The Global Source for Social Media Researchers

SMRA Blog 

  • 27 Nov 2019 10:42 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Photo: TechCrunch

    By: Kathy Doering

    I have been waiting for some time to see which platform was going to take this plunge first in the social media world. Software companies have for years been able to tap into open sourced (publicly available) social media data used primarily as a metric on how well they were performing in social media marketing against their competitors. It is also very well known that these software platforms can handle reputation management for business and even for consumers. Controversy surrounded this and Facebook was squeezed hard over privacy concerns. This was instrumental in the creation of GDPR (*The General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individual citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area. It also addresses the transfer of personal data outside the EU and EEA areas.) *Wikipedia

    It was and is a game changer. Software platforms will not allow users to dig into the posts of individuals who "liked" a post or mentioned your brand within their platforms. Rather, they use the publicly available information to provide the same analytics at a sky high level. This is still excellent data for marketers.

    In a statement issued to the UK’s Independent newspaper Facebook said,“We believe in the right for people to have a private conversation online. End-to-end encryption helps protect that right and is fundamental to the value we provide to over a billion people every day. We oppose government attempts to build backdoors because they would undermine the privacy and security of our users everywhere.”

    So how can Facebook monetize all this data they hold and ensure the privacy of their users? Easy... create a market research app inside the platform. Introducing Facebook Viewpoints. Facebook Viewpoints will give people the opportunity to participate in surveys and receive points that convert to cash paid via PayPal, for taking a 15 minute survey. If marketed correctly, I think they have a shot at this. There is no better place in the social media atmosphere where you have a more captive audience. As of the end of 2018, it boasted over 2.32 billion monthly active users.

    This isn't their first attempt at market research. The previous app Facebook launched was called Facebook Research. The Facebook Research app, which offers volunteers between the ages of 13 and 35 monthly $20 gift cards in exchange for near-total access to the data on their phones, would no longer be available on iOS. This is because the app violated Apple's developer guidelines. Android users will still be able to use it.

    Social Media Post by TechCrunch

    TechCrunch initially published the following about the Facebook Market Research App:

    "TechCrunch’s investigation discovered that Facebook has been quietly operated the Research program on iOS and Android since 2016, recently under the name Project Atlas. It recruited 13 to 35 year olds, 5 percent of which were teenagers, with ads on Instagram and Snapchat and paid them a monthly fee plus referral bonuses to install Facebook’s Research app, the included VPN app that routes traffic to Facebook, and to ‘Trust’ the company with root network access to their phone. That lets Facebook pull in a user’s web browsing activity, what apps are on their phone and how they use them, and even decrypt their encrypted traffic. Facebook went so far as to ask users to screenshot and submit their Amazon order history. Facebook uses all this data to track competitors, assess trends, and plan its product roadmap."

    In a statement, Facebook objected to parts of TechCrunch’s report.

    “Key facts about this market research program are being ignored,” the company said. “Despite early reports, there was nothing ‘secret’ about this; it was literally called the Facebook Research App. It wasn’t ‘spying’ as all of the people who signed up to participate went through a clear on-boarding process asking for their permission and were paid to participate. Finally, less than 5 percent of the people who chose to participate in this market research program were teens. All of them with signed parental consent forms.”

    The company also denied that Facebook Research was intended to replace Onavo, although it did not respond to evidence that the apps shared similar code.

    How this will pan out down the road remains to be seen. Facebook has a long way to go to become the next JD Powers, but even those who are the most skeptical have to admit, it was a brilliant move. If they can pull this off it will make a huge impact on market research as we know it. However, I tend to get a little ahead of myself.

    The question remains whether or not people who use the platform will be willing to give up more information to Facebook. The company does state it won't sell your data to third party apps or publicly share the results. Many hurdles are ahead and I am not sure the timing of this is the best.

    What do you think? Can Facebook be trusted? How could this impact market research?

  • 10 Nov 2019 8:06 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Feel like you’ve finally got a handle on social media marketing? You’re posting to Facebook and Twitter regularly, your Instagram account is growing, and your content is becoming more relevant to your viewers and customers. But wait, there’s a new trend on the horizon! Well actually, it’s now new. But TikTok is quickly becoming the latest craze in social media usage among the younger generations.

