Social Media Analysis

We have chosen to research the Twitter, Instagram and Reddit community. Due to reasons that the topic is hard to find a community for, we had to resort to other maneuvers in order to research a community. For example for Twitter we did by using hashtags from our keywords list in order to see how many users are posting about the breakings news and how much people react to it or not. We did the same for Instagram and for Reddit, trying to post a question into a thread that has to do with the Super Tuesday results. 




Considering that the focus of the research lies on learning about the way users learn about news with the help of hashtags, Twitter can be seen as the prime example. Hashtags were invented for this platform and its community is using it ever since.


With around 500 million new Tweets per day, Twitter is one of the busiest social media platforms worldwide (W3C, 2016). Within those Tweets, numerous hashtags are being used, presenting an ideal basis for the intended research. Furthermore, people can actually learn about breaking news on Twitter, since it enables eye witnesses and surrounding people to post something about certain events or incidents right away. That implies that the daily number of Tweets continuously adds more aspects to it.


Users can choose which pages or accounts they would like to follow, they can get connected with each other. When something is being posted, other users have the chance to react to it right away. Within the commenting section, Twitter users can interact with each other to share their opinions at any given moment. In order to bring together people who wish to discuss about certain topics such as news or daily issues, on Twitter the hashtag #discussion was introduced. Searching for this keyword on Twitter, one will immediately get an overview over latest Twitter discussion, always having the opportunity to participate themselves (Twitter, #discussions – search, 2016).


Twitter itself sees its mission in assigning everyone the power to share and create ideas as well as information immediately and barrier free (Twitter, About the Company, 2016) With around 320 million active users, one can assume that this network must be pretty diverse. Secondary research conducted by the Pew Research Centre revealed that around 50% of all people using Twitter are under 35. Another 25% are 36-49 years of age (PRC, 2013). Since Twitter is used worldwide, people with different ethnicities, values, beliefs as well as social standard and life status can directly interact with each other.


As mentioned before, the network is fed by an incredibly high number of new postings every day. Those postings are being stored and with the help of search as well as advanced search functions, one can always access it again. It serves as a huge database of different opinions, thoughts and discussions that can always be filtered by location. This is expected to enrich the research, given the ability to make direct comparisons between postings per location or groupings of people.




Within the social network that is mainly concerned with photo and video sharing, hashtags play an important role. Hashtags on Instagram are not only used to enable users to find their pictures and tags more easily, but also to learn about news and the worldly happenings surrounding us. Today, Instagram has become one of the most relevant social media giants – ranked just before Twitter. For the purpose of the research, we can investigate the ways of using hashtags on Instagram compared to the ones of Twitter, for example.


From “only” 90 million users in 2013, the Instagram community now comprises more than 400 million active users a month, 20% of all internet users also make use of Instagram (DMR, Interesting Instagram Statistics, 2016). Similar to Twitter, it serves as a platform to not only share moments but also to discuss about hot topics, generally using hashtags of any kind.


As soon as a picture or a video is posted, users get the chance to talk about it, either in the commenting section or even via Insta-message. Due to the massive amount of daily uploads, the platform offers a wide range of possible topics, enabling Instagrammers to get in touch with each other.


Comparable to Twitter, Instagram’s user-community is spread all over the world. The platform enables the interaction of people from different social classes, different cultural backgrounds and ethnicities.


Again, Instagram is working similarly to Twitter. With a huge number of postings every day, the platform’s data-richness is incredibly high. By using hashtags of any kind, the network can be selectively scraped for certain information.




In contrast to Twitter and Instagram, Reddit is a social news, entertainment networking service which basically works as an online bulletin board system. Although it is primarily working without hashtags, it has a lot to do with the way today’s society learns about breaking news (Alexa, 2015). Comparing this with two social media platforms that heavily rely on hashtag usage, useful conclusions can be drawn for research purposes.


In 2015, Reddit had around 542 million users per month (Alexa, 2015). Nevertheless, relevant news, topics and issues are dealt with on a daily basis. Basically available as well as accessible for everybody.


Since it is not quite functioning in the same way a typical social media platform does, Reddit users do not have a profile in the original sense. There are user profiles, but not as ostensible as it is for Instagram and Twitter (e.g. 542 million monthly users but only 36 million user accounts). Still, people are able to comment on certain topics and by doing so, daily discussions are being encouraged. A special feature about Reddit is the fact that so-called Reddit communities are existent. This enables users to unite for the sake of a certain topic or issue in order to further discuss it (DMR, By the Numbers: Reddit Statistics, 2015)


Since it also is an online service, Reddit-pages can be accessed from more than 210 countries all around the world. Therefore, its audience is just as diverse (DMR, By the Numbers: Reddit Statistics, 2015).


Having around 853.824 Sub-reddits to date, with this number steadily expanding and accounting for considerable online traffic, Reddit can be seen as a base providing rich and various data.





Alexa, I. (2015). Site Info. Retrieved from

Article19. (2005). Freedom of Expression and the Media in the Philippines. London, Manila: CMFR.

Bennet, S. (2014, September 2). The history of hashtags in social media marketing . Retrieved from Ad Week :

Bonazzo, J. (2015, February 9). Twitter still the top source for breaking news, according to new study . Retrieved from Observer :

BRD. (2012). Media in Lebanon – Towards Enhancing Freedom of Expression. Lebanon.

