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Patterns of Engagement with Journalists' Tweets in Ireland

Next up at Web Science 2016 is Claudia Orellana-Rodriguez, whose interest is in how journalists spread the news on Twitter. Journalists now regularly engage on social media platforms, but there still is only a very limited understanding of how platforms like Twitter can be used most effectively.

Optimal activities and user engagement may also differ considerably across different news categories: different types of news will have different audiences, and audience members may engage very differently with such news; this may also be affected by the time of day or week.

This project focussed on 200 Irish journalists and captured all tweets sent and received by (i.e. @mentioning) these accounts. The journalists were classified into six different news categories, with the majority in breaking news, politics, sports, and business. Their activity patterns were considerably different; lifestyle news peaks in the evenings, for instance, while politics is strongest in the morning. Sports and politics posts received considerably more retweets than other categories.

What are the characteristics of tweets that receive the most attention, then? The project identified a range of features for the tweets (hashtags, @mentions, URLs, popularity in terms of retweets and likes, and temporal features). The importance of these features differed notably across the different news categories. For sports, mentions and popularity were especially important, for instance.

Can these results be applied to journalistic practice in order to enhance the dissemination of news-related tweets, then? What are the practical guidelines to journalists that could emerge from this analysis? For corporate accounts, user popularity is particularly important, as are @mentions and retweets of other users, and hashtags. URLs and the regularity of posts are much less important. For sports journalists, on the other hand, Friday and the weekend should be the main period of activity, and audience interaction is especially crucial; for political journalists, tweeting in the early morning is most appropriate, and user @mentions are also important.