    TikTk is a free social media app that lets you watch, create, and share videos - often to a soundtrack of the top hits in music - right from your phone. It was originally called in the U.S. but was rebranded when the two apps merged in August 2018. With more than 100 million users, TikTok is incredibly popular. Users can watch and record videos of themselves lip-synching to popular music and sound bites, and then connect with friends and admirers through likes, comments, and even duets.

    Rachel Pedersen, an organic social marketing pro and host of the Social Media Secrets podcast, was first introduced to TikTok through the popularity of the song “Baby Shark”. She and her children decided to join the fun by sharing their own rendition of the song. In spite of having only six followers, her first video was viewed by 9,400 people by the next day. She immediately saw a big opportunity in TikTok that neither Facebook nor Instagram could deliver. Eager to learn more, Rachel created videos almost every day and watched her TikTok following grow to nearly 2,600 within 60 days.

    Although unplanned, this launched Rachel’s career as a social media consultant. She attributes TikTok’s growth to a number of factors. “We’re moving into an era of shorter attention spans. Most people are only interested in things for 15 seconds, like videos you see on TikTok, movie trailers, or ads. Within those 15 seconds, the viewer gets to decide whether they want to binge more content. The trick is finding a way to capture and sustain their attention in that 15 seconds, especially if they’ve never heard of you”, she explains.

    How Does TikTok Work?

    TikTok features two side-by-side feeds. The main feed on the right features a stream of content that’s been tailored “For You.” As you scroll through these videos, you can follow the accounts, engage with the content, and more. The feed on the left features content from accounts you already follow. You can easily switch back and forth between the two feeds. When you open the app for the first time, you’re presented with a clear news feed. It doesn’t know your preferences so what shows up in the For You feed will be totally random. Once you start following and interacting with other users, the app will begin surfacing similar content and creators in the For You feed.

    All videos in TikTok are vertical and take up your entire phone screen. A majority of the content is typically 15 seconds or shorter, but the video clips have since been expanded to up to 60 seconds. All TikTok videos are looping.

    Why Marketers Should Pay Attention to TikTok

    TikTok offers a brand new opportunity for marketers because they will likely be the first of their generation to be on it. Most marketers haven’t moved to TikTok, but it’s gaining traction and being introduced to the masses. According to data and demographics, TikTok is currently in 154 countries with about 500 million active users. It has consistently been in the top 10 most downloaded apps in the App Store. Among TikTok’s users, about 66% are younger than 30, But there seem to be plenty of younger moms and others who seem young, which means TikTok is an ideal platform for any brand wanting to get in front of this valuable audience.

    Creating Content

    When you open the TikTok app to create content, there are several different options for getting started. Similar to Instagram Stories, you can hold down the button for the entire duration of the video to natively record. You can set up a self-timer and record from a distance. You can also create a series of short segments that come together to form a longer video. Users can then add awesome effects and text throughout different parts of their videos to make them interesting and fun. TikTok videos can also be downloaded and repurposed for other platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

    Videos on TikTok are a combination of lip-syncing to original and uploaded music, sound effects and audio clips, rants, and anything else the imagination can create. Lately though, users are moving away from singing along to music and going more towards creating their own clever renditions of songs. The user will sing new lyrics to a song and create a video with a funny take, creative interpretation, or double meaning of the words.

    Nurture a Younger Audience

    Rachel says that she plans to use TikTok for exposure and growth over the next year. She’ll do this by nurturing a younger following on the platform and preparing this audience to know who she is in the next 10 or 20 years.

    Adding Bio and Links to TikTok

    Although the platform currently doesn’t support clickable links within the videos, users can include a link in their TikTok bios. Rachel noticed a jump in her website traffic when another user visited her profile and read the URL in her bio during a live broadcast on TikTok. Like video captions, the bios on TikTok are also limited to 140 characters of plain text and emojis. The 140 characters can include a link to your website; however, the URL isn’t clickable. You can upload one profile photo and your previous ones aren’t saved in an album as they are on Facebook.