Ching-Chang, H. (2011). A new perspective on Twitter hashtag use: Diffusion of innovation theory. American Society for Information Science and Technology.

Ching-Chang, H. (2011, February 3). A new perspective on Twitter hashtag use: Diffusion of innovation theory . Retrieved from Wiley Online Library :

DMR. (2015). By the Numbers: Reddit Statistics. Retrieved from

DMR. (2016). Interesting Instagram Statistics. Retrieved from

Ghose, S. (2015, December 18). The year when breaking tweets replaced breaking news . Retrieved from Times of India :

Hong, S. (2012, March 1). Online news on Twitter: Newspaper’s social media adoption on their online readership. Retrieved from Science Direct:

Hong, S. (2012). Online news on Twitter: Newspapers’ social media adoption and their online readership. Elsevier.

Instagram. (2016). Instagram Search. Retrieved from Instagram:

JVG. (2012, December 5). Twitter extends trends to reveal breaking news in 100 more cities. Retrieved from Venture Beat :

JVG. (2012, December 5). Twitter extends Trends to reveal breaking news in 100 more cities. Retrieved from

Kirkpatrick, M. (2011, February 4). The First Hashtag Ever Tweeted on Twitter – They Sure Have Come a Long Way. Retrieved from

Mills, J. (2015). Paris attacks: Outpouring of support on Twitter as people #prayforparis and say they are #notafraid. Retrieved from

PRC. (2013). Who uses Twitter? Queensland Government.

Twitter. (2016, March 2). #discussions – search. Retrieved from

Twitter. (2016). About the Company. Retrieved from

W3C. (2016). Twitter Usage Statistics. Retrieved from


Research Report

Summary of results

In short, from our research we have conducted on hashtags and their relation to breaking news and how we receive them it is clear that on networks such as Twitter and Instagram it is used more frequently by regular users and media platforms like The Telegraph, CNN, BBC and more to emphasize and update the on goings of breaking news or events. The trend, specifically on those two previous mentioned networks, are getting more and more popular, especially on Twitter. It is clear to see that such networks will continue to grow and become more important to share live updates of breaking news or events on Twitter as it more accessible and easier to see through the trending page and you can hear about it from regular users, citizen journalists and big news media outlets. The trend, as we have seen, has not been used on Reddit for discussions or to find communities, they have stuck to their sub-reddits, which works in a similar way. It’s clear to see that the hashtag trend will not be making its way to Reddit any time soon, only time will tell. However, we can look forward to seeing it becoming more prominent on Twitter and Instagram.

Policy recommendations

Summing up the outcomes of the above-stated research, it can be said that all research-related actions regarding hashtags and corresponding news practices allowed to gain clear insights into all involved aspects of this trend.

For businesses who consider using hashtags with their corporate web presence or social media activities for example, it definitely is advisable to implement this development plan, since there is a lot of growing potential within this field of spreading news and sharing information and opinions. Through introducing corporate hashtagging, companies get the chance to revolutionize their way of communication with (potential) customers as well as the spread of e.g. product-related information itself.

As mentioned earlier, using hashtags to spread news on social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram is becoming more and more popular, meaning that this trend is expected to further grow during the next years. Moreover, analyses have shown that hashtags are revolutionizing the way users and society learn about breaking news. This implies that the prior goal no longer only lies in conveying the sheer content, but also in expressing own emotions with it at the same time. On the one hand, this can be seen as a beneficial development, allowing users to interact with each other to discuss certain topics and to share their values and beliefs. On the other hand, recipients of news postings need to be aware of this fact at all times. When consuming information on recent happenings, people are forced to scrutinize the provided information to a certain degree, since it is likely that such social media news emerged from people’s personal opinions, implying that it cannot always be considered truthful as well as objective reporting. That is why this recent development must be recognized as a double-edged sword for societal news development.

However, hashtags also speed up our reactions to news, building a whole new sphere of possibilities with it. This implies that in many cases, news do not remain simple news but they allow a completely new content to grow around it. Taking the Instagram example of the Paris attacks and the particularly designed hashtags as well as logos, it can be concluded that making use of hashtags allows users to dig deeper into the matter through finding additional information and accessing as well as participating discussions and talks that are picking it out as a central theme. According to that, users can get an all-round-impression of news items that is way more detailed than the one provided by traditional mainstream media, although at first glance it might appears as if news-related hashtag postings only cover a very limited part of the content. As a result, the research paper at hand proved that hashtag news-reporting can be used as a tool to access profound and relevant information.





Abstract & Introduction


We have been researching the online trend of Hashtags and its particular use on social media networks for breaking news in the following trend analysis. The research project consists of the researching trend analysis, making use of netnography to gather additional data. The history of hashtags and how they were invented is looked into, investigating how popular they have become, how people use them and how it affects how we learn about breaking news and what this means for the news related media outlets. We first start with doing academic and background research on the topic for a research proposal, creating a Gephi-file and making use of Netvizz for data scraping purposes, collecting and coding important data as part of netnography and then finally creating a research report with all recommendations related to the hashtag trend.

Introduction & Background

Nowadays, the impact and importance of hashtag-usage within social networks such as Twitter is growing steadily. Especially when it comes to postings about the latest worldwide news, mainstream media as well as user-generated content are making use of hashtags. This is not only to simplify today’s access to the daily news, but also to categorize world events, allowing users to make sense of it in the most efficient way. Using hashtags when approaching the world of news – either as a creator or consumer of content – reveals diverse search outcomes, enabling users to reflect on the news coverage from different angles.

