Guess: “It’s difficult to even get well-trained humans to agree on whether or not something is fake.”

     By Andrew Lapin


  • 11 Apr 2019 9:04 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Pew Research most recent stats...

    BY ANDREW PERRIN AND MONICA ANDERSON

    The share of U.S. adults who say they use certain online platforms or apps is statistically unchanged from where it stood in early 2018 despite a long stretch of controversies over privacy, fake news and censorship on social media, according to a new Pew Research Center survey conducted Jan. 8 to Feb. 7, 2019.

    Facebook, YouTube continue to be the most widely used online platforms among U.S. adultsMore broadly, the steady growth in adoption that social platforms have experienced in the United States over the past decade also appears to be slowing. The shares of adults who say they use Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Twitter are each largely the same as in 2016, with only Instagram showing an uptick in use during this time period. (There are no comparable 2016 phone survey data for YouTube, Snapchat, WhatsApp or Reddit.)

    Facebook – which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary – remains one of the most widely used social media sites among adults in the U.S. Roughly seven-in-ten adults (69%) say they ever use the platform. (A separate 2018 Center survey showed Facebook use among U.S. teens had dropped in recent years.) YouTube is the only other online platform measured that matches Facebook’s reach: 73% of adults report using the video sharing site. But certain online platforms, most notably Instagram and Snapchat, have an especially strong following among young adults.

    Instagram, Snapchat remain especially popular among those ages 18 to 24

    Snapchat and Instagram are especially popular among 18- to 24-year-oldsAs was true in previous surveys of social media use by the Center, there are substantial age-related differences in platform use. This is especially true of Instagram and Snapchat, which are used by 67% and 62% of 18- to 29-year-olds, respectively.

    Particularly for these two platforms, there are also pronounced differences in use within the young adult population. Those ages 18 to 24 are substantially more likely than those ages 25 to 29 to say they use Snapchat (73% vs. 47%) and Instagram (75% vs. 57%).

    By comparison, age differences are less pronounced for Facebook. Facebook use is relatively common across a range of age groups, with 68% of those ages 50 to 64 and nearly half of those 65 and older saying they use the site.

    Other demographic patterns related to social media and messaging app use are relatively unchanged from last year. Women are nearly three times as likely as men to use Pinterest (42% vs. 15%). Around half of college graduates and those who live in high-income households use LinkedIn, compared with 10% or fewer of those who have not attended at least some college or those in lower-income households. And WhatsApp continues to be popular among Hispanics: 42% use the messaging app, compared with 24% of blacks and 13% of whites. (For more details on social media and messaging app use by different demographic groups, see the bottom of the post.)

    Majority of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram users visit these sites daily

    Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users visit the site on a daily basisA 2018 Center survey found that some Facebook users had recently taken steps to moderate their use of the site – such as deleting the Facebook app from their phone or taking a break from the platform for some time. But despite these findings and amid some high profile controversies, Facebook users as a whole are just as active on the site today as they were a year ago. Roughly three-quarters of Facebook users (74%) visit the site daily, including about half who do so several times a day. These shares are identical to those reported by Facebook users in the Center’s 2018 social media use survey.

    Majorities of Snapchat and Instagram users also say they visit these sites daily, though they are slightly less likely than Facebook users to do so. The shares of young adults using these platforms daily are especially large. Roughly eight-in-ten Snapchat users ages 18 to 29 (77%) say they use the app every day, including 68% who say they do so multiple times day. Similarly, 76% of Instagram users in this age group visit the site on a daily basis, with 60% reporting that they do so several times per day. These patterns are largely similar to what the Center found in 2018.

    Other platforms are visited somewhat less frequently. Some 51% of YouTube users say they visit the site daily – a slight increase from the 45% who said this in 2018.

    Use of different online platforms by demographic groups


  • 29 Mar 2019 2:17 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Using social media as an alternative around advertising restrictions isn't cool.   From FastCompany:

    Ongoing research shows how tobacco firms market to young people, even as tighter rules on tobacco and vaping in the U.S. are being cast into doubt.

    BY ROBERT KOZINETS

    5 MINUTE READ

    Big Tobacco is increasingly using social media to find new ways to hook young people on smoking, circumventing decades of laws restricting the marketing of traditional cigarettes to minors.

    In major cities around the world such as Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Jakarta, and Milan, tobacco companies have been holding extravagant events with names like “K_Player” and “RedMoveNow” that were designed to connect with young people. Often featuring alcohol, live music, and attractive hosts, these lavish events spare no expense as they seek find new buyers for their tobacco products.

    The problem? Those partygoers are carefully targeted young influencers, who are encouraged to share photos of their glamorous tobacco-sponsored adventures with friends and followers on social media using appealing hashtags like #iamonthemove#decideyourflow, and #mydaynow. And although the influencers are over 18, their social media followers can be much younger.

    This exploitation of social media’s organic reach is one of the findings from a global research project I’ve been working on since 2016 with more than a dozen different scholars. The anti-smoking advocacy group Tobacco-Free Kids noticed a lot of photos of young people with cigarettes turning up in their online scans of global social media and asked me to look into it.

    My own research focuses on how to rigorously research online culture using natural observational techniques, something that this study definitely required.

    My team’s task was to monitor, report upon, and analyze the programs behind the hashtagged social media posts of young people smoking. What we learned about tobacco company’s current advertising surprised us.

    SKIRTING MARKETING RESTRICTIONS

    Tobacco companies have always had a knack for finding creative ways to skirt regulations intended to curb marketing to young people.

    In 1971, the U.S. Congress banned tobacco ads from television and radio. In response, companies invested heavily in outdoor advertising and magazines. In 1997, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement banned tobacco on outdoor and billboard ads. In response, tobacco money flowed into sponsorships of sports, music, and other events. These type of event sponsorships were banned, with some exceptions, in 2010, at the same time wider restrictions on youth marketing were also introduced.