    What Marketers Need to Know About TikTok

    Videos that are overproduced, too corporate, or overtly promotional tend to perform poorly. Rachel has witnessed people go crazy in the comments when they sense a user is trying to sell them something or sneak in an ad. In order to blend in, take time to research what the content on TikTok feels like. Watch other people’s videos and start to identify and adopt the trends you see.

    Upcoming TikTok Ads Program

    TikTok is tinkering with the idea of integrating advertising with a new self-serve ad platform as major brands try to reach the younger demographic on the platform. Macy’s recently used TikTok to run a back-to-school campaign targeting high school and college kids. Rachel recalls alcohol brands, concerts, big parties, and musicians being promoted on TikTok too. Once TikTok’s ad program is fully rolled out, marketers will be able to diversify their clients and offer something beyond Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and all of the other trusted platforms we’ve relied upon until this point. You’ll begin seeing more ads throughout the feed and notifications in the future.

  • 31 Oct 2019 1:52 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Written by:  Jimmy Matorin, Business Catalyst at SMARTKETING

    I am a student of influence marketing. I am constantly evaluating what constitutes a trustworthy influencer. It has been months since I posted an influence marketing article. The last one was back in June on my company’s blog titled Virtual Authenticity?  I detailed the emergence of CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) influencers, specifically “fashionista” Miquela Sousa @lilmiquela. How authentic is a digital/virtual avatar posting pre-scripted content?

    This past month, I read several articles about human behavior, specifically emotional connectivity. As a result, I am now beginning to question whether marketers can truly identify, thus connect with brand advocates who are at the epicenter of their influence marketing movements.

     Case in point: The term authenticity has grown in popularity. Recent studies indicate authenticity is driven by the different core values of consumers and the emotional trust evoked by their online engagement. Sound deep? Definitely!  However, in an era of flash digital engagement (a.k.a. social media) and questionable online product/service reviews, how deep is our understanding of the core values of the people with whom we engage?

    Also fueling my current confusion is the new book “Talking to Strangers” by renown author, story teller Malcolm Gladwell.  Mr. Gladwell advocates we tend to be too trusting of people with tragic results, thus suggests we need to approach strangers with caution and humility. Malcolm’s hypothesis was achieved via numerous anecdotes detailing how we evaluate other people.

    How well do you know and trust your brand’s advocates?

  • 12 Oct 2019 12:41 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Girls and Social Media

    Are you the parent of teenagers or pre-teens? Then I’m sure you are aware of their social media habits and usage. Many parents of both boys and girls have noticed big differences in the way their kids use technology, with their sons gravitating to video games and their daughters spending more screen time scrolling through social media.

    And emerging research indicates that brain differences between males and females help account for the split. Larry Cahill, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at the University of California, Irvine, has spent two decades researching gender differences in the brain. He chronicled the aggression some boys exhibit when they have to shut off videogames and transition to other activities, as well as the problems some young men face when they go to college and have to juggle game time and school work without mom and dad’s help.

    So why don’t girls have the same problems? When it comes to videogames, most girls seem to have a better handle on when to stop. But social media’s impact is much more detrimental to girls than boys.

    Data from Pew Research Center shows that, in general, women use social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest more than men. Many girls and women are drawn to those photo-sharing sites because they like to form bonds and find similarities, says Rosanna Guadagno, a social psychologist at Stanford University. Experts and parents say they have found that girls appear to have a greater fear of missing out, which compels them to keep up with what their friends are posting. Some recent studies show that girls feel the ill effects of too much social media use, such as depression and anxiety, more than boys do.

    Liz Repking, a cyber safety expert and mother of three in suburban Chicago, has seen the differences in her own sons and daughter. Earlier this summer, her 15-year-old daughter said her phone was driving her crazy. She told her that she felt pressured to follow her friends’ Instagram stories and like and comment on their posts, and that it was eating up a lot of her time, Ms. Repking said.

