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Twitter and TV events: an exploration of how to use social media for student-led research

Magdalena Bober (Department of Languages, Information & Communications, Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester, UK)

Aslib Journal of Information Management

ISSN: 2050-3806

Article publication date: 19 May 2014



The purpose of this paper is twofold. First, it investigates the relationship between television, its audiences and Twitter around the creation of social TV events. Here it contributes to knowledge by charting usage in relation to different types of programmes and by comparing Twitter to Facebook data. Second, it evaluates the way in which student-led research can be used to conduct audience studies with the help of Twitter.


The research applies a quantitative approach, measuring the volume of Twitter messages before, during and after two different types of television programmes, i.e. Reality TV (The X Factor and The Only Way is Essex) and sports broadcasts (football and Formula One). Brief comparisons are also drawn with data collected from Facebook. The pedagogical evaluation of the research is based on self-reflection by the author/tutor.


The research established similar trends and patterns of viewer engagement for both types of television programming, with key activity during and towards the end of a broadcast which points to viewers using Twitter, or Facebook, while watching the event. The findings are compared to previous studies on television programmes and Twitter use. The study also identified that student research using Twitter can lead to a valuable learning experience as it allows students to use their own knowledge of social media to inform the research process.


This research makes a contribution to the small yet growing body of studies examining Twitter activity in relation to TV events. It also contributes to knowledge on the educational use of social media by providing an account of how Twitter can be applied as a research tool by students.



The author would like to thank the students involved in the research projects, especially Matthew Denny, Simon Tracey, Stuart Hamilton and George Allen, as well as her colleagues and co-tutors, Deirdre Hynes and Mikko Sihvonen. Thanks are also due to Jenny Rowley for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.


Bober, M. (2014), "Twitter and TV events: an exploration of how to use social media for student-led research", Aslib Journal of Information Management, Vol. 66 No. 3, pp. 297-312.



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