    No matter the medium, the messaging was often the same: find ways to reach new and young potential smokers. As documents from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library reveal, tobacco executives have long believed that the continued survival and success of their companies depends on one thing: convincing young people to buy their products.

    In 2005, the World Health Organization banned tobacco advertising in 168 signatory countries. By 2010, the U.S. had closed a lot of Big Tobacco’s favorite advertising and tobacco loopholes.

    With conventional media mostly off-limits, what was Big Tobacco to do? Like the Marlboro Man, the unregulated Wild West of social media rode to the rescue.

    THE PERFECT MARKETING MEDIUM

    Social media fits Big Tobacco’s advertising needs to a tee.

    At least 88 percent of American youth say they use social media apps like Facebook and Instagram regularly, and the technologies are notoriously difficult to regulate.

    With Tobacco-Free Kids’ financial support, I assembled a growing team of researchers to investigate. Our work is ongoing.

    My team collected a plethora of social media data and also conducted interviews with a range of tobacco brand ambassadors, party attendees, influencers and industry insiders from around the world. What we found was an astoundingly effective use of social media by a range of different tobacco companies to connect with the next generation of potential cigarette smokers.

    While tobacco companies were careful to abide by the letter of the law–the influencers involved in these posts were all of legal smoking age in their countries–social media has a public setting that makes it an effective and largely unregulated form of broadcast.

    Legally, anyone age 13 or over can have an Instagram or Facebook account. Our “netnography“–a type of qualitative social media inquiry that focuses on cultural contexts, social structures, and deeper meanings–only looked at public posts, images that any 13-year-old with an account could see.

    Related:Beware of this new dark pattern popping up in ads and packaging

    TRAINING CAMPS AND POP-UP PARTIES

    Our investigation uncovered a range of promotional activities and a web of public relations and advertising agencies that cleverly leveraged the strengths of social media to keep tobacco advertising under the radar of existing regulation.

    We found tobacco companies in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines recruiting “nano-influencers” of just 2,000-3,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram and encouraging them to post about their tobacco-sponsored adventures.

    In Indonesia, we found brand ambassador training camps that lasted two full weeks and were run by the domestic tobacco company Gudang Garam. At these camps, young nano-influencers were paid generous fees, taught about cigarette brands images, and then provided lessons about how to better maintain their social media feeds.

    Public relations agencies in Uruguay taught their influencers how to take pictures of cigarette packages in ways that best accentuated their brands, offering tips on lighting, hashtags, and the best time to post them for maximum impact.

    Some companies used Facebook pages to recruit young people to attend their parties. After answering a few questions on the Facebook page, for example, responders were enrolled in a mailing list resulting in invitations to cool pop-up “parties and edgier events.”

    At those parties, young people were greeted by attractive attendants who offered them cigarettes and encouraged them to pose with floor designs modeled after cigarette brand logos. After snapping pictures, they were encouraged to post them on their social media feed using the party’s decisiveness and action-oriented hashtags. The result was unquestionably a new form of cigarette promotion.

    These activities clearly violate the spirit of the existing agreements not to indirectly advertise to young people. You can call it stealth, undercover, or guerrilla marketing if you wish. Whatever its name, this is 21st-century cigarette advertising that reaches millions of young people around the world.

    Related: Tobacco companies beware: Smoking is at an all-time low in the U.S.

    EXPLOITING SOCIAL MEDIA

    Our research has not only helped shine a light on Big Tobacco’s unchecked use of social media, it has also informed a recent petition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission requesting it to investigate and enforce these novel forms of cigarette advertising.

    Although it might be difficult for governments to keep on top of media in these rapidly changing times, they must do so if they hope to prevent global smoking rates and their consequent health problems from rising once again. Indeed, with leadership change in the Food and Drug Administration, new and tighter regulations on tobacco and vaping in the United States are already being cast into doubt.

    Social media provide an incredible advance in communications that democratize communications in unprecedented ways. However, that openness is easy to exploit by marketers with dubious motives.

    Robert Kozinets is the Hufschmid Chair of Strategic Public Relations, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He received funding support for the research project mentioned in this article from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to reducing tobacco consumption worldwide. This article first appeared at The Conversation.

  • 29 Mar 2019 2:17 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Using social media as an alternative around advertising restrictions isn't cool.   From FastCompany:

    Ongoing research shows how tobacco firms market to young people, even as tighter rules on tobacco and vaping in the U.S. are being cast into doubt.

    BY ROBERT KOZINETS

    5 MINUTE READ

    Big Tobacco is increasingly using social media to find new ways to hook young people on smoking, circumventing decades of laws restricting the marketing of traditional cigarettes to minors.

    In major cities around the world such as Rio de Janeiro, Cairo, Jakarta, and Milan, tobacco companies have been holding extravagant events with names like “K_Player” and “RedMoveNow” that were designed to connect with young people. Often featuring alcohol, live music, and attractive hosts, these lavish events spare no expense as they seek find new buyers for their tobacco products.

    The problem? Those partygoers are carefully targeted young influencers, who are encouraged to share photos of their glamorous tobacco-sponsored adventures with friends and followers on social media using appealing hashtags like #iamonthemove#decideyourflow, and #mydaynow. And although the influencers are over 18, their social media followers can be much younger.

    This exploitation of social media’s organic reach is one of the findings from a global research project I’ve been working on since 2016 with more than a dozen different scholars. The anti-smoking advocacy group Tobacco-Free Kids noticed a lot of photos of young people with cigarettes turning up in their online scans of global social media and asked me to look into it.

    My own research focuses on how to rigorously research online culture using natural observational techniques, something that this study definitely required.

    My team’s task was to monitor, report upon, and analyze the programs behind the hashtagged social media posts of young people smoking. What we learned about tobacco company’s current advertising surprised us.

    SKIRTING MARKETING RESTRICTIONS

    Tobacco companies have always had a knack for finding creative ways to skirt regulations intended to curb marketing to young people.

