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Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community Marcos Lopez-Carlson Communication 410 University of North Dakota April 20, 2013

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community Marcos Lopez-Carlson Communication 410 University of North Dakota April 20, 2013

There are many reasons why people form and join communities. Communities serve to unite individuals with a shared sense of belonging and purpose. Communities provide shared rituals and traditions. They also serve as repositories of shared knowledge and conduits to share that knowledge. Traditionally, communication across communities was facilitated with face-toface interaction or one-way communication such as newsletters or correspondence. With the adoption of Web 2.0 technologies, electronic communication technologies that allow for interactive real-time communication and the broad dispersal of user-generated content (O'Reilly, 09/30/2005), communication among individuals has shifted toward computer-mediated communication (CMC). One community that has adopted the use of Web 2.0 technologies as a method of intercommunity communication is a group that refers to itself as 30 Days of Biking. Centered around the idea of celebrating and encouraging the regular riding of a bicycle, 30 Days of Biking has embraced CMC as a way of organizing and sharing within the community. From its inception, the community was built using CMC and continues to organize, communicate and reinforce community ideals using these technologies. Community generated knowledge

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community Bicycle riders in the American city often view themselves as outliers in terms of transportation use. This sense of marginalization has lent itself to the formation of multiple communities within the larger bicycling community. These communities can be centered on the

purpose of the bicycle rider, for example racing, commuting or exercising. They can be centered on locality, neighborhoods, cities and states. They can also be centered on physical meeting areas of bicycle riders, local bike shops, coffee houses and shared physical resources such as a velodrome. As the technologies of Web 2.0 have become adopted by the larger society, they have similarly been adopted within the bicycle community and online bicycle communities have emerged which fulfill the same purpose of physical communities. This study will evaluate the use of one Web 2.0 technology, microblogging, to facilitate the transfer and share of knowledge among a virtual community of bicyclists. Microblogging is a method of computer-mediated communication using small packets of information to express ideas. The most commonly known microblogging tool in use is Twitter. Twitter is a service that allows individuals, users, to share information containing up to 140 characters, a tweet. Since a tweet is made of characters, this information is often textual information, but can include hyperlinks to images, web pages and videos (Twitter, 2013). Tweets can also contain within the message a device called a hashtag. Signified by the use of the pound symbol (#), hashtags create indexed and searchable links (Hashtags: From twitter to facebook.Sunday 17 March 2013). Following the hyperlink generated by a hashtag shows everyone using that hashtag. Another feature of Twitter is the retweet (RT). When a user encounters a tweet that they believe is enjoyable or useful to their followers, they can choose to retweet. To retweet means to send the tweet, as is, to your own followers on Twitter. Community members see this as a sign of

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community approval for a particular tweet. Finally, Twitter allows for direct communication between multiple users by inserting the commercial at symbol (@) before the name of an individual Tweeter. This notifies the user that they have been mentioned with a link to the tweet. Also, responding to an individual tweet using the commercial at will link the original tweet and the response, creating a threaded conversation. Based on these aspects of Twitter, this study proposes to analyze the ways that a community organizes and propagates the transfer of knowledge within the community using the methods available within Twitter. Beginning in April of 2009, a community of bicyclists has been using the hashtag #30daysofbiking to create a virtual community centered on bicycle riding. The community is

focused around taking a personal challenge to ride a bicycle everyday for thirty days. To enhance the sense of community, the thirty-day challenges are organized to take place during two set time frames every year, the month of April and the month of September. During those two months, everyone who is a part of the community tweets their experiences, questions, images and resources related to biking with the hashtag #30daysofbiking included. The community that has built up around #30daysofbiking is open in participation and membership in the community is based solely upon using the #30daysofbiking hashtag (Pledge.4/2013). While the community is global in reach, the largest presence is in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan region. This is reinforced with organized group rides, social events and other physical community events. A Google search of using Twitter for knowledge sharing will yield hundreds of responses, from case studies to blog posts, but peer reviewed studies on the subject are few. Studies have been done which show how knowledge transfer is facilitated among students in a classroom setting using Twitter (Domizi, 2013). Other studies have been done which show how

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community computer mediated communication is used within organizations to enhance knowledge sharing (Cho & Jae-Shin Lee, 2008). This study seeks to examine specifically how microblogging is used within a peer built, interest based community, a community that exists online but also in person.

