Social Pressures and Many Reasons to Tweet

Ever feel the pressure to post because you want to keep moving on up? Or is the act of tweeting pure joy?

Toubia and Stephen (2013) suggested that there are two kinds of motivation for noncommercial Twitter users: intrinsic and and image-related (p. 368). They explained that intrinsic utility is gained when users post and as a result, more followers are gained. This makes tweeting….well, fun! Conversely, they said that there are users who simply want a large following. Period. Being pressured to post is something one must endure to gain more followers. This is image-related motivation.

The researchers conducted a field experiment to test this prediction. They found that most users went through phases. Starting out, people posted more to gain followers for intrinsic reasons. And later, users’ actions reflected image-related motivation once more followers had been acquired. There was a control group, selected users, and posts were monitored over a period of time. However, the frequency of posting and a post-to-follower ratio does not necessarily indicate or predict behavior. Surveys were not conducted and qualitative data was excluded (if collected at all). How do we know what the users were thinking?

I’m not convinced that Twitter motivation and use can be segmented so simply. There’s the desire to consume information, to react to other people, to converse with authors, to congratulate Oscar winners, to debate politicians. Twitter is the medium that grants access by removing geographic, educational, and class barriers. There’s a plethora of reasons to use Twitter that differs than just wanting to see and be seen.

Michael Roston described reading tweets by different users on the same topic as a new form of storytelling. He pointed out that when news outlets allow reporters to tweet the news from the scene, it adds a richness that one doesn’t get from the company newspaper’s account. Further, when tweets are numerous yet descriptive, immersion takes hold for the reader (Steve Buttry can live tweet like a boss.). World leaders, TV personalities, movie stars, mayors, and ordinary citizens can converse in real time about policies, tragedies, and royal births. Twitter provides the access; the user must provide the text.

Anne Trubek said that Twitter has become a “democratizing force in the literary world.” How profound! As an author, she enjoys how Twitter is forcing everyone to write, a lot. Even though many have been out of practice, we’re now honing in on the power of 140 characters.

As a faithful tweeter, I feel responsible to ensure the information I push out or relay is sound. Yes, I can say it’s to preserve the integrity of journalism, yet, my conviction is fueled more to combat the adage, “You can’t believe everything you read on the Internet!” If we work to remember context, check sources, and use common sense, Twitter can be and has been a reliable and credible source of information. (Read Malachy Browne for validation tips.)

Twitter is many things, but personally it’s greatest asset is that it fits in my pocket. Wherever I go, I have the ability to silently catch up on the chatter or loudly join the exchange.

Storify from live tweeting the Super Bowl

Storify from live tweeting the Super Bowl

P.S. Above is how I used Twitter last Sunday to help tell a story, immerse myself in live tweeting, write some quips, check sources, catch missed plays, and join tens of millions from the comfort of home.


Toubia, O., & Stephen, A. T. (2013). Intrinsic vs. image-related utility in social media: Why do people contribute content to Twitter? Marketing Science, (32)3, 368-392. Retrieved from

(For the APA-philes.)

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