    Her sons, 18 and 21, use social media—Snapchat, in particular—mostly to communicate with friends but don’t feel compelled to keep up with what people are posting. “There’s more peer pressure and validation I see with it for her than for the boys,” she said.

    Boys and girls also have differing perceptions of the amount of time they spend using various technologies. Girls are somewhat more likely than boys to say they spend too much time on social media (47% vs. 35%). By contrast, boys are roughly four times as likely to say they spend too much time playing video games (41% of boys and 11% of girls say this).

    Anxiety and Social Media

    Teens encounter a range of emotions when they do not have their cellphones, but anxiety tops the list. The survey asked about five different emotions teens might feel when they do not have their cellphones, and “anxious” (mentioned by 42% of teens) is the one cited by the largest share. Around ¼ say they feel lonely (25%) or upset (24%) in these instances. In total, 56% associate the absence of their cellphone with at least one of these negative emotions.

    And it probably won’t shock you to hear that another major study has found a strong link between heavy social media use and depression - this time, among 14-year-olds. Surprisingly, among the “heaviest users” group, girls outnumber boys two to one. The more a person of either gender used social media, the greater the likelihood of depression. But even when boys and girls spent exactly the same amount of time on social media, the depression risk for girls was significantly higher.

    Using data from over 10,000 14-year-olds who took part in the UK Millennium Cohort Study, researchers found 40% of girls admitted being on their social media accounts for more than three hours a day - compared to only 20% of boys. And across the board, more hours scrolling resulted in a greater risk of depression.

    Among teens who were on social media more than five hours a day, girls’ depression scores rose to 50% - while boys only increased to 35%. Why? Some experts suggest that girls make more comparisons between themselves and the images they view in a way that boys don’t. And that “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall” habit is notoriously bad for mental health.

    Other common factors for both boys and girls who are heavy social media users included lack of sleep and cyberbullying, with girls being more prone to the latter.

    If you notice changes in your teenagers, whether it be mood, isolation, or withdrawal from certain activities…check their social media usage. By getting ahead of any problems that are creeping to the surface, you can possibly save your child from the harmful effects of anxiety and depression.

  • 19 Sep 2019 10:27 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    This post shows the reality of fake news and stolen images online. It doesn't just happen in politics, it happens in day to day life of regular people. 

    From eChatter:

    Posted on September 19, 2019 by eChatter

    Fake News

    There should be a new reality TV show called, “People Post the Darndest Things.” I think most people would be shocked to see what Social Media Investigators see on a daily basis. It has helped thousands of fake workman’s comp cases because people will post things like jumping off a diving board after filing a claim for an injured back. Remember the guy who “faked” falling in the office cafeteria and it was caught on video?

    Images online are a Social Media Investigator’s best friend because once identified as the correct person of interest, it can lead you to much more information and data online. Recently, one such image was discovered by one of our OSINT specialists. While searching online, she discovered the following picture. Something about the image just didn’t look right. This was true given the fact that she had other photos to compare it with.

    Using one of our software platforms we were able to search the web for this exact image. We didn’t find one exactly like this, however we did find one that we realized was the original.

    Fake Image

    Photoshopped image using

    mirroring feature.

    Aubrey Plazza

    Actress Aubrey Plazza

    By conducting a reverse image search we found the original image online. This is the image of actress Aubrey Plaza.

    Many celebrities deal with this every day and it is a contributing factor in fake news online and in social media.

    In Digital Trends‘ article, “Can you spot a Photoshopped picture? Here are 9 ways to identify a fake photo“, Author Hillary K. Grigonis, shares how to become better at spotting a fake.

    Three Tips We Love:

    • Look for bad edges: Cropping around the edges of an object is tough to do. Zoom in on the photo in question and look at the edges of the objects. Overly sharp edges or jagged edges are a telltale sign that the object was simply pasted in over the original photo.
    • Be wary of poor quality: A low-resolution image file can help hide the signs of a faked photo. It’s difficult to see if the edges of the flag in that Seahawks photo blend because the entire image is pixelated, a good warning sign that something’s not quite right. With the widespread availability of high-speed internet today, it’s rare that an image would be uploaded at such a low resolution.
    • Look at the metadataDigital cameras embed “invisible” data inside the image file. While you can’t see the information in the image, accessing it is easy using a photo editor or even free online software.