The trend of accessing news through hashtag usage is mainly driven by the public wish to read about daily events in the most ‘unfiltered’ and ‘raw’ way, avoiding poor topic coverage through mainstream and print media or even untruthful reporting. Back in 2007, Chris Messina, a social technology innovator, was the first one to ever use a hashtag on Twitter (#barcamp).

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This hashtag was invented to bundle conversations about Barcamp, a global technology unconference function (Kirkpatrick, 2011). Ever since then, the trend to use hashtags with all kinds of Twitter posts lead to its utilization when reporting or talking about latest news.

But what role does this development play in our daily social media routine? How do people make sense of it and what is the trend prognosis regarding hashtags and news coverage for the future? This analysis thereby focuses on investigating the differences between hashtag habits per country and what mainly drives this trend, taking the example of e.g. the Paris terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015 and what mainly drives this trend. The research paper at hand means to answer these questions, providing the reader with profound research outcomes and presenting a solid trend analysis on how hashtags are replacing the way we learn about breaking news.



Research Planning

For developing our research on communities and analyzing data we have opted to choose to research how much users use the Twitter community and platform to help further spread breaking news, which in turn helps other users learn about breaking news through the trending hashtags.

We have made a list of keywords that are relevant in order to locate our online communities in this case, Twitter, Instagram, Reddit and Media Platforms.

  • Paris Attacks
  • ISIS
  • Pray for Paris
  • Breaking News
  • News
  • Super Tuesday
  • Beirut Attacks
  • Love Wins
  • Charlie Hebdo


We have formulated some relevant search queries that are based on the list of keywords in order to locate online communities that will help us find the necessary data for answer our research question ‘How are Hashtags replacing the way we learn about breaking news?’



  • How did you learn about the Paris Attacks? (this can be the same for Charlie Hebdo Attack, Beirut Attack, Love Wins & Super Tuesday).
  • Have you used Twitter in any way to track breaking news such as Paris Attacks (ISIS, Pray for Paris, Super Tuesday, Beirut Attacks, Love Wins & Charlie Hebdo) ?
  • Do the use of hashtags in the trending list help you learn about breaking news?




Our roles as ethnographers are both active and passive we are active in the sense that we will propose our own questions into the communities but passive in the sense that we will not interfere we will objectively observe the results and data findings we collect.

For reddit we had to introduce ourselves to the already existing thread that is following the results of Super Tuesday for Bernie Sanders. We introduced ourselves in the following:


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In the following we will present the collected records of our participation in the community and how we went about finding necessary proof and data from Twitter and Instagram.

Important: Within the framework of Netnography, engaging in the online discussion regarding hashtags and their use was one of the prior intentions. Unfortunately, every attempt to get in touch with actual users failed, since although hashtags are frequently used on the internet, they do not tend to be a subject of discussion. That is why it has been decided to collect data that is already existent and closely related to the initial research question, in order to create a basis for a netnographical analysis. So instead of choosing the netnographer role of an active participant, we passively ‘lurked’ on online activities near different locations, making use of hashtags that are connected to hot topics of any kind.


Data Collection

1. Twitter

In order to collect the necessary data to see if Twitter users use much of the hashtags to either read more news through hashtags or are posting about the news through hashtags and therefor adding more useful information for those going online to search on Twitter we have used a specific strategy.

We have gone on Twitter to do an advanced search in order to find exactly what we are looking for. You can see in the following how we have done so by choosing an area, the hashtag or keywords, the date(s) and if we can we will try and count the amount of tweets that are relevant. Sometimes the amount of tweets and hashtags are too much to count and will therefore be either given an estimate or stated as “uncountable”.

According to those intentions of research, some of the most relevant keywords of the past months were used to investigate their frequency, the style of usage as well as the kind of information (either news-related or not). For this reason, our basic example of the November Paris attacks was extended in this case. Additionally, evidence on the different styles of hashtag usage is provided in the coding section below.

Frequency Analysis

(Please note: more information on the time frame for the frequency analysis can be found below)

frequency analysis

The frequency analysis comparing the usage of hashtags for the same topics at different locations revealed that in eight out of twelve cases, the majority of Twitter postings was news-related. Since we set a very limited time frame within the advanced search, the posting activities per area did not include any predication that would significant for the trend analysis. To find out more about local differences, research of larger scale would be necessary. However, it can be seen that Charlie Hebdo was the most discussed topic on Twitter with more than 50 entries around London, New York as well as Amsterdam. Considering our research objective, a frequency analysis can only provide a brief overview on Twitter hashtag usage itself and whether or not hashtags serve as a tool to spread breaking news on the web. Therefore, the actual content and potential similarities within the different postings is dealt with more thoroughly in the coding section below.




#Paris Attacks

Area: Amsterdam

Hashtag: Paris Attacks

Date: From November 13th 2015 to 29th February 2016

Amount: 9 tweets


The tweets refer to the Paris Attacks but do not specifically share any information news related to the attacks.

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*assertion: post contains information about news but also own opinion

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Area: Utrecht

Hashtag: Paris Attacks

Date: From November 13th 2015

Amount: 2


One of the two tweets did contain a tweet in regards to the attacks in Paris.

