The Journal of Web Science > Vol 3 > Issue 1

It’s All About Information? The Following Behaviour of Professors and PhD Students in Computer Science on Twitter

Stephanie Linek, Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, Germany, Asmelash Teka Hadgu, L3S Research Center, Germany, Christian Pieter Hoffmann, Institute of Communication and Media Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany, Robert Jäschke, Information School, University of Sheffield, UK, Cornelius Puschmann, Hans-Bredow-Institut für Medienforschung, Germany,
Suggested Citation
Stephanie Linek, Asmelash Teka Hadgu, Christian Pieter Hoffmann, Robert Jäschke and Cornelius Puschmann (2017), "It’s All About Information? The Following Behaviour of Professors and PhD Students in Computer Science on Twitter", The Journal of Web Science: Vol. 3: No. 1, pp 1-15.

Published: 19 Jul 2017
© 2017 S. Linek, A. Teka Hadgu, C. P. Hoffmann, R. Jäschke, and C. Puschmann
TwitterNetiquetteOpen scienceUnilateral versus reciprocal relationshipsMotives for following

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Open Access

This is published under the terms of CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

In this article:
1. Introduction
2. Theoretical Background
3. Research Question and Research Design
4. Analyses of the Raw Data of Computer Scientists on Twitter
5. Analyses of the Variance on the Five Hypotheses: Influence of the Activity and the Academic Hierarchy
6. Discussion & Conclusion
Appendix A: Analysis of the Mention and Retweet Activities of Researchers


In this paper we investigate the role of the academic status in the following behaviour of computer scientists on Twitter. Based on a uses and gratifications perspective, we focus on the activity of a Twitter account and the reciprocity of following relationships. We propose that the account activity addresses the users’ information motive only, whereas the user’s academic status relates to both the information motive and community development (as in peer networking or career planning). Variables were extracted from Twitter user data. We applied a biographical approach to correctly identify the academic status (professor versus PhD student). We calculated a 2 x 2 MANOVA on the influence of the activity of the account and the academic status (on different groups of followers) to differentiate the influence of the information motive versus the motive for community development. Results suggest that for computer scientists Twitter is mainly an information network. However, we found significant effects in the sense of career planning, that is, the accounts of professors had even in the case of low activity a relatively high number of researcher followers – both PhD followers as well as professor followers. Additionally, there was also some weak evidence for community development gratifications in the sense of peer-networking of professors. Overall, we conclude that the academic use of Twitter is not only about information, but also about career planning and networking.