The ability to share links to share images, video and web pages with a community makes Twitter a particularly well suited tool to facilitate knowledge share and reinforce community bonds. The question arises, how does this technology affect the community, and how is this new sort of community different than traditional communities that do not have the significant online aspect? Further, when considering the role of technology, how does this affect the transfer of information between community members? To address these questions we must first examine their theoretical aspects and look at the existing literature covering communities and community participation, the role of computermediated communication in community interaction, and knowledge sharing as part of community. Literature The literature review for this study is intended to show the development of ideas leading to this study. First, an overview of community formation and computer-mediated communication lays the groundwork for this study by reviewing prevailing beliefs in community communication. Next, Twitter as a computer-mediated tool for community development within and organization will be discussed, with a focus on how Twitter can reinforce self-identification within a community. Finally, the role of knowledge sharing within a community and its importance to community cohesion will be presented.

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community Community Why people participate in a community has been the subject of many studies. In ways, a community is defined by the way in which its members interact and participate within their group. Research has shown that community participation is based upon three markers; shared consciousness, shared rituals and obligation to the community (Laroche, Habibi, Richard, & Sankaranarayanan, 2012). Computer-mediated communication Computer-mediated communication is a style of communication that uses computers, including desktop and mobile devices, to facilitate communication among parties. With CMC, individuals are interacting in an asynchronous environment (Mnzer & Borg, 2008), meaning that communication happens based upon the availability of the sender and the receiver

independently. Without a physical, face-to-face component, the communication dynamic can lose the sense of immediacy and intimacy that can arise from physical interaction. (Wittwer, Nckles, & Renkl, 2010). Near instantaneous communication is possible, but not a necessity. Research has shown that while the lack of synchronicity can be detrimental to the learning environment (Mnzer & Borg, 2008), it does not fully inhibit the learning process. Further, for beginning learners the ability to learn at their own pace can serve to enhance the learning process and facilitate greater engagement within the community (Wittwer, Nckles, & Renkl, 2010). Within the #30daysofbiking community, the community knowledge is geared towards the new bicycle commuter and facilitating an increased level of confidence and competence among new members. Twitter as an organizing tool for online community

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community This basis of understanding community was formed when communities where defined primarily by location and proximity, but as the technological ability to communicate across regions has improved, the definition of community has widened to allow for communities to be built upon a shared purpose, regardless of location (Muniz Jr. & O'Guinn, 2001). Since individuals seek out communities built by individuals with similar interests and attitudes (Ho & Kyung, 2010), microblogging with Twitter provides an ideal tool to find and identify those individuals. Through the use of hashtags, Twitter creates a new type of semiotic metadata that

allows for "searchable talk" (Zappavigna, 2011). In other words, with hashtags, Twitter is a place where one can go to find and seek out "ambient communities" of shared value and interest (Zappavigna, 2011). A key component of community is shared rituals and #30daysofbiking as a Twitter built community is uniquely suited for this. The bicycle has been shown in studies to be an artifact of autonomy and excitement (Kidder, 2006). The #30daysofbiking community explicitly takes the symbol of the bicycle as a source of autonomy and resolves that every member of the community will ride their bicycle for 30 consecutive days within a shared time frame (Pledge.4/2013). The third component intrinsic to community is the sense of shared obligation, how much members feel they owe to the community as a part of community membership. While the #30daysofbiking community has the potential for global reach, the majority of the community resides within the Twin Cities area and has regularly scheduled weekly rides where community members can interact in person (Pledge.4/2013). In her study of microblogging within a graduate course, Denise Domizi found that using Twitter in conjunction with face to face meetings significantly enhanced the sense of connection and obligation within the community (Domizi,

