A multi-theoretical approach towards understanding news sharing in social media
Date of Issue2015
Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information
News delivered by a variety of media channels can impact civic agenda, public opinion, and the framing of reality in people’s life. In recent years, social media is becoming the top outlet for people to access news stories that are shared by individual users. Given the significance of news flow in social media, it is important to know what factors may influence users’ news sharing in the social media context. Specifically, the two research objectives of the present research are as follows: 1) drawing from the literature on gratification research, this study attempts to identify what motivational factors drive users to share news in social media; 2) extending the uses and gratifications theory by identifying influential factors from diffusion of innovations theory, this research provides insights on how news attributes, opinion leadership, and diffusion networks may impact news sharing in social media. To achieve the research objectives, a conceptual model was proposed on the basis of the two theories. In particular, the entire research is divided into two interrelated studies. In Study 1, hierarchical regression was employed to analyze the self-reported data collected from 318 respondents. Several interesting findings were revealed from the results. In terms of perceived gratifications, socializing was the strongest motivation in predicting news sharing, followed by status seeking and information learning. From the perspective of diffusion of innovations theory, it was found that opinion leadership, tie strength, and news liking/relevance, were significantly associated with users’ news sharing in social media. The findings demonstrated that people’s experiences with online news have been transformed from a personal activity to an interpersonal one using social media. While the use of subjective data to measure motivations from the uses and gratifications perspective is appropriate, there are concerns that the subjective data may not accurately capture the network environmental factors derived from diffusion of innovations theory. To complement the data collected via the survey which focuses on individuals’ characteristics and perceptions, the second study was conducted through analyzing secondary data harvested from social media platforms. Specifically, Twitter was selected as a benchmarking platform to provide insights on general information sharing and the network structures that evolve from online sharing behavior. Digg was selected as a news platform to examine users’ news sharing in social media. Social network analysis was applied to analyze the secondary data. It was revealed that influential factors underlying general information sharing and news sharing were different. Furthermore, Study 2 identified that opinion leadership, tie strength, and news liking can significantly impact users’ news sharing in social media. Collectively, this research shows that gratification factors (including socializing, status seeking, and information learning), opinion leadership, tie strength, and news attributes can significantly influence users’ news sharing in social media. For researchers, the present research provides a theoretical framework to advance the understanding of key factors that contribute to news sharing in social media. In addition, the hybrid approach combining social network analysis with statistical tests in the present research provides an innovative way to investigate the influence of social network in social media. For practitioners, the findings will shed light on enhancing users’ active participation and contribution as well as improving the performance of business agencies (e.g., public relation, virtual marketing) in social media.
DRNTU::Library and information science::Libraries::Information society
Nanyang Technological University