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*informing: post contains background information on suspects

“ The most victims of the IS attacks were muslims from in and around Irak and

Syria #ParisAttacks”


Area: New York

Hashtag: Paris Attacks

Date: November 13th 2015

Amount: 40


There were several tweets that would seem to update Twitter with what is happening in Paris with the attacks.

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*informing: again, post contains additional information not covered by media

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*keywording: situation is being frequently updated using concise & short text fragments


#Super Tuesday


Area: New York

Hashtag: Super Tuesday

Date: March 2nd 2016

Amount: > 50


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*capitals: special attention is drawn towards news updates through capitalization of words

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 Area: Amsterdam

Hashtag: Super Tuesday

Date: March 2nd 2016

Amount: 26


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*efficiency: advantages of hashtag-news-coverage is pointed out

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*colloquial speech: post uses everyday language

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 Area: Washington D.C

Hashtag: Super Tuesday

Date: March 2nd 2016

Amount: 72


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*suspense: building up suspense to encourage users to further follow Tweets

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Area: London

Hashtag: Super Tuesday

Date: March 2nd 2016

Amount: 40


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*personal touch: post conveys special tone of voice

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*colloquial speech: post uses everyday language


#Charlie Hebdo


Area: New York

Hashtag: Charlie Hebdo

Date: From January 7th to the 9th of January 2015

Amount: > 50


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*direct reporting: posts occur before official media coverage

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*pointing out relevance: actual hashtag is being pushed by using #urgent

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*personal opinion: post contains point of view

*interpretation: post contains interpretations regarding the matter


Area: Amsterdam

Hashtag: Charlie Hebdo

Date: January 7th 2015

Amount: > 50


 Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.17.57 PM.png


*insult: post contains insult (freedom of speech on the web, not official rule of conduct)

*private picture: private pictures related to the incidents are published, showing features that are not covered by mainstream media



Area: London

Hashtag: Charlie Hebdo

Date: January 7th 2015

Amount: >50


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Area: Amsterdam

Hashtag: Indonesië

Date: 2nd of March 2016

Amount: 11


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It seems evident that the news about the earthquake in Indonesia spread rather quickly online even in Amsterdam both from regular users and news outlets.

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Area: New York

Hashtag: Earthquake

Date: 2nd of March 2016

Amount: 6


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*capitals: special attention is drawn towards news updates through capitalization of words

*colloquial speech: post uses everyday language



Area: London

Hashtag: Indonesia

Date: 2nd of March 2016

Amount: 10


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*additional material: video is added to hashtag-post

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*sympathy: post does not news-related but expresses sympathy

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Data Analysis

The above-stated coding activities revealed numerous similarities regarding news coverage and expression of opinion on Twitter. In order to that, categories based on the type of content and its relevance to the news were created. Thereby, analysing the various intentions of authors was done by investigating the different postings in terms of the kind of language that was used (colloquial speech, informing content etc.). In doing so, the change concerning reporting as well as journalistic practices can be monitored as well as partly grasped in order to draw conclusions, relating them back to the initial findings from secondary research, provided in the literature review section. The first, obvious difference between traditional news reporting and the hashtag approach lies in its informality. Users as well as conglomerates tend to keep their postings rather informal in contrast to classic newspaper reporting. Furthermore, postings about breaking news often include personal opinions as well as interpretations of certain events and matters. This easily leads to confusion and misunderstanding on the part of consumers of news. That is why the source of information must be considered carefully (private person, company etc.). When reporting about incidents or world affairs, it seems to be common practice to bolster related postings with the help of capitalization of certain words (e.g. URGENT, BREAKING) to draw the readers’ attention towards the matter. The coding activities have also shown that news-related posts using hashtags are not always accurate. Mostly, they involve a personal touch or contain insults or extreme statements regarding individuals, their religion, ethnicity, race etc. Numerous findings contain background information or material such as links directing users to relevant videos or personal photographs related to the incident not published by mainstream media. It can also be found that frequently posting information using only fragments of texts or sentences is used to provide readers with as much information as possible having the least effort in reading. Some entries on incidents not only use the hashtag that it is all about but more hashtags are added to heighten the hit rate when seeking related information. Moreover, the mere process of reporting on events and incidents is enhanced through the act of using the same hashtags to express personal sympathy with victims or affiliates. As a result, hashtags involve personal as well as formal and informative components. Considering the focus on different locations, no significant difference regarding Twitter postings and the way of reporting can be found. All in all, those findings definitely provide evidence on how journalistic practices as well as news reporting are changing. Through utilization of social media as a news sharing channel, basically everybody is being enabled to spread news, not only at an incredible pace, but also using completely new “rules of conduct” when spreading the world. At that, is interesting to note that such practices are shifting towards informal expression, neglecting rules of objective reporting and mere journalism. Nevertheless, the above-stated categorization of rhetorical approaches included in such postings tend to occur in a frequent manner, causing news related content to merge with personal impressions and opinions.



2. Using Netvizz to scrape Instagram

When monitoring hashtags that have been used on Instagram to report or talk about the Paris happenings, again the total number of postings using the determined hashtags has been identified:

#prayforparis: 6,822,868 results

#parisattacks: 113,962 results

#portouverte: 567 results

#notafraid: 155,449 results

#jesuisparis: 346,519 results

#vivelafrance: 141,110 results

#noussommesunis: 28,627 results

#prayfortheworld: 522, 245 results

#franceunderattack: 967 result


(Please note: since Instagram does not offer advanced search or location focus, the above-stated results include postings worldwide. Further containment has been made in the following.)