    Are your photos safe online?

    For the most part, yes. However, there is a new undercurrent trend online that is growing with social media image sharing platforms like Instagram. Conducting a Google Reverse Image is one way to check to be sure photos are not being used without your approval.

  • 4 Sep 2019 11:32 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    This is an amazing infographic that shows companies that Facebook has acquired  over the years. Wow!

    Published By Social Media Today

     Sept. 4, 2019

    Facebook has made a heap of high profile acquisitions over time, including WhatsApp, Instagram - and almost Snapchat.

    But maybe more interesting than the major purchases are the smaller technology platforms which Facebook has acquired, and considering where they fit within the platform's broader roadmap. Zuck and Co. have always been aggressive on this front, buying up potential competitors and tools to give them the upper hand.

    Could Facebook's acquisitions point to significant shifts in its future direction?

    With this in mind, it's worth taking a look at this updated infographic from the team at Techwyse which outlines all the companies that Facebook has bought up over time. There are 72 purchases in total, and Facebook remains active on this front.

    Check out the full infographic below. 

    Listing of companies acquired by Facebook

  • 28 Aug 2019 5:20 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    There are over 3.5 billion daily users on social media, which means at some point your target audience is talking about their retail experiences and discussing their favorite products. Customer service issues can now be handled via social media as well as speaking directly with brands. Customers and businesses are even communicating one-on-one and using social media to do so.

    YouTube has now caught on and there has been a rise in video marketing to appeal to different audiences. The platform hosts more than 1.9 billion logged-in users each month and those numbers continue to rise along with its popularity.

    There is no doubt your business is sure to find its target market with all that YouTube has to offer. Here’s how to use YouTube’s products and services to best appeal to customers and their interests.

    1. YouTube Live

    Live stream has taken over social media…through Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. Facebook reported that people are three times more likely to watch a live stream on the platform than a regular video because events happening at the moment are more interesting than videos from the past. Customers agree it’s more captivating to see something happening in real-time.

    YouTube’s very own live streaming platform, YouTube Live, offers the same capability. Viewers engage with live video eight times longer compared to regular video, boosting your channel’s engagement rates and driving traffic to your channel. YouTube Live can be used to broadcast a Q&A session, showcase your products and services, introduce an influencer, and more.

    2. 360-degree videos

    Another fascinating trend is the 360-degree video. Viewers can use their mouse to click on a video and place the screen in the perspective they want it. The video continues to play even as you move the content around on the screen and interact with it.

    360-degree videos provide a virtual reality experience users can enjoy from their laptop or mobile phones. Brands can use this feature to show products and services in ways they previously haven’t. Users can now explore a brand’s content and choose to look from whatever perspective they prefer.

    3. How-to tutorials

    What do you prefer when trying to solve a problem or find a DIY solution? A video or step-by-step written instructions? Many users say they gravitate towards video tutorials that teach them how to do something or talk extensively about how to solve a problem.

    According to Google, 67% of millennials can find a YouTube video on anything they want to learn. Every minute, up to 400 hours of video are uploaded into its database, with how-to videos remaining a popular genre to consume. But, over the years, this method has made all the difference for businesses trying to elevate their brand and sell their products. With how-to videos, users get a first-hand look at how brands can get rid of their problems and simplify their lives.

    4. Celebrity endorsements

    Retail businesses clearly know the value of having a major celebrity endorse their brands and products. But now, celebrities are using video for their own gains.

    YouTube and other live streaming outlets are being used by celebrities to deepen their connection with fans, essentially becoming creators. Will Smith may not have released a single movie in 2018, but he still reigned supreme thanks to the videos he shared on YouTube, showing off his travels, performing the world’s greatest “In My Feelings Challenge,” and even bungee jumping from a helicopter into the Grand Canyon.

    How much more valuable is a celebrity endorsement when the star is not only connected to the product on TV ads and billboards, but when they’re also producing related videos for their fans? Rihanna’s tutorial Tuesday videos for her makeup brand Fenty are a great example of this in action.