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community

2013). Two components of this obligation are welcoming new members into the community and assisting new members in best practices and how to be a part of the community (Muniz Jr. & O'Guinn, 2001). Theses community building and reinforcing aspects of Twitter are the defining ideas behind H2, Using Twitter increases the group cohesion among those participating in the group. Knowledge Sharing as a Part of Community As computer-mediated communities develop increasing cohesiveness, cooperative habits such as knowledge and information sharing can develop (Ho & Kyung, 2010). There are two key factors that make the #30daysofcommuity an ideal example of an information-sharing community. First, the ability to share information as text using Twitter, and therefore share any electronic information artifact through hyperlinks, makes a community using Twitter to be using a tool which is useful for information-sharing (Domizi, 2013). Second, since the community is geographically proximate and members have met each other, there is little anonymity within the community. Especially among the founding members and longest tenured, who attempt to serve as role models within the community. Studies of organizational communication have shown that knowledge sharing is more efficient when contributors are identifiable (Ho & Kyung, 2010) and able to connect the information directly with individuals (Domizi, 2013). Finally, it is necessary to look at the way in which the knowledge sharing within the community effects the level of competency based knowledge among community members. While direct information-artifact, hyperlinks, sharing in a group diminishes based upon the tenure of the individual; the amount of organizing influence that individual contributes increases (Nov, Naaman, & Ye, 2010). In other words, the more tenured community members may not

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community provide as much direct information as newer community members, they do provide a high level

of the organizing structure that the group uses to share information. This organizational expertise is key in maintaining the information sharing, as studies show that community members understand that community viability depends upon their commitment to the community (Ho & Kyung, 2010), and that communities need new members as well as long-term members to maintain viability (Muniz Jr. & O'Guinn, 2001). Individuals that are driven to improve skills utilizing interactive tools are also the most likely to join communities based around those tools (Nov, Naaman, & Ye, 2010). Active participation in knowledge and information sharing activities also serves to create a link between the knowledge of individual group members and the values of the community within which they belong (Kim, Hong, & Suh, 2012). These factors are the influencing ideas behind H1, Using Twitter increases the competence-based knowledge of bicycling and bicycling resources in the group and H3, Knowledge transfer among the group is reinforced and rewarded within the group. Hypotheses The gives us three hypotheses for testing, the hypotheses are : H1: Using Twitter increases the competence-based knowledge of bicycling and bicycling resources in the group. H2: Using Twitter increases the group cohesion among those participating in the group. H3: Knowledge transfer among the group is reinforced and rewarded within the group. Methods

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community

The method section of this study covers the overall approach to this studys, including the use of self-reported answers and general population use of Twitter. The participants in the survey, taken from the #30daysofbiking community, and the questions that will be administered will be explained. Finally, an overview of the analytical methods used in the study will be explained. Study design Data will be collected for this study using a combination of survey responses and data compiled about community use through Twitter. The combination of user reported value with group behavior will allow us to see the correlation between perceived community benefit and community behavior. Participants All participants in this study will be members of the #30daysofbiking community. The survey will be administered through Survey Monkey, an online survey administration tool. The participants will be invited to participate through tweeted hyperlinks to the survey, posts to the #30daysofbiking Facebook page and through in person requests to take the survey at community events which take place in the Twin Cities. In person requests will be handled with a small flyer explaining the purpose of the study and containing a link to the Survey Monkey page. Since the participants will be taken from within the community, the final participants will be found using a snowball sample method. This will most likely be reinforced by the culture of retweeting within Twitter, where tweets are shared with one's followers, and by including an option to send out a tweet at the end of the survey indicating that the participant had taken part. In April of 2013, #30daysofbiking had a participation rate of 3,154 identified members. Based on

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community

this total, the goal for this study is to have a minimum of 10 percent participation from within the community for a total minimum number of completed surveys to be 315 (n>315). As an added incentive to take the survey, all participants who complete the survey will be eligible to win gift cards from bicycle shops within the Twin Cities metro area. Contact information for all participants will be kept separate from the responses to ensure response anonymity. Survey The survey portion of this study will be a 5 point Likert-type scale where respondents gauge their perceived level of bicycling related knowledge derived through the use of Twitter with 1 representing "not t all" and 5 representing "frequently". The knowledge that respondents will report on will include the following topics: 1. Mechanical knowledge (bicycle maintenance and repair) 1. Have you used Twitter to receive assistance in fixing a mechanical problem with your or someone else's bicycle? 2. Have you used Twitter to offer assistance in fixing a mechanical problem with someone else's bicycle? 3. Have you used Twitter to receive assistance in performing maintenance on your or someone else's bicycle? 4. Have you used Twitter to offer assistance in performing maintenance on someone else's bicycle? 5. Have you used Twitter to receive assistance in diagnosing a mechanical problem with your or someone else's bicycle?