Looking at the mere numbers, it can be concluded that Instagram is a real giant when it comes to using hashtags with postings, especially compared to Twitter and Reddit.

In order to find more localized, hashtag-related information regarding e.g. the Paris attacks, the tool Netvizz has been used to scrape the social media platform Instagram. With the help of this research tool, outcomes cannot only be presented in a very organized and well-arranged way, it also provides evidence on the exact numbers and timeframe of hashtag postings. Using the same, most-used hashtags to filter the results, one can obtain the most comparable outcomes regarding other platforms and communities such as Twitter or Reddit. In terms of location, again all contributions concerned were posted near New York, Amsterdam or Paris.

The following table provides a snapshot on the results of Netvizz’ hashtag exploration:


Instagram Hashtag Explorer

getting media, iterations:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

The script has extracted tags from 12,962 media items that were posted between 2015-11-12 06:37:35 and 2016-03-07 07:19:00.

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Data Analysis

As mentioned above, the most relevant keywords regarding the Paris attacks have been chosen to scrape data on Instagram. Since this research aims to answer the question: ‘How are Hashtags replacing the way we learn about breaking news?’ The most striking findings within the scraping process require further explanation:

Compared to the other social media platforms and communities that are to be investigated, Instagram postings and the way users treat news-related information are essentially different. Although the top-ranked hashtags regarding the incident have been used again, it has been found that those words are often combined with further hashtags which were especially designed to e.g. express sympathy with victims of terror or to show affiliation with certain groups of people who are fighting terror and homophobia. Those hashtags include #igersparis and #instaparis (marked yellow in the table above). While the construction of the word ‘instaparis’ is quite obvious (= Instagram + Paris), the word composition ‘igersparis’ was made up using the words ‘igers’ (=abbreviation of ‘Instagrammers’) and Paris. Herewith, the term ‘igersparis’ was tagged more than 1,047,350 times and 318,132 postings comprising the word ‘instaparis’ could be found. Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.29.22 PMWith this, users are enabled to not only share or spread news but simultaneously, people get the chance to express their feelings with it, taking a stand that is clearly visible for other users of the platform. The conducted hashtag exploration also illustrates how hashtags and related reporting can be divided into different categories of hashtags. On the one hand for example, users include rather objective hashtags in their postings, e.g.: #paris #parisattacks etc. On the other hand, more subjective or personal hashtags were used when formulating online, e.g.: #prayforparis #jesuisparis etc. (indications are marked blue in the table).

In order to that, also a certain ‘logo’ was designed to express support for Paris and its victims (Instagram, 2016). For Instagram as a main photo-sharing-platform, those development was quite obvious. But also related to the way in which news are consumed nowadays, these findings serve as a major indicator for the shift in spreading as well as perceiving news with the help of hashtags. Also the creation of user-generated content reaching millions of people is being supported, since whole lots of postings, articles and texts can be comprised into one single hashtag, enabling social media users to access entire texts again.

Today, free expression of thoughts and opinions regarding those incidents often enforces dialogues and discussions on social media platforms such as Instagram.

2.1 Gephi Analysis

Data Analysis

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In order to further our research and to gather valuable data to answer our research question: ‘How are Hashtags replacing the way we learn about breaking news? We have used Netvizz and collect the data and import them onto Gephi to find the percentages and create a Graph. We have gone forth with choosing to research the hashtag ‘parisattacks’ and search for 20 iterations so we could get a clear graph with clear relatable and valuable information.

There were a total of 20 iterations and within those there were a number of labels that were related or attached to the hashtag ‘parisattacks’ on instagram. We used Netvizz to find 20 iterations to analyse the data. The label ‘parisattacks’ had the most counts out of all of the labels with 17 counts. From the 20 iterations found there were several labels that were related to the hashtag such as ‘paris’ had 4, ‘islam’ had 4, ‘isis’ with 3, ‘muslim’ with 3 there were then several other labels with one count such as ‘prayforparis’, ‘peacefortheworld’, ‘parisshooting’, ‘terrorism’, ‘bataclan’ and more. The ones with the one count appeared much more frequently they had a total of 74.88% (dark pink colour) while the label ‘parisattacks’ garnered 0.48% (light purple in the middle). This has a lot to do with the fact that the users would add more than one hashtag in their posts, which are either attached to the label hashtag ‘parisattacks’ or related to the events. The other colours in the graph were related to mainly the labels that had 2, 3 or 4 counts. Based on the information gathered from Gephi and Netvizz we can see that the use of hashtag to spread or express thoughts on the events of breaking news is greatly used however it is also used alongside other either related or random hashtags to garner more attention to the posts. It is visible to see that the switch to post about breaking newsworthy events are happening via social media more and more from Twitter to Instagram and Facebook it is now becoming more popular. Users want to express their emotions, sympathy and relatable information in regards to those events. This further proves our notion that the change of receiving and spreading the news is switching over to social media with the use of hashtags whether they are used alone or together with other hashtags.

3. Reddit

We have gone onto Reddit on the Super Tuesday live thread that was happening on the 2nd of March. We have found several forums that were discussing the results and the events of Super Tuesday, as mentioned before, it was not easy to try and get replies from the participants in the discussion thread. In total we have submitted our question to 6 sub-Reddit but have yet to receive an answer.

