Valenzuela, Sebastián, Teresa Correa, and Homero Gil de Zúñiga (2018). “Ties, likes, and tweets: Using strong and weak ties to explain differences in protest participation across Facebook and Twitter use.” Political Communication, 35(1), 117-134.
This article argues that different social media platforms influence political participation through unique, yet complementary, routes. More specifically, it proposes that Facebook and Twitter are conducive to protest behavior through two distinct mechanisms: whereas the influence of Facebook use is more effective through communication with strong-tie networks, the impact of Twitter use is more effective through communication with weak-tie networks. To test these expectations, we analyze data from a cross-sectional, face-to-face survey on a representative sample of Chilean youths conducted in 2014. Findings in the study lend empirical support for these hypotheses. Consequently, while different social media (in this case, Facebook and Twitter) are similar in their participatory effects, the paths through which this influence occurs are distinct, a finding that highlights the importance of studying political behavior across different media platforms.
A cross-sectional, face-to-face survey was conducted in Chile in July 2014 among the population of young adults (age: 18 to 29) living in the three largest urban centers (Santiago, Valparaíso, and Concepción). The sample size was 1,000 individuals. Respondents were asked how frequently they used both Facebook and Twitter, separately. For each platform, respondents were also asked the following: “With what frequency have you received information about issues of public interest (such as invitations to join a street demonstration or sign a petition) on your account from: (a) people you know personally and are close to you; (b) people you do not know personally?” Item (a) was defined as strong ties, whereas item (b) was defined as weak ties.
- Both Facebook and Twitter use are positively related to engagement in protest activities.
- Political information obtained from strong ties and weak ties on social media mediates the relationship between protest behavior and general uses of Facebook and Twitter.
- On Facebook, strong-tie connections are conductive to further protest behavior, while exposure to weak ties conveys a much weaker influence on this type of political activity. Conversely, weak-tie connections in Twitter seem to lead people to engage in protest behavior; interactions with strong ties on this medium have no discernible impact.
- Overall, social network structures are not equal, and their effects across social media platforms are correspondingly unique and distinct.
Implications for Practice
Not all social media are created equal, that is, Facebook and Twitter have unique affordances for their users, which practitioners must understand when deciding how to craft messages that will be effective across platforms. These affordances suggest that so-called strong ties may be easier to maintain on Facebook than on Twitter, whereas the opposite is true for weak ties. Practitioners must assume that people share information on Facebook for their close contacts, whereas on Twitter they share information for the larger public. These different affordances, in turn, may explain why strong ties are more conducive to protest participation on Facebook and not on Twitter, whereas weak ties may mobilize young citizens on Twitter. For instance, on Twitter, weak and strong ties will have the same amount of space to transmit a message and call for protesting. On Facebook, in contrast, the emotional closeness to the message sender may have a greater impact on the receiver, who may ponder more on both the informational and affective value of it.
The full article is available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10584609.2017.1334726
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