Earlier this week I was conducting background research for an article I’m writing for NASPA’s Leadership Exchange. I wanted to explore how Senior Student Affairs Officers (SSAO’s) were using Twitter and if their engagement level differed from other student affairs professionals. While exploratory, I theorized that SSAO might be more likely to engage, given that democratizing roles and relationships is one of the psychosocial affordances of Twitter.
I conducted a not-very-scientific (for my tastes, at least) study. I surfed over to @tbump’s list of tweeting SSAO’s. She had 16 listed, although one was a duplicate and four had not tweeted, for a total of 11. I added one more famous tweeting SSAO who was conspicuously missing from the list. Then, I used the Twitter API to download the last 200 tweets for each of the 12 SSAO’s (I should note that while the Twitter API provides the last 200 tweets, not all of the SSAO’s had sent 200 messages). The final dataset contained 1,843 tweets. I then counted how many tweets contained @ replies but were not retweets (RT’s). Of the 1,844 tweets, 331 were @ replies.
In order to compare the SSAO’s to a comparable group, I examined the last 12 people who tweeted using the #sachat hashtag. I had to skip two Twitter accounts who used the hashtag because they were vendors tweeting about their product and I was interested in collecting data from student affairs professionals. I used the same process to download the last 200 tweets for each of the 12 student affairs professionals. The final dataset contained 2,224 tweets with 796 being @ replies. All of these data were collected on April 25, 2011 at around 3:30pm EDT.
While 36% of student affairs professionals’ tweets were @ replies, only 18% of SSAO’s tweets were @ replies. I ran a chi-square test and unsurprisingly found there was a significant difference in @ replies between the two groups (χ²(1, 2223) = 697.20, p < .001). It’s important to point out that there was also a difference of 400 tweets between the two groups—to me, this suggests there’s an effect of familiarity with the Twitter platform and extraneous variables having to do with engagement with a personal network. What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.