“Hi everyone, I am doing research for an assignment and wondering if you can answer these questions for me: “Have you used Twitter’s hashtag trending page to follow up on the breaking news in regards to the results of Super Tuesday?” & “Do you find Twitter’s hashtag more useful for finding out the results or through television?”

We’ve unfortunately haven’t received any replies on Reddit to continue our research on the impact of hashtags for breaking news on Twitter. We have posted our question on 8 sub-Reddits and have failed to receive any replies. This ultimately means we have to use the data we’ve collected via Twitter and Instagram as primary data considering the lack of data we were able to collect from Reddit as our community.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.29.28 PM

Data Analysis

The difference between the use of Reddit as a way to receive breaking news through their threads and tags in comparison with hashtag is quite different. Hashtags on twitter for example are quite straightforward but they don’t form a part of a discussion. Users use them for various reasons and it is usually when an event is getting a lot of attention that it is when the hashtag starts to be popular and is then trending on the Twittersphere. Reddit however uses headlines to gather the attention of users to go into discussion about that specific topic. Reddit also has different categories that a user can go into in order to find the discussion forum that they want to participate in or just read through. Reddit doesn’t use hashtags to gather a trending forum. Reddit has on the top a trending list of sub-Reddits but not with the use of hashtags. Hashtags seems obsolete on Reddit, it seems to be more of use for Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Facebook.

Trending sub-Reddit

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.31.38 PM

Hashtags are to twitter for example what sub-Reddits are to Reddit. They are generally used to find certain types of topics and content based on the description.

If one tries to use hashtags on Reddit it will only serve to find other content that are related to what was typed with the hashtag. It doesn’t appear in the sub-Reddits as hashtags at all.

Enter in the search engine on Reddit with hashtags

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.29.40 PM

Results look generally like this

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 3.29.44 PM

Discussion on Reddit however do seem to happen in real-time but are based on what others have read online or received from television. There is not much indication that they use Twitter or Twitter’s hashtags to get the breaking news.

Furthermore we found this sub-reddit which asks the users as to why it is not visible to see hashtags used in reddit posts or comments and there was a discussion about it.

Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.21.29 PM.png


Screen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.23.46 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.29.54 PMScreen Shot 2016-03-19 at 2.26.03 PM

The discussions from what we can see also provides further proof that reddit has no use for hashtags for reasons such as that they don’t have a limited word count, they have no need for it to find communities for discussions and others such as they aren’t used for their traditional form on reddit but to show more impact or as a joke. As mentioned before reddit has no use for them as they have sub-reddits, which serves in a way like hashtags.


Significant conclusions can be drawn from the netnographical findings. First of all, the results not only serve as proof that hashtags are indeed influencing the way society learns about breaking news, but that they also revolutionize media coverage as a whole; firstly through giving all individuals the chance to report on all kinds of incidents online and secondly through the support of real-time interaction. Furthermore, the above stated findings show that hashtags tend to influence not only the quantity of media coverage but also the quality. While it can be seen as an advantage that whole news reports can be packed with the help of hashtags, enabling users to learn about happenings in a much quicker way, it simultaneously retrieves certain disadvantages and risks concerning the accuracy of reporting. That is why truthful coverage can never be assured when informing oneself about latest news. On the other hand, hashtags contribute to the shift towards rather personal and even compassionate reporting. While the prior conduct of mainstream media reporting is the (mostly) objective and demure way, hashtag postings enforce statements of personal view (-surprisingly with both, media giants as well as private users). Another important feature of news reporting through hashtag is that incidents and events are being covered in a much quicker way, since e.g. eye witnesses tend to be the first ones bringing up the subject while conglomerates have not even heard about it. As a result, hashtags are accelerating the news spread worldwide.


On the basis of the netnographical analysis, it must be considered that accessing news through hashtags involves the above- mentioned risks which require consideration at all times. That is why recommendations aim towards the consumption of ‘hashtag and social media news’ with reservation, also considering official reporting to avoid misinformation and corresponding personal consequences.

Research Proposal


Literature Review



  • accessing news through hashtags
  • twitter hashtag trends
  • evolution of hashtags
  • hashtags and the media
  • social media changes
  • user generated news
  • hashtag news spread
  • hashtag trending
  • #prayforparis
  • Paris terrorist attacks and hashtags
  • hashtag purpose



Literature Review


Title: A new perspective on Twitter hashtag use: Diffusion of innovation theory

Author: Hsia Ching-Chang

Date of publishing: 3 February 2011
Keywords: twitter, hashtag, usage, changes, evolution of hashtags, user content, theory

Twitter is one of the biggest, fast growing and real-time tool of social media. With the evolution of Twitter, a growing number of people take part in sharing and tweeting about worldwide-happenings, making use of diverse Twitter applications. Using hashtags has become a particular convention of tagging in order to enable the association of Twitter messages with certain contexts and events. Linking a # symbol with a keyword, hashtags on Twitter provide a tagging practice that is not only user-proposed but also follows a bottom-up approach. Furthermore, it incorporates user interaction and participation in the process of hashtag development, especially since it refers to tasks of information organization. Diffusion of innovation (DoI) describes a theory that assists in explaining the adoption process of innovation through shaping its integrated life cycle according to communication aspects and interactions of information between people. Hence, theory of diffusion provides beneficial insights into the design of the interface supporting Twitter, as well as its use of hashtag and access. Additionally, it reinforces the evaluation of the hashtag life cycles, offering information that is needed for decision-making concerning hashtag management (Ching-Chang, A new perspective on Twitter hashtag use: Diffusion of innovation theory, 2011).