    In 1971, the U.S. Congress banned tobacco ads from television and radio. In response, companies invested heavily in outdoor advertising and magazines. In 1997, the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement banned tobacco on outdoor and billboard ads. In response, tobacco money flowed into sponsorships of sports, music, and other events. These type of event sponsorships were banned, with some exceptions, in 2010, at the same time wider restrictions on youth marketing were also introduced.

    No matter the medium, the messaging was often the same: find ways to reach new and young potential smokers. As documents from the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library reveal, tobacco executives have long believed that the continued survival and success of their companies depends on one thing: convincing young people to buy their products.

    In 2005, the World Health Organization banned tobacco advertising in 168 signatory countries. By 2010, the U.S. had closed a lot of Big Tobacco’s favorite advertising and tobacco loopholes.

    With conventional media mostly off-limits, what was Big Tobacco to do? Like the Marlboro Man, the unregulated Wild West of social media rode to the rescue.

    THE PERFECT MARKETING MEDIUM

    Social media fits Big Tobacco’s advertising needs to a tee.

    At least 88 percent of American youth say they use social media apps like Facebook and Instagram regularly, and the technologies are notoriously difficult to regulate.

    With Tobacco-Free Kids’ financial support, I assembled a growing team of researchers to investigate. Our work is ongoing.

    My team collected a plethora of social media data and also conducted interviews with a range of tobacco brand ambassadors, party attendees, influencers and industry insiders from around the world. What we found was an astoundingly effective use of social media by a range of different tobacco companies to connect with the next generation of potential cigarette smokers.

    While tobacco companies were careful to abide by the letter of the law–the influencers involved in these posts were all of legal smoking age in their countries–social media has a public setting that makes it an effective and largely unregulated form of broadcast.

    Legally, anyone age 13 or over can have an Instagram or Facebook account. Our “netnography“–a type of qualitative social media inquiry that focuses on cultural contexts, social structures, and deeper meanings–only looked at public posts, images that any 13-year-old with an account could see.

    Related:Beware of this new dark pattern popping up in ads and packaging

    TRAINING CAMPS AND POP-UP PARTIES

    Our investigation uncovered a range of promotional activities and a web of public relations and advertising agencies that cleverly leveraged the strengths of social media to keep tobacco advertising under the radar of existing regulation.

    We found tobacco companies in countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines recruiting “nano-influencers” of just 2,000-3,000 followers on Facebook and Instagram and encouraging them to post about their tobacco-sponsored adventures.

    In Indonesia, we found brand ambassador training camps that lasted two full weeks and were run by the domestic tobacco company Gudang Garam. At these camps, young nano-influencers were paid generous fees, taught about cigarette brands images, and then provided lessons about how to better maintain their social media feeds.

    Public relations agencies in Uruguay taught their influencers how to take pictures of cigarette packages in ways that best accentuated their brands, offering tips on lighting, hashtags, and the best time to post them for maximum impact.

    Some companies used Facebook pages to recruit young people to attend their parties. After answering a few questions on the Facebook page, for example, responders were enrolled in a mailing list resulting in invitations to cool pop-up “parties and edgier events.”

    At those parties, young people were greeted by attractive attendants who offered them cigarettes and encouraged them to pose with floor designs modeled after cigarette brand logos. After snapping pictures, they were encouraged to post them on their social media feed using the party’s decisiveness and action-oriented hashtags. The result was unquestionably a new form of cigarette promotion.

    These activities clearly violate the spirit of the existing agreements not to indirectly advertise to young people. You can call it stealth, undercover, or guerrilla marketing if you wish. Whatever its name, this is 21st-century cigarette advertising that reaches millions of young people around the world.

    Related: Tobacco companies beware: Smoking is at an all-time low in the U.S.

    EXPLOITING SOCIAL MEDIA

    Our research has not only helped shine a light on Big Tobacco’s unchecked use of social media, it has also informed a recent petition to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission requesting it to investigate and enforce these novel forms of cigarette advertising.

    Although it might be difficult for governments to keep on top of media in these rapidly changing times, they must do so if they hope to prevent global smoking rates and their consequent health problems from rising once again. Indeed, with leadership change in the Food and Drug Administration, new and tighter regulations on tobacco and vaping in the United States are already being cast into doubt.

    Social media provide an incredible advance in communications that democratize communications in unprecedented ways. However, that openness is easy to exploit by marketers with dubious motives.

    Robert Kozinets is the Hufschmid Chair of Strategic Public Relations, University of Southern California, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. He received funding support for the research project mentioned in this article from the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit dedicated to reducing tobacco consumption worldwide. This article first appeared at The Conversation.

  • 26 Mar 2019 7:16 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    The following article was published by Social Media Today and does a good job in explaining the changes.

    Andrew Hutchinson@adhutchinson

    March 20, 2019ET

    It's taken some time, but Facebook has finally announced that it will step up its efforts to limit discriminatory ad targeting by removing a range of specific ad targeting options to better ensure it's systems are not used to limit audiences in an unfair manner.

    The changes relate to housing, employment and credit ads - as detailed by Facebook COO Cheryl Sandberg:

    • Anyone who wants to run housing, employment or credit ads will no longer be allowed to target by age, gender or zip code.
    • Advertisers offering housing, employment and credit opportunities will have a much smaller set of targeting categories to use in their campaigns overall. Multicultural affinity targeting will continue to be unavailable for these ads. Additionally, any detailed targeting option describing or appearing to relate to protected classes will also be unavailable.
    • We’re building a tool so you can search for and view all current housing ads in the US targeted to different places across the country, regardless of whether the ads are shown to you.

    The changes have come about as a result of action taken against Facebook by National Fair Housing Alliance, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Communication Workers of America. After various investigations found that Facebook's granular ad targeting options could be used in a discriminatory - and illegal - manner, Facebook has essentially been forced to shift focus and implement these updates.