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community 6. Have you used Twitter to offer assistance in diagnosing a mechanical problem with someone else's bicycle? 2. Geographic knowledge (bicycle routes and areas better for bicycling) 1. Have you used Twitter to receive assistance in planning a route for bicycle riding? 2. Have you used Twitter to offer assistance in planning a route for bicycle riding? 3. Have you used Twitter to discover new areas for bicycling? 4. Have you used Twitter to help others discover new areas for bicycling? 5. Have you used Twitter to find out current environmental and traffic conditions when preparing to go bicycling? 6. Have you used Twitter to offer current environmental and traffic conditions when bicycling?

3. Resource knowledge (community based resources such as bike shops and bicycle clinics) 1. Have you used Twitter to learn about local bike shops? 2. Have you used Twitter to offer information about local bike shops? 3. Have you used Twitter to discover local bike related resources? 4. Have you used Twitter to help others discover local bike related resources? 4. Community knowledge (increase in the number of people known and community events centered on biking) 1. Have you met knew people in the biking community through Twitter? 2. Have you used Twitter to discover biking related events in your geographic region? 3. Have you used Twitter to help others find biking related events in your geographic region?

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community 5. Statement of Benefits

1. Overall, do you feel that Twitter has increased the level of knowledge you have about bicycle maintenance and repair? 2. Overall, do you feel that Twitter has increased the level of knowledge you have about routes to use when bicycling? 3. Overall, do you feel that Twitter has increased your knowledge about local bike resouces? 4. Overall, do you feel that Twitter has increased the level of knowledge you have about the bicycling community? Procedure and Data The data from the survey will be analyzed using a chi-square test to determine the validity of the responses in each category. Testing each category for significance will show that the results are applicable to the #30daysofbiking community. The data compiled through the Twitter API will be done with hashtag tracking. Since the amount of information shared on Twitter can be overwhelming, combined with limitations in the Twitter API preventing searches over 7 days old, the hashtag tracking will be done on a daily basis using Sprout Social. Sprout Social is a Twitter management platform that provides customized dashboards for Twitter searches and allows the data to be exported into a database. Further, during this time period random samplings will be made of general population Twitter use to compare the #30daysofbiking Twitter behavior to the behavior of the larger Twitter population. It is expected that community use of knowledge sharing within Twitter will be greater than among the general population. A way to test for population generalizabilty would be

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community to use another hashtag defined community during this same period as a control group. This is unfortunately outside of the scope of this study. The data received from the compiled tweets will be coded into the following categories based upon their content: 1. Image, not sharing bicycle or community knowledge 2. Image, tutorial or resource sharing 3. Video, not sharing bicycle or community knowledge 4. Video, tutorial or resource sharing 5. Link, not sharing bicycle or community knowledge 6. Link, sharing bicycle or community knowledge

By comparing the self-reported responses from the survey with the group behavior found using Twitter, a correlation will be described between the independent and dependent variables. Independent Variable: Perceived knowledge gain through participation in the #30daysofbiking community. Dependent Variables: 1. The number of tweets sent using the #30daysofbiking hashtag during the allotted thirty days. 2. The number of those tweets using the #30daysofbiking hashtag that contain hyperlinks to knowledge sources. 3. The number of retweets of tweets using the #30daysofbiking hashtag. Which contain hyperlinks to knowledge sources. 4. The number of tweets sent by all Twitter users during the same time period.

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community The comparison of the behavior of #30daysofbiking community members will be done using analysis of variance (ANOVA) to compare the content of tweets sent by members of the community. The analysis is intended to be similar to other studies that compare individual and

group use within a social sharing network (Nov, Naaman, & Ye, 2010). The first three dependent variables should correlate with the independent variable, and the fourth dependent variable will be used to give a large-scale perspective of the #30daysof biking community behavior within the larger Twitter community.

Knowledge Sharing Using Twitter in an Online Community

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