Title: Twitter extends trends to reveal breaking news in 100 more cities

Author: JVG

Date of publishing: 5 December 2012
Keywords: promoted trends, twitter, twitter trends, twitter historical data
  • the latest localized trends for 100 new cities have been added by twitter
  • people get the chance to immediately see buzziest news from around the world
  • latest inclusions: Istanbul, Frankfurt, Guadalajara, Mexico, and Incheon, South Korea
  • trends, formerly referred to as ‘trending topics’ have changed in significance and purpose
  • trend lists are less about the overall information network experience, but still serves as interesting indicator of what users are most interested in
  • with addition of trends, marketers and companies are enabled to sponsor a term or hashtag to get into trend list, which means: 100 more markets and appeal to local advertisers who want to reach certain market

(JVG, Twitter extends Trends to reveal breaking news in 100 more cities, 2012)

 Title: Online news on Twitter: Newspaper’s social media adoption on their online readership

Author: Sounman Hong

Date of publishing: 1 March 2012
Keywords: social media, twitter, online news, digital media, information cascades, information economics, online media institution, aggregator, search engine

Evaluate the connection adoption of Twitter-news and their online influx. The association estimated is dependent on the capacity of social media networks. Correlate online influx created by diverse institutions of online media.

Several news organizations have found that social media has possibilities for achievement as a journalistic tool. Social media marketing has been used to captivate online users. This study aims on understanding the connotations of social media sites with the help of (1) an investigation of the connection between news organizations’ endorsement of social media and their readership online and (2) an analogy of online traffic brought about by social media sited with that developed by other institutions of online media. Research suggests that the adoption of newspapers regarding social media is combined with a raise in their readership online, and this connection increases the portion of social media networks of newspapers (e.g. number of Twitter followers). It has also been found that the correlation between the adoption of social media newspapers and their online influx might differ compared to the relation between other media institutions online and the created traffic online. A descriptive analysis reveals that the online influx generated by sites of social media is less concentrated than that created by aggregators of news or search engines; this is caused by the fact that social media sites tend to be less inclined to cascades of information, in contrast to aggregators of news of search engines (Hong, Online news on Twitter: Newspapers’ social media adoption and their online readership, 2012).

 Title: Twitter Still The Top Source For Breaking News, According To New Study

Author: John Bonazzo

Date of publishing: February 9th 2015
Keywords: plummeted, excells, breaking news, twitter, crowded, follow, participate, tracked, daily.

The stock of Twitter has been plummeting and the experience of the user has been attacked by old and new media.

A study founded by the American Press Institute shows that of 4,700 social media users that they are not all in the world of Twitter. However, Twitter still transcends in one important area and that is in breaking news.

Twitter’s timelines can get quite busy when news breaks and the study offers practical proof of this 70 percent of those they’ve surveyed said that they have made use of Twitter in the last month in order to follow a news story as it is happening.

It seems that users are more actively participating during breakings news situation. About 80 percent of users who tracked news in the recent months have clicked through the links on the trending page as they scrolled.

There is a ripple effect to this trend:

  • 55 percent of the breaking news are retweeted by users.
  • 53 percent of users use hashtags to find more information.
  • 40 percent of users tweet their own reactions of the story.
  • 30 percent of users would follow someone new.

Once the breaking news event has passed, many users continue to follow with the news:

  • 74 percent of use Twitter daily.
  • 64 percent of users say they both read and share the news.

Breaking stories are not the only ones that make Twitter go crazy—people who follow the Super Bowl or the Oscars on social media know that twitter users bring useful information to the table:

  • 79 percent of users scroll the timeline through such events.
  • 60 percent of users participate in tweeting or retweeting.
  • 45 percent of users click through stories or hashtags.
    (Bonazzo, 2015)



 Title: The History of Hashtags in Social Media Marketing

Author: Shea Bennet

Date of publishing: September 2nd 2014
Keywords: hashtag, populair, categorise, twitter, group, conversations, everywhere, social media.

Twitter officially did not invent the use of hashtags but it has certainly made it popular. Hashtag were used in order to categorize items into different groups. The designer Chris Messina has asked his followers on August 2007 how they feel about using the pound symbol which is now known as the hashtag to group together conversations on the micro-blogging platform and therefor he has become the first person to use the now popular hashtag on Twitter.

After that happened the micro-blogging platform has never looked back at the use of hashtag and the hashtag was eventually taken up on different social media platform such as Facebook, Instagram etc. The hashtag trend has become very popular and is now everywhere and is an important part part of every modern marketing strategy. (Bennet, 2014)



Title: The year when breaking tweets replaced breaking news

Author: Sagarika Ghose

Date of publishing: December 28th 2015
Keywords: headline, develops, story, hashtag, mainstream, trends, breaking news.

