Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Public engagement and social media!

Hi everyone,

Building from Hillary’s post, here is an article that I briefly shared during discussion, which I found to be provocative about Twitter altmetrics:

I stumbled across it when I was looking into the efficacy of Twitter in public engagement, since we were discussing it in the context of archaeology. There are some limitations to the study (which they acknowledge). For example, their conclusions about Twitter engagement doesn’t necessarily apply across all fields since they only focus on one discipline (dentistry). Also, this study is focused specifically on the use of Twitter in altmetrics with journal articles, not general public engagement (however you define that). [Sidenote: There are many enthusiastic proponents of altmetrics out there, and active discussion surrounding their use.]

However, I believe it does bring up a few issues that we reflected upon in class. How do we measure online “engagement”? Is it 10 re-tweets? 500 Facebook followers that actively participate in conversation (what is considered active participation)? A million crowd-funding participants?

My personal feelings are that online numbers are not always an effective or comprehensive reflection upon engagement (or the importance of a project!), though the reality is that numbers are what most people want to see and find impressive. It has also occurred to me that I view this as a key difference between online measurements and measuring engagement through, say, ticket sales at a museum. In the offline world, it's unlikely that we would be concerned with 100 fake visitors to an exhibit. Thus, perhaps this is an area where applying offline methods don't translate well to a digital space. In designing how to generate interest in archaeology and communicate archaeological concepts, these are going to be the issues we’re going to have to confront. I am curious to know if anyone has found different ways of measuring engagement with more qualitative methods to add to the numbers.


kayla lausanne said...

I think it would be interesting to see the time spent by one user on a given page. For instance, does an individual user go on the page once a month for 5 minutes or do they spend 20 minutes a day? I feel this would be more accurate than assuming follows or likes as engagement as it shows people are putting time into the page and most likely, the more time suggest they are reading and engaging with the material. Subsequently, looking at what they are doing while on the page is interesting – for example a Facebook post with an article link - are they just reading the comments of the post or are they opening the link? Although these ways do have flaws, I believe they’d provide a more accurate way to measure engagement.

Joanna said...

That's an interesting point, and I agree. I was having difficulty in expressing why some of the engagement tactics we've read over the course appealed to me more than others (e.g. Facebook discussions vs. Twitter posts), and I think that sense of time spent on learning the material (vs. sharing a headline, etc.) is important to explore.

Jeff Grieve said...

Thanks Joanna for your post,

I have used Google analytics in my past professional life as a way of gathering metrics on websites. You can use this information to build a fairly comprehensive behavior profile of visitors to your website - which pages they visited, links clicked on, time spent. This type of information is most useful as an indicator of information "consumption" ... rather than "comprehension". I think that there are parallel elements within social media such as number of "likes" and "tweets" that can likewise serve as indicators of "consumption", but it is difficult to metric deeper levels of engagement such as comprehension or the synthesis of new ideas? I guess that takes us back to the original dilemma of what is meant by "engagement" ? I think that some aspects will be easier to metric than others.


Hillary Kiazyk said...

Hey Joanna, just saw this and I agree analytics can be a tricky thing to quantify accurately. I think this is especially difficult given the fact that many social media platforms now allow content creators to promote their material and gain followers by paying. There are also many industries that promote people to make accounts and follow people just to boost their followers. At a time when followers and promotion can be bought and visibility on social media gets concentrated among the wealthy I think it is interesting to have this conversation. We didn't see much of this when talking about legitimate archaeological content but I certainly think we all saw some form of targeted social media or paid followers when looking at the website reviews. Many of these pages use this to their advantage. I find it a bit discouraging to think that we as people working from our perspectives (typically heritage industry with limited budgets) are up against this sort of content. Public engagement is a strange beast.