    YouTube is a platform you definitely want to utilize if you plan on strategizing your business for higher conversions and engagement rates. Video, and more specifically live streaming, is a fan favorite and people aren’t giving it up any time soon. By adding it to your marketing strategy, you’re ensured a better chance of achieving your goals and reaching success.

  • 22 Aug 2019 12:04 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    Scams hurt consumers but they also can hurt your brand. Make sure you know what is out there and being said about your company.  Some scams are getting harder to identify. 

    Posted on August 13, 2019 by eChatter

    scams and the web

    It seems the internet will never be completely free of scams, fake ads, and outlandish claims by companies and the products they sell. And 2019 is proving to be no different. Here’s the latest on what to look out for when browsing the web, scrolling your Facebook news feed, and clicking on those enticing ads.

    1) Although Facebook has pledged to get tough on scammers, millions of users are still being targeted by fraudsters. Harry Rose, editor of Which? magazine, said: “Facebook has promised to tackle scams head-on so we’re disappointed that it took them a full 24 hours to remove our falsified ad, despite many comments flagging that it was fake.” Facebook and other tech companies urgently need to put systems in place to ensure their millions of users are protected from scams that could see them conned out of substantial sums.” A Facebook spokesman said: “We are taking action to stop fraud wherever it appears, and will continue to adapt to the increasingly sophisticated techniques fraudsters use to con people.

    Just remember the old adage, if it seems too good to be true it probably is. And follow these rules:

    • If an ad is endorsed by a celebrity, do not assume it is genuine.
    • Never use a financial service advertised on social media without checking their background.
    • Avoid filling out quizzes or surveys that ask you for personal details. They could be used to commit ID fraud, or target you with follow-up scams.
    • Do not click, like or share posts you are unsure of. Opening links or downloading attachments could risk installing a virus on your computer.
    • Be wary of unusual messages from friends if they contain links to “too good-to-be-true” offers or ask for money – even if the message has been sent via Facebook Messenger. A change in your friend’s style of writing is also a likely sign that it’s not them. Always contact your friend privately to check.
    • Check your privacy settings and limit what is publicly visible. Facebook sets your friends list to “public” by default. So if a scammer creates a convincing copy of your account, it’s easier for them to target people on your friends list. Use Facebook’s privacy settings to change it to private or “friends only” instead.
    • If you spot a suspicious post on Facebook, report it. Click on the three dots in the top right hand corner of the post and select “Give feedback”.

  • 16 Aug 2019 7:47 AM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    In this digital era, social media had made each and every person a storyteller, with the ability to share their lives with the push of a button. This poses the unique opportunity for brands to become a milestone in the life story of their audience.

    Brand storytelling on social media influences customers by increasing brand awareness, reach and attracting new followers. Your story is how your company will be remembered by customers. When you tell your brand narrative on social media in a way that resonates with the right customers – the customers who will actually use your product and services – the follows, clicks, tweets, or likes will come.

    Allow your customers to become part of your story

    It seems nowadays if you don’t post a picture or status update of an event or personal experience, it didn’t happen. “Who has gone to an experience so they could take a picture of it and post it on social media? Pics or it didn’t happen?” asks Maya Peterson, Director, Culture and Creative Insights at Viacom Velocity. She adds that “when you understand how much your audience experiences because of social media, you have an opportunity to connect with them more meaningfully.”

    A great example is Shinola, who creates connections to its community with user generated content. When a customer purchases a watch from Shinola, the brand invites the customer to share the watch on social media with #MyShinola. There have been 12,400 posts with #MyShinola on Instagram alone. Inviting your customers to be part of your brand is an excellent way to get them engaged on social media. Intrepid Travel focuses on small group adventure travel. They post travel images from their past customers on Facebook to show prospective travelers how awesome a travel experience can be with Intrepid. By using a hashtag that involves your customers or featuring your customers’ photos, they can help tell the story of your brand.