    The first discovery on this front was uncovered by ProPublica in 2016, which found that Facebook’s system enabled advertisers to exclude black, Hispanic, and other “ethnic affinities” from seeing ads.

    Facebook ethnic affinities exclusions

    Facebook updated its policies to prevent such usage in early 2017, but still, it was entirely possible for advertisers to continue utilizing such exclusions through Facebook's complex ad targeting system. In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook removed more than 5,000 ad targeting options along the same, anti-discrimination lines, while it also rolled out a new, opt-in agreement process which gave them some legal enforcement option against businesses which chose to utilize such process.

    Facebook anti-discrimination opt in

    But those measures still didn't stop a business from targeting and/or excluding specific audiences - Facebook's latest update takes its efforts a step further, which should significantly limit the capacity of businesses to focus on audience segments in a discriminatory way.

    That said, given the complexity of its targeting algorithm, Facebook can't entirely rule out its system being used for such purpose in some manner. In examining the update for The New York Times, Pauline Kim, a professor of employment law at Washington University in St. Louis, notes that:

    “It’s within the realm of possibility, depending on how the algorithm is constructed, that you could end up serving ads, inadvertently, to biased audiences.”

    Facebook has thus far refused to provide more insight into how its ad targeting algorithms work, which leaves this element unclear, and it is possible that, based on user behaviors, the algorithm could be trained on biased habits and behaviors, facilitating discriminatory ad targeting by default.

    That's an inherent problem with algorithm-defined systems - because algorithms are trained on data obtained from actual usage, they're also tilted towards existing biases within the chosen audience. That means that societal discrimination could still be part of the calculations - if more users within a single category register more interest in a certain thing, they'll logically be targeted as a result, which is already biased based on the sample.

    How, and even if, that can be avoided is still a hot topic among machine learning experts, but even so, anything Facebook can do to limit active targeting in this regard is a positive step. 



  • 15 Mar 2019 8:49 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Dark Social is often an overlooked area of data for some brands. We can learn a lot from following brands like Starbucks who go beyond the social media threshold to uncover ways to engage with their customers in unique ways. #socialmediaresearch 

    dark web

    The coffee giant is trying to bring its marketing and product development closer together so it can jump on trends faster and get better insight on what resonates.

    By Sarah Vizard 14 Mar 2019 1:40 pm

    Starbucks on social media

    Starbucks is exploring how it can use private groups and accounts on social media to better engage with consumers around product development and testing as it looks to evolve its social media strategy.

    Speaking at an event held yesterday (13 March) by social media consultancy The Social Element, Reuben Arnold, Starbucks’ vice-president of marketing and product in EMEA, said the moves are helping it have “deeper conversations” with some customers and bring product and marketing closer together.

    “What I’m most excited about [on social media] is some of the possibilities around private groups and private accounts on social media channels,” he said. “When we think about the crossover between product and marketing, it really allows us to have a much deeper conversation with certain customers who really do care about our brand, who can then get much more involved in things like product development and testing, and we can use the audience in a much more meaningful way.”

    The groups are mostly on Facebook at the moment, although Arnold told Marketing Week Instagram is also “starting to take shape”. And while they won’t replace more traditional market research practices, Starbucks hopes this can offer a more natural way of engaging and enable it to go deeper with consumers.

    “Because I look after marketing and product, that really is quite an exciting opportunity,” he explained. “Like a lot of brands, we use trend analysis but social is a great channel to look at where those trends are starting to gain traction. Then through our own audiences it’s about how we create a highly engaged audience.

    The crossover between product and marketing allows us to have a much deeper conversation with customers who really do care about our brand, who can then get much more involved in things like product development.

    Reuben Arnold, Starbucks

    “We do that with online panels but [that] is a less natural way for people to communicate and it’s not so interactive. You can do conjoint analysis on an online panel but I find that when it’s in more of a conversational environment, it allows us to be more dynamic with our questioning and explore what resonates.”

    Starbucks is also using social media to listen not just to what customers are saying about the brand and its products but also trends in the market. For example, with dairy-free alternatives, social media allowed Starbucks to see that the conversation was shifting from a focus around intolerance to one around health and wellness, and then taste.

    “That really helped us think, we need to get ahead of this, particularly given some of our development timelines,” he said, adding: “Listening outside our own channels is important.”

    Measuring the ROI of social

    While investment in social media advertising is increasing, up to 13.8% of marketers’ overall budgets according to the latest CMO Survey, marketers are struggling to measure its impact. Just a quarter (24.7%) of marketers say they can prove the impact of social activity quantitatively, while 39.3% say they are unable to show any impact at all.

    Yet Starbucks won a silver IPA Effectiveness award last year for its social media strategy, which it calculates returned almost £4 in additional profit for every £1 spent.

    “What we were trying to demonstrate is that as a brand it’s about building an audience and building a connection,” said Arnold. “It wasn’t just a one-off big campaign, it was about building a connection with a particular segment audience and then doing interesting and different things each year to continue to engage with that audience and grow that audience base.”

    Starbucks uses econometrics in its more mature markets, including the UK, to judge success, saying it can see a “very direct correlation” between social media activity and footfall in-store and ladder that up to how many products it sold versus how much was invested.

    It also measures brand equity through measures such as follower counts in new markets, and sentiment and engagement in more mature ones. Key, said Arnold, it to set very clear KPIs by market and being focused on who is being targeted.

    “When we launch in a new market like Italy or South Africa, followers is quite an interesting link to brand awareness and brand affinity, whereas somewhere like the UK it’s going to be much more about things like mentions, sentiment, engagement,” he commented.

    “The answer is setting very clear KPIs by market and being very clear on who it is you are trying to target, rather than having broad or general metrics around how many likes, shares or follows.”

    Staying in control of social media

    The scale of social media can make measuring impact difficult. According to a survey of 60 senior marketers by The Social Element, 55% cite a lack of resource versus the size of the challenge as a big concern, while a third are concerned about controlling and engaging with content and 29% feel they have too many channels to manage.

