Hashtags and information virality in networked social movement

Rong Wang (Department of Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA)
Wenlin Liu (Department of Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA)
Shuyang Gao (Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, USA)

Online Information Review

ISSN: 1468-4527

Publication date: 14 November 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to conceptualize the use of Twitter hashtag as a strategy to enhance the visibility and symbolic power of social movement-related information. It examined how characteristics of hashtag drove information virality during a networked social movement.

Design/methodology/approach

Twitter data from two days during the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011 were collected. With network analysis, the authors identified popular hashtag types and examined hashtag co-occurrence patterns during the two contrasting movement days. It also provides a comparative analysis of how major types of viral hashtag may play different roles depending on different movement cycles.

Findings

The authors found that the role of hashtag influencing information virality may vary based on the context of the tweets. For example, movement participants applied more strategic hashtag combinations during the unexpected event day to reach different social circles. Consistent patterns were identified in mobilizing influential actors such as public figures. Different use patterns of media outlet hashtag were found across the two days.

Originality/value

Implications on how hashtag type and event dynamics may shape hashtag co-occurrence patterns were discussed.

Keywords

Citation

Wang, R., Liu, W. and Gao, S. (2016), "Hashtags and information virality in networked social movement", Online Information Review, Vol. 40 No. 7, pp. 850-866. https://doi.org/10.1108/OIR-12-2015-0378

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Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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