May 20, 2022

New Study Looks at Why People Tweet and What that Could Mean for Twitter’s Future

From the University of Pittsburgh:

Popular social media site Twitter may eventually resemble a broadcast medium like television or radio, with users reading messages written by celebrities and corporations rather than writing their own “tweet” messages of up to 140 characters, suggests a new study coauthored by Andrew T. Stephen, assistant professor of business administration and Katz Fellow in Marketing in the University of Pittsburgh’s Joseph M. Katz  Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration.

In one of the first studies to use social media as a laboratory for social science experiments, Stephen and coauthor Olivier Toubia, the Glaubinger Professor of Business at Columbia University, questioned what motivates people to post tweets. Are Twitter users motivated by broadcasting their thoughts and opinions or, rather, by their desire to increase their social status by accumulating followers?

The results, published in the May/June issue of the peer-reviewed journal Marketing Science [subscribers only], provide insights into that question and have generated a surprising prediction of what the social network may operate like in the future.

To investigate the question, Stephen and Toubia identified approximately 2,500 Twitter users who were being followed by a range of other Twitter users, numbering from 13 to more than 10,000. All were noncorporate, noncelebrity users, and they were not tweeting for commercial purposes. Half the users were put into a control group, and the authors recorded daily data on the participants’ number of followers and their tweeting activity over a period of two months.

Read a Summary of the the Findings

Update: We’ve learned that a version of the research paper is available direct from Professor Stephen’s Web Site

Direct to Full Text Paper (PDF)

See Also: Additional Research by Professor Andrew Stephen

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.