    At Starbucks, this challenge is made greater by the fact the EMEA region covers 45 markets, each at different stages of maturity and with different local needs. To manage this, Starbucks uses a combination of guidelines and guidance, providing local social media managers with content in a toolkit format that can be edited, in a controlled way, for local language and relevance.

    “Our challenge is, how do we show up as a globally consistent brand but also show up in a market in a relevant way? Given most of our communication will be through digital and social media channels, that comes with a lot of risk as we hand over responsibility for activations in markets that aren’t directly operated by ourselves [but by franchisees],” he said.

    “Being clear on what is on-brand but also what is not on-brand is really important.”

    Our challenge is, how do we show up as a globally consistent brand but also show up in a market in a relevant way?

    Reuben Arnold, Starbucks

    For Shell, which was speaking at the same event, holding evaluation sessions is key to ensuring social media is doing the job it is meant to and that ladders up to the business strategy.

    “It’s not about having a social media strategy, it’s about having social support your business strategy and what you are trying to do. People often get confused by the two,” said Lee Goodger, social media business strategist at Shell.

    “Sometimes there’s an expectation that social should be the answer to everything; it can do many things but it can’t do everything.”

    Having a clear strategy, added Tamara Littleton, CEO at The Social Element, can mean brands understand they don’t have to do everything on social and instead focus on what is important to them.

    “People think there is a nirvana of all brands should be monitoring everything that’s being said, jumping into the conversation and being witty and doing positive responses, analysing what’s being said, creating amazing content. All of that is really important but you shouldn’t be doing it all the time,” she concluded.

    “By having that control that links back into the strategy you can be really clear on when is the best time to create the most compelling content, how do you then engage on the back of that, how you use social listening to identify if that was successful. We need to try and slow down and to do that you need good governance and strategy.”


  • 5 Mar 2019 3:36 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)
    We had to share this one!  One never knows what they will discover when they monitor social media for brand mentions! 

    The rocker recently posted an ad for Vanity Fair napkins to Instagram, after missing out on the other Vanity Fair's Oscar party

    By Olivia RaimondePublished on March 04, 2019.

    Credit: johnmayer via instagram

    If John Mayer isn't receiving as much love as he'd like from Vanity Fair magazine, at least he is from the napkin brand of the same name.

    Mayer reportedly threw his own "fake Vanity Fair" Oscars party after he was unsure whether he had an invite to the famous annual shindig. Now it looks like Mayer has parlayed that into a new side hustle: inspiring creative for Vanity Fair napkins.

    On Monday Mayer posted an ad for the napkin brand, which was created by them after he discussed the idea on his Instagram Live talk show, Current Mood.

    Apparently, Vanity Fair napkins--which is not affiliated with the Condé Nast magazine, or the lingerie brand--liked it so much that they produced the commercial and posted it to their Instagram with the caption: "Brilliant idea courtesy of #NapkinInfluencer and Creative Director, @johnmayer. "

    The animated ad features a character, who resembles a bearded John Mayer, asking a woman for her number. When she offers to write it on a Vanity Fair napkin, he laments "If you're going to deface Vanity Fair napkins, I don't think I want it anymore."

    Melissa Kinard, communications manager for Vanity Fair, and a personal fan of John Mayer, had seen the video of his faux Vanity Fair Oscars party and his idea for the ad while watching Current Mood.

    "It's obviously very silly. But we thought that would be a really fun opportunity for us to make that come to life," she says. "For us a brand and as a company, this kind of personalization is a key strategy for how we want to communicate with consumers of any kind, so this was a really fun opportunity for us to really take that personalization to another level."

    If Mayer keeps pitching gems like this, then maybe he'll finally earn that official invite to next year's Oscar party. Until then, the Napkin Influencer title will have to do.



  • 1 Mar 2019 8:47 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Article published in Greenbook Blog by our member, Michalis Michael, Chief Executive Officer, DigitalMR Ltd


    Michalis Michael

    Monday 21 January 2019, 7:00 am

    Editor’s Note: The latest GRIT findings, previewed in these pages earlier this month, show that use of social media analytics continues to grow, especially among client-side practitioners. Despite this continuing growth, optimistic forecasts from earlier this decade suggested that its use would be even more widespread by this point. Michalis Michael discusses some of the reasons for this state, and argues that growth has turned a corner. The advancements in the science underpinning social analytics have been key. Given these, can we finally consider social media analytics mainstream?

    I think every market research professional will agree, that it is unthinkable for a company to be selling products in major retailer chains and not be tracking sales, volume and value shares, pricing and distribution, by subscribing to a retail measurement report on the relevant product category. Isn’t it therefore only natural that social media listening reports ‒ for brand share of voice ‒ will one day be as important as retail measurement reports ‒ for brand market share ‒ to the Marketing Director of a CPG company?

    It took a bit longer than expected but 2018 was a good year in terms of progress. Fellow agencies and end clients alike started to dabble in online data sources and high precision analytics using machine learning, on the path to insights discovery, campaign evaluation, brand reputation management, even micro-influencer identification or lead generation. Social media listening & analytics traction… at last!

    Humans tend to think in a linear way. We also tend to overestimate the short term and as a result we underestimate the long term. Case in point, I “bought” Joan Lewis’ (then SVP of Global Consumer and Market Knowledge at P&G) prediction when at a 2011 ARF conference she said:

    “Survey research will decline dramatically in importance by 2020, with social media listening replacing much of it and adding new dimensions.”

    What I extrapolated from this statement back then, was that by 2020 at least 30%-40% of the market research budgets would be spent on social listening & analytics, moving away from surveys and other traditional MR methods. So here we are today, just under two years to go until the end of 2020, and with the social analytics market being – according to Reuters – only US$3.4 Billion in 2017. The total market research market was US$76 Billion in the same year; social listening accounting for a mere 4.5%.

