The 10 Most Interesting Social Media Studies of 2011

10. Misery Has More Company Than People Think: Underestimating the Prevalence of Others’ Negative Emotions
Alexander H. Jordan, Benoît Monin, Carol S. Dweck, Benjamin J. Lovett, Oliver P. John, and James J. Gross in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin

They’re the worst kind of Facebook friend. No, not the kind that keeps sending you invites to Mafia Wars. Rather, they’re the people who always have the sweetest, happiest posts about their lives. They write sweet motivational messages, post pictures of the romantic things their boyfriend is always doing for them, and not a day goes by without a video of a baby or a kitten. But are those people on Facebook really as chipper as they always seem to be? Probably not.

A recent study by Stanford University doctoral student Alex Jordan revealed that most Facebook users underestimate how unhappy their peers are on the social media site. Participants in the study reported that they often choose to not post depressing news, resulting in a skew of positive-to-negative posts. In addition, the more they underestimated others' sadness, the more unhappy they became.

9. BlogHer’s 2011 Social Media Matters Study

BlogHer’s fourth annual Social Media study provides a definitive view of how women used blogs, social media and digital technology in 2011. 

One of the most interesting results from this year’s study was the new economic power of bloggers. Eighty-eight percent of participants in the study considered to be “active blog readers” said they trust the information they get from the blogs they visit on a regular basis. In addition, more women valued product recommendations from bloggers over celebrity endorsements. Sorry, Kardashians, your product-shilling ways are so 2010.

8. Alcohol References on Undergraduate Males’ Facebook Profiles
Katie Egan for American Journal of Men’s Health

Feel like you need a drink? It could be because of all the Facebook statuses you’ve been reading. According to research by Katie Egan from the University of Wisconsin’s Department of Pediatrics, frequent references to alcohol on Facebook may encourage alcohol consumption. Egan studied the people most likely to brag about alcohol on Facebook, undergraduate males, and found that references to getting hammered were present in 85.3 percent of their profiles. And the more references to alcohol a student had on their profile, the more Facebook friends they had.


7. Democrats, Republicans and Starbucks Afficionados: User Classification in Twitter
Marco Pennacchiotti and Ana-Maria Popescu from Yahoo! Labs

Which types of blogs do you visit more often? One that’s focused on a specific interest, like cooking or a genre of books, or one that’s all over the place?

Yahoo! Labs research on user classification on Twitter studied the value of classified profiles and showed that the more tailored a profile is towards a specific topic, the better response it will get on the Web. Using your social media platforms to cover a specific topic will help define your authority on the subject, improve your ranking in search engines, and allow your brand to get picked up by apps designed to suggest new accounts to follow on Twitter and Google.

Yahoo! Labs’ experimented with three defining social media characteristics: political affiliation, ethnicity, and affinity for a particular business. They then used the results of their studies to describe a robust machine learning framework for large-scale classification of social media users according to dimensions of interest.


6. Contingencies of Self-Worth and Social-Networking-Site Behavior
Michael A. Stefanone, Derek Lackaff, and Devan Rosen for CYBERPSYCHOLOGY, BEHAVIOR, AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

To determine social media behaviors based on gender, this study had 311 participants fill out a questionnaire measuring their contingencies of self-worth. Not only did the study show that women identify more strongly with their image and appearance, but it suggested that they use Facebook to express this association. For many people, Facebook acts as a first introduction to others. The pressure is building to have attractive photos on the website, and many people are beginning to measure their self-worth and put their self-esteem on the line for quality images.

5. Loose Tweets: An Analysis of Privacy Leaks on Twitter
Huina Mao, Xin Shuai, Apu Kapadia from the 10th Annual ACM Workshop on Privacy in the Electronic Society

While most of the debates surrounding privacy on social media have concentrated on a social network's privacy policies, there hasn't been as much attention given to the role that users play in revealing their own personal information. Researchers analyzed three specific types of tweets in this report: divulging vacation plans, tweeting under the influence of alcohol, and revealing medical conditions. Cross referencing these tweets with an analysis of who is tweeting, both gender/racially and by country of origin, the researchers provide some interesting analysis in regards to the impact of the messages. While the findings of the research will be shocking to few, they are an important window onto the mentality of Twitter users who have experienced a level of "buyer's remorse" over something they have transmitted.

4. Nielsen's State of Media: Q3 Social Media Report

While the majority of attention and research in 2011 was focused on Twitter and Facebook, we can’t forget about the dark horse that is Tumblr. This year, Tumblr was the 8th largest website in Nielsen’s U.S. Social Networks and Blogs category. But it’s picking up speed, rapidly. According to the State of the Media report, Tumblr nearly tripled its unique U.S. audience in the last year. The microblogging site had 13.4 million unique visitors in the U.S. in July 2011 — up 218 percent from July 2010. Must have something to do with all those “F*ck Yeah Ryan Gosling” and “Kim Jong Il Staring at Things” Tumblrs.

3. Separating You and Me? 4.74 Degrees

Facebook Data Team and University of Milan

Research by scientists at Facebook and the University of Milan recently revealed that the average number of acquaintances separating any two people in the world was not six, but 4.74. Researchers used a set of algorithms developed to calculate the average distance between any two people by computing a vast number of sample paths among Facebook users. They found that the average number of links from one arbitrarily selected person to another was 4.74. In the United States, where more than half of people over 13 are on Facebook (and more than a few kids are lying about their age), it was just 4.37. Looks like we’re all a little bit closer to Kevin Bacon than we thought. Awesome.

2. Social Networking Sites and Our Lives
Keith Hampton, Lauren Sessions Goulet,
Lee Rainie, Kristen Purcell for the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project

Grandmom’s constant comments on your Facebook profile have larger implications than you thought. In 2010, The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project conducted a survey that explored people’s social networks and how their usage is related to trust, tolerance, social support, and community and political engagement. Their research revealed that as older generations become more active in social media, more young people become disengaged. This can have huge implications in the advancement of future social media, as well as online economics.


1. 2011 Online Influence Trend Tracker
Cone Communications

Research by public relations and marketing agency Cone Communications proved that those Yelp reviews really can make or break a business. In 2011, four-out-of-five consumers changed their minds about purchasing a recommended product or service based on negative information they found online. This is up from just 67 percent of consumers who said the same in 2010. In addition, positive reviews have a similar effect on purchaser decision-making. According to the Trend Tracker, 87 percent of consumers agreed that a favorable review confirmed their decision to purchase.

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