    Focus on the whole experience

    When 52% of young people say that the most amazing brand experience changes their perspective, it can be easy for brands to solely focus on creating that one viral moment as opposed to a representation of themselves online. This can lead to audiences feeling like there’s a brick wall between them and the brand – a disconnect. Boye Fajinimi, Co-Founder and President of The Future Party, believes that experience should be part of the story. “By highlighting the five senses and that, if a person is able to interact – touch, taste and hear – as part of the experience, then the desire to share it online will be more organic and purposeful”, he says.

    Your brand’s story needs to be told in a way that involves your customers and your community to make people feel like they are part of your brand story and connected to your brand. If you’ve got content, share it. If your company helps the community, make it known. Always involve your customers in your brand in as many ways as you can and as often as possible.

  • 6 Aug 2019 5:34 PM | Kathy Doering (Administrator)

    August 1, 2019

    By: Diane Stirling 
    (315) 443-8741

    School of Information Studies Associate Professor Lu Xiao has been recognized for research that employs multiple methodologies to examine the factors surrounding a comment’s persuasive power on social media, and the ability of those comments to change viewpoints that have been expressed online.

    Lu Xiao

    Lu Xiao

    Xiao and co-author Taraneh Khazaei, of Microsoft in Toronto, were chosen for the “Best Methods Paper” award at the 10th International Social Media & Society Conference held in Toronto recently. Their paper, “Changing Others’ Beliefs in Social Media: Online Comments’ Persuasiveness,” was selected for its comprehensive analysis methods and the variety of analyses used in evaluating central questions around the factors that influence the persuasiveness of comments posted online.

    The research involves discussion comments posted on a sub-Reddit forum, “Change My View.”  It explores different dimensions of the language used, the structure of the comments made, attributes of users, and other factors that contribute to a comment’s persuasive value, according to Xiao. Specifically, she says, the examination looked at these aspects of the conversations: 

    • The relevance between the comment and the view it changed
    • The relative position of the comment in the online discussion
    • The psychological attributes (emotional tone) of the comment
    • The use of function words
    • The level of writing sophistication and the comprehensibility of the comment
    • The status of the commenter in the online environment.

    The research project also investigates the reasons why online users were persuaded to change their opinions. The analysis uses an online natural language processing tool to look at the specific language used, but also takes into account several other aspects of the discussion. Findings were linked to earlier research on persuasion and belief change in traditional forms to seek to uncover when and how those factors apply to online persuasion in conversations.

    “We looked at the inference of comments, their order of discussion, and at users’ credibility scores. We also did a statistical analysis when comparing comments of different groups. We measured the relevance between the original comment submission and subsequent comments, then sorted the comments on the original post based on how relevant they were. That ranking was then used for further analysis,” Xiao notes.

    Lu Xiao accepting the award at the International Social Media & Society Conference

    Lu Xiao accepting the award at the International Social Media & Society Conference with colleague and iSchool Professor Jeff Hemsley

    There has been an increasing interest in studying online persuasion, notes Xiao. “We hope to examine whether there are indicators and features that we can identify from those online users’ digital tracers and the online environments that can signify whether a comment is persuasive. If we can do that, we can improve the tool we’ve developed to signal whether a particular comment is powerful and whether it is persuasive or not persuasive,” she says. The persuasion analysis tool is available to the public online at

    The practical value of the study comes from the insights it can yield into how to write effectively in the online environment, and whether writing effectively is the same or different when the information is conveyed in online and offline environments, Xiao says. While the analysis presented in this paper is useful to assess persuasiveness in this situation, it applies only to the particular discussions referenced and as they occurred on the Reddit platform. Other conversations on other social platforms may present different comparisons, she adds. Previously, Xiao’s research looked at online persuasion factors in Wikipedia discussions. Next, she hopes to examine other online environments and platforms, such as the comments left on the review site, Yelp.

    The conference is an annual gathering of leading social media researchers from around the world. Organized by the Social Media Lab at Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University, the conference showcases research from scholars working in many fields, including management, communication, computer science, education, journalism, information science, political science, and sociology.

Copyright 2017, Social Media Research Association. All rights reserved

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software