    Maybe you have heard of the 10-years-to-overnight-success pattern; it became a thing after Jeff Bezos said it for the first time; it looks like social analytics may be another case to prove the pattern. In the graph below you can see the flat linear growth between 2010 and 2015 and after that, the 2020 forecast for US$9 Billion (by DigitalMR in January 2017) and the 2023 forecast for US$16 Billion (by Reuters in February 2018). It looks like we are finally on a path to the exponential growth we’ve been expecting year after year.

    There are many reasons the market research industry has been so slow to embrace social listening & analytics, and fear of the unknown may actually be a part of it, but I think it was mainly due to:

    Loss of trust ‒ buyers of market research tried social media monitoring tools developed by pure technology companies a few years back, they found the accuracy of the analysis to be low and decided this approach is simply inappropriate for the purpose of market research.

    Existing subscriptions ‒ client-side market research departments are sometimes using the social media monitoring tool their media agency or digital marketing department subscribes to, in a very superficial way as they believe that this discipline sits somewhere else – in another silo. As in point 1 they believe that it has limited applicability to them as insights professionals.

    Where are the insights? ‒ whether ad-hoc reports from their media agency or analysis received directly from the aforementioned DIY tools, MR buyers have been left underwhelmed in the past with the reports from social – even if we ignore the accuracy problems. Technology can only go so far, you need someone with consumer insights expertise to make the most out of the analysed posts.

    Let’s stick to what we know ‒ potentially related to the individual’s long experience and years spent working with traditional MR methods, there are still colleagues out there who refuse to let go of notions such as “sampling” and “respondents”; they find it too risky to accept social intelligence as a new and valid market research method that can complement and sometimes completely replace existing methodologies.

    Most social media monitoring tools can achieve 60% accuracy at best (many way lower than that) on any of the important metrics i.e. brand relevance, sentiment or topic. This is not due to inexperience or lack of knowledge or options, but purely a choice made by companies to maximise profits. It actually takes a lot of effort to create custom machine learning models ‒ which is still the only way to reach accuracies of over 80% if done right ‒ but the extra effort pays off in the end. Even machine learning can get it wrong if the model is trained on low quality (or the wrong) data! In a 2013 face-off of market research versus four traditional social media monitoring tools, with Carlsberg as the client, we found that over 90% of the online posts analysed by the four were not even about the brand and the digital campaign which was to be evaluated. In another face-off for SABMiller, 80% of posts classified by the social media monitoring tool as negative were found to be positive, and 56% of the posts classified as neutral were in fact negative. A third party appointed by the client found the overall sentiment accuracy of the market research approach to be 87% vs 44% for the social media monitoring tool approach.

    Growth will only continue to happen if the social listening and analytics vendors out there can prove to non-users that there is real value to their business, by demonstrating that they can accurately interpret what customers are saying on social media and translate it into actionable insights. On the buyer side of things, there needs to be more open dialogue between the various departments of an organisation. There needs to be an alignment of interests across the business as a whole, and a realisation that everyone can benefit from such solutions more or less equally, just in a different way. Social listening & analytics is not just for the marketing department, it’s not just for PR crises, and not only about monitoring the success of corporate social media posts; social insights can serve many purposes, and a “one stop shop” that works for all departments is better for the company as a whole.

    Beyond ‘social’ as a standalone source of data and insights, there is ample evidence that integrating social listening with surveys and real consumer behaviour such as purchases or website visits brings impressive value to the table, particularly when it comes to discovering correlations between social sentiment and sales. As Schweidel and Moe also suggest in their paper Listening in on Social Media: A Joint Model of Sentiment and Venue Format Choice, published in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing Research in 2014, “examination of this sentiment could provide guidance to brands on which domains are most critical to monitor and actively engage social media contributors”. In a R&D study conducted in 2017 and presented at the ESOMAR MENAP conference, it was impressive to discover that the beta coefficient for positive sentiment and sales was double than that of negative sentiment and sales! Of course, all the effort and resource you put in social analytics and data integration is a complete waste if the relevance of the data and the accuracy of annotating the posts with sentiment and topic of conversation is lower than it should be.

    Progress has been painfully slow up to now, and according to the forecasts described above “listening” will only account for around 20% of the total market research market by 2023, but hey, much better than the 4.5% it was in 2017.


  • 18 Feb 2019 12:05 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    In today’s world of what’s trending now…Instagram is leading the charge. But what many users and businesses have found is that building an audience and trying to connect with people on Instagram can be difficult. People are definitely more selective on Instagram.

    When Facebook and Twitter were new, you accepted friend requests from everyone. You sent a friend request to all the new people you met at a party and you followed thousands of profiles on Twitter in the hopes that they'd follow you back. While you can build large audiences this way, what also happens is that you have a feed full of throw away information and a steady flow of random updates from folks you barely remember.

    On Instagram, people don't follow as readily. This poses a new challenge for brands, making them work harder for attention. But once you do win over new followers, they're far more likely to become customers, because they're following based on actual interest in what you post.

    So how do you win over more resistant Instagram audiences and build an engaged following?

    Instagram has added half a billion new users within the last two years, while Instagram Stories, launched in August 2016, just hit a new milestone of 500 million daily users. It's clear that Instagram is getting more attention but a particularly relevant finding of the study for marketers is that many users are actually going to Instagram to connect with brands.

    "When we asked people what they associated with Instagram, some of their top responses were that the platform allows interaction with celebrities and influencers. Additionally, 2 in 3 respondents (66%) told us that Instagram is a platform that allows interaction with brands. These interactions might take the form of a snack company using polls in Instagram Stories to let fans vote on a new chip flavor, or a fashion brand reposting photos of the chic outfit of the day."

    While Facebook has been actively working to boost interaction with friends and family members in order to increase in-platform engagement, the findings for Instagram almost reflect the opposite. Users are coming to see content from influencers and brands, and welcoming that within their feed - when they choose to follow those profiles.

    So what do Instagram users expect to see from brands on the platform and how can you reach those users?

    Create short and well-targeted posts and focus on eye-catching content. Familiarize yourself with what works, and not just in terms of posting like-baiting inspirational quotes, but in regards to creating content that both works to promote your business, and connects with what your target audience responds to.

    Do you know the importance of using Instagram Stories?

    The newest trend on Instagram that businesses need to incorporate is the use of Instagram Stories. Instagram Stories is a feature that lets users post photos and videos that vanish after 24 hours.

    The feature feels much like Snapchat Stories, a Snapchat feature that was introduced in 2013 and a pivotal part of the company’s growth. And like Snapchat, the photos and videos shared in your Instagram Story are ephemeral and can’t be viewed once 24 hours have elapsed.

    With Stories, brands have a chance to take their followers on a journey and tell the story behind the posts in their feed. Live video is extremely engaging, and though Instagram Stories won’t allow for a long, uninterrupted broadcast like Facebook Live or Periscope, it could allow brands to make their Instagram accounts the place to go for live, interactive content.

    Conclusion

    Given the habitual changes, building an audience on Instagram is not easy, it's not as simple as liking every post from every person who engages with a certain hashtag, or using the old 'follow back' approach to build up your numbers. Research the platform, look at what others in your industry are posting, what their audiences are responding to, and scan through the relevant hashtag lists to see what people are posting. Once you've got a handle on what you should be sharing, stick to a schedule and build up response data.

    It takes time, but with the right focus, you can tap into the rising Instagram trend.


  • 12 Feb 2019 6:46 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    As published this week in Forbes,  Kalev Leetaru gives an interesting point of view regarding how social media data fits in with big data for researching purposes. 

    Kalev Leetaru

    Contributor

    AI & Big DataI write about the broad intersection of data and society.

    Getty Images.GETTY

    Social media has become synonymous with “big data” thanks to its widespread availability and stature as a driver of the global conversation. Its massive size, high update speed and range of content modalities are frequently cited as a textbook example of just what constitutes “big data” in today’s data drenched world. However, if we look a bit closer, is social media really that much larger than traditional data sources like journalism?

    We hold up social media platforms today as the epitome of “big data.” However, the lack of external visibility into those platforms means that nearly all of our assessments are based on the hand picked statistics those companies choose to report to the public and the myriad ways those figures, such as “active users,” are constantly evolved to reflect the rosiest image possible of the growth of social media as a whole.

    Much of our reverence for social platforms comes from the belief that their servers hold an unimaginably large archive of global human behavior. But is that archive that much larger than the mediums that precede it like traditional journalism?

    Facebook announced its first large research dataset last year, consisting of “a petabyte of data with almost all public URLs Facebook users globally have clicked on, when, and by what types of people.” Despite its petabyte stature, the actual number of rows was estimated to be relatively small. In all, the dataset was projected to contain just 30 billion rows when it was announced, growing at a rate of just 2 million unique URLs across 300 million posts per week, once completed.

    To many researchers, 30 billion rows sounds like an extraordinary amount of data that they couldn’t possibly analyze in their lifetime. By modern standards, however, 30 billion records is a fairly tiny dataset and the petabyte as a benchmark of “big data” is long passé.

    In fact, my own open data GDELT Project has compiled a database of more than 85 billion outlinks from worldwide news outlet homepages since March 2018, making it 2.8 times larger than Facebook’s dataset in just half the time.

    Compared to news media, social media isn’t necessarily that much larger. It is merely that we have historically lacked the tools to treat news media as big data. In contrast, social media has aggressively marketed itself as “big data” from the start, with data formats and API mechanisms designed to maximize its accessibility to modern analytics.

    In its 13 short years Twitter has become the defacto face of the big data revolution when it comes to understanding global society. Its hundreds of billions of tweets give it “volume,” its hundreds of millions of tweets a day give it “velocity” and its mix of text, imagery and video offer “variety.”

    Just how big is Twitter anyway?

    The company itself no longer publishes regular reports of how many tweets are sent per day or how many tweets have been sent since its founding and it did not immediately respond to a request for comment on how many total tweets have been sent in its history. However, extrapolating from previous studies we can reasonably estimate that if trends have held there have been slightly over one trillion tweets sent since the service’s founding 13 years ago.

    At first glance a trillion tweets sounds like an incredibly large number, especially given that each of those trillion tweets consists of a JSON record with a number of fields.

    However, tweets are extremely small, historically maxing out at just 140 characters of text. This means that while there are a lot of tweets, each of those tweets says very little.

    In reality, few tweets come anywhere near Twitter's historical 140-character limit. The average English tweet is around 34 characters while the average Japanese tweet is 15 characters, reflecting the varying information conveyed by a single character in each language.

    Moreover, while raw Twitter data can be quite large (a month of the Decahose was 2.8TB in 2012), just 4% of a Twitter record is the tweet text itself. The remaining 96% is a combination of all of the metadata Twitter provides about each tweet and JSON’s highly inefficient storage format.

    Since most Twitter analyses focus on the text of each tweet, this means the actual volume of data that must be processed to conduct common social analytics is quite small.

    Assuming that all one trillion tweets were the maximum 140 characters long, that would yield just 140TB of text (the actual number would be slightly higher accounting for UTF8 encoding).

    In 2012 the average tweet length Twitter-wide was 74 bytes (bytes, unlike characters, account for the additional length of UTF8 encoding of non-ASCII text), which would mean those trillion tweets would consume just 74TB of text: a large, but hardly unmanageable collection.

    If we extrapolate from the 2012-2014 Twitter trends to estimate that somewhere in the neighborhood of 35% of all trillion tweets have been retweets (assuming no major changes in retweet behavior), then using that 74-byte average length would yield just 48TB of unique text.

    Of course, this is before the hyperlinks found in roughly a third of tweets are removed (again, assuming trends have held since 2014). It also ignores the prevalence of “@username” references in tweets that do not contribute to their analyzable text.

    For comparison, the 2010 Google Books NGrams collection representing 4% of all books ever published totaled 500 billion words (361 billion English words) and was estimated to be around 3TB in size. That would make it 25 times smaller than the totality of Twitter. The Internet Archive’s collection of English language public domain books totals around 450GB of text, making it around 86 times smaller than Twitter.

    The Google and Internet Archive digitized book collections include only a single copy of each book, making it unfair to compare them against Twitter with its myriad retweets. Filtering out retweets, we find that Twitter is just 16 times larger than the Google Books NGrams source collection, while the Internet Archive’s public domain books collection is around 54 times smaller.

    It is a remarkable commentary on the digital era that just 13 years of tweets is larger than the two centuries of digitized books available to researchers today.

    Partially this is due to the fact that such a small portion of our history has been digitized (less than 4% of known published books are represented in the Google Books NGrams dataset). In essence we are comparing the totality of 13 years of Twitter against just a 4% sample of two centuries of books.

    A bigger factor is the fundamentally altered economics of publishing in the digital age. Through the two centuries of printed books in the two collections above, the cost of publishing a book was so substantial that very few authors were rewarded for their efforts with published volumes and every word of a book mattered.

    In contrast, in the Twitter era one’s publishing volume is limited only by the speed one can type (or have a bot type on one’s behalf).

    This means that to truly compare Twitter’s size to other datasets we should compare it against a similar born digital collection. Given that the news dataset above ended up being almost three times larger than the equivalent Facebook dataset in just half the time, how does Twitter stack up against traditional journalism?

    Over the period November 2014 to present, the GDELT Project monitored roughly 3TB of news article text (counting just the article text itself, not the hundreds of terabytes of surrounding HTML, CSS, JavaScript and imagery).

    Over that same time period, we can estimate based on previous trends that Twitter likely published in the neighborhood of 600 billion tweets, of which 330 billion were not retweets (assuming trends have held with retweet volume increasing over time).

    This would work out to around 84TB of text during that period if every single tweet were the maximum 140 characters or around 44TB using a 74-character average tweet length. Excluding retweets this would fall to just 24TB of text, assuming an average tweet length.

    News content can contain syndicated wire stories that are republished by multiple outlets, but the volume of such republication as a percent of the totality of daily journalistic output is unlikely to come close to the prominence of retweeting.

    Counting all trillion tweets sent 2006-present and assuming all of them were the maximum 140 characters, the Twitter archive would be just 47 times larger than global online news output 2014-present as monitored by GDELT. Using the more realistic average tweet length, Twitter would be just 25 times larger and removing retweets it would be just 16 times larger.

    Of course, those numbers compare a 13 year stretch of Twitter to just 4 years of news.

    Comparing the two over the same four-year period, we find that Twitter was around 15 times larger than news, but just 8 times larger if retweets are removed.

    Thus, if one had access to the complete Twitter firehose 2014-present, the total volume of text would likely be only around 8 times larger than the total volume of online news content over the same time period.

    Seen in this light, Twitter is large, but it isn’t that much larger than global journalism, reminding us of just how much news is published each day across the world.

    Precious few researchers have access to the full firehose, so the largest academic research is typically conducted with the Twitter Decahose, which contains around 10% of daily tweets.

    The total Decahose output 2014-present is just 1.5 times larger than news. Removing retweets, the situation is reversed and news is actually 1.2 times larger than Twitter’s Decahose.

    Few universities have the financial resources to subscribe to the Twitter Decahose, so the overwhelming majority of academic Twitter research is conducted either with Twitter’s search API or its 1% streaming API that makes available roughly 1% of daily tweets.

    News is actually 6.7 times larger than the Twitter 1% stream over this period. If retweets are removed, news rises to 12.2 times larger than Twitter.

    Thus, in terms of the 1% data that most academics work with, Twitter over the last four years is actually several times smaller than worldwide online news output over the same time period. Those academics lucky enough to work with the Decahose still have less content than they would get from news. Yet, even if one had the entire firehose at one’s disposal, the totality of that content would be just 8 times larger than news content. Filtering out all of the hyperlinks and username references would drop that number even further.

    In short, Twitter is certainly a large dataset, but in terms of the actual textual tweet contents that most analyses focus on, we see that a trillion tweets don’t actually work out to that much text due to their tiny size. In many ways, Twitter is more akin to behavioral messaging data than a traditional content-based platform, especially with the way its retweet behavior corresponds to the “like” and “engagement” metrics of other platforms.

    Most importantly, we see that even at the full firehose level, Twitter isn’t actually that much larger than the traditional contemporary datasets that precede it like news media. Twitter may be faster but it isn’t that much larger. In terms of the Decahose and 1% products that most researchers work with, news media actually offers a larger volume of analyzable content with far better understood provenance, stability and historical context.

    Putting this all together, it has become the accepted wisdom of the “big data” era that the social media giants reign supreme over the data landscape, their archives forming the very definition of what it means to work with “big data.” Yet, as we’ve seen here, a trillion tweets quickly become just a few tens of terabytes of actual text, reminding us that high velocity small message streams like Twitter may consist of very large record counts, but very little actual data that is relevant to our analyses.

    Just as importantly, we see that traditional data sources like news media are actually just as large as the social archives we work with, reminding us of the immense untapped data sources beyond the glittering novelty of social media.

    Twitter certainly meets all of the definitions of “big data” but if we look closely, we find that good old traditional journalism is not far behind. The difference is that social media has aggressively marketed itself as “big data” while journalism has failed to rebrand itself for the digital era.

    In the end, rather than mythologize social media as the ultimate embodiment of “big data,” perhaps the biggest lesson here is that we should think creatively about how to harness the untapped wealth of data that surrounds us and bring it into the big data era.




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