Headlines are formed by top trends and a hashtags helps develops the story. We have become so shackled to mainstream media outlets to Twitter trends that because of high good prices or agrarian distress rarely is included on the ‘trend’ list. These issues have hardly made it to prime-time bulletins or on the front For example when the Prime Minister stated in Shanghai that earlier Indians used to think it was a sin to be born in India, the trend #modiinsultsIndia went viral showing that social media could also on occasion turn against him.

In 2015 Twitter became a platform where politicians and public figures stated their views and opinions as if they were putting 140 character press releases. Furthermore, it has seemed that breaking news was replaced by the breaking tweets. (Ghose, 2015)


After deciding to conduct research on a trend concerning hashtags and the way users learn about news with the help of it, we had a closer look at existing literature and the involved findings of secondary research. This was not only to determine whether or not this trend provides a rich basis to start with but also to see if it has reasonable chances to further develop in the future. Within the course of this research, it was found that social media platforms making use of hashtags like Twitter and Instagram are also growing markets for businesses and advertising activities. With the help of hashtags, private users and companies are enabled to revolutionize their interaction online. Furthermore, secondary research described the possibilities to use social media and hashtags as a journalistic tool. The literature also provided more detailed information on Twitter and how its area of breaking news coverage is the biggest one in overall social media. Those aspects assisted in setting the focus for our own research. Apart from that, useful information on the history of hashtags needed for the eventual trend analysis was found. All in all the outcomes of the literature review supported our initial thesis regarding hashtag usage when informing oneself about breaking news. In the course of our investigative work, the findings of secondary research will be used to back up new findings in order to eventually provide a profound and well-researched recommendation.

Online Research

Following up the literature research, conducted online research enhanced the previous findings through more prevailing findings, adding new aspects to the matter. Using advanced search engines like Google scholar, Sage and Lucas. With the help of advanced Boolean operators, findings were narrowed down to access the most topic-related and specific information.

Among others, the used operators include:

  • hashtag trends, “hashtag trends”, hashtag and trends, hashtag near trends
  • hashtag definition, “hashtag definition”
  • news through hashtags, “news through hasthags”, hashtags and news
  • evolution of hashtags, “evolution of hashtags”
  • hashtags and millennials, “hashtags and millennials”
  • hashtag purpose, “hashtag purpose”
  • hashtags and the media, “hashtag and the media”
  • hashtag content, “hashtag content”, hashtag and content creation
  • hashtags and social networks, “hashtags and social networks”

Setting up a Twitter list


Since the focus mainly lies on the online platform Twitter, the research includes creating a Twitter list involving accounts that are frequently posting about the latest news to further analyse and monitor the ways of hashtag usage whilst reporting:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.21.49 PM

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.21.42 PM


The first, perfunctory impressions of news feeds within the list show that hashtags are rather used by private users or news accounts, rather than by governmental or corporate news giants like for example CNN. Those findings will be analysed more thoroughly throughout the research.


Google Trends


When searching for hashtags on Google trends, it can be found that the timeline of interest regarding it was tremendously increasing in 2013, suffering a deacrease in 2014. From 2014 until today, it remained rather averaged, not showing any significant changes.

It is interesting to note that there is a significant difference in hashtag usage in different countries. The trend analysis considering the regional interest indicates that Lebanon and the Philippines are most involved with hashtags. Since within the two aforementioned regions media regulations and proper coverage are rather strict and involving limited freedom of speech, a correlation between the political situation and the heightened interest in hashtags can be drawn (Article19, 2005) (BRD, 2012).

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.21.57 PM


Recent Phenomenon – The Paris Terrorist Attacks


Investigating recent world affairs and case studies related to hashtag usage and news coverage, the Paris terrorist attacks of 13 November 2015, serve as a paragon. Whenever referring to the incident and its process on Twitter, users included the same hashtags not only to group the information, but also to express their empathy. Hashtags that were frequently used included: #prayforparis #portouverte #notafraid #jesuisparis #vivelafrance #noussommesunis #prayfortheworld #franceunderattack (Mills, 2015). With the help of those hashtags, the news spread like wildfire on social media platforms and managed to report on the matter before media giants like CNN got to report about it. Therefore, this example provides useful evidence on how hashtag usage influences local as well as international news coverage and reporting.


Research Questions & Sub-Questions


Research Questions


The research question for this research report is ‘How are Hashtags replacing the way we learn about breaking news?’

 We want to focus on researching how come more people are opting to go on Twitter to follow breaking news rather than waiting or going on news media sites or follow it on television.




  1. How was the trend Hashtag invented?


  1. How are people using Hashtags on Twitter?


  1. Why have Hashtags become so popular?


  1. How do news and media outlets use Hashtags?


At the end of our research report we hope to provide a recommendation to news media outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, CNN and more on how they should really invest and take advantage of the Hashtag trend to get users to follow their breaking news report and how it is a more effective way of informing people rather than only posting an updates on their site and waiting for readers.

Research Design & Methodology

In the following, a trend analysis, a social network analysis, a visualization with the help of Gephi, as well as netnographical findings are presented. We have been looking into keywords on related articles and Twitter searches that were compatible with our research report. Using online libraries such as Lucas, Picarta, Google Scholar and more allowed us to find our academic articles, helping us broaden our research and data collection. We looked into Twitter’s breaking news trending list and how many people are generally tweeting or re-tweeting breaking news stories, we have also taken into account how fast they generated.


We used a collection keywords for gathering online research as mentioned in the literature review:

  • accessing news through hashtags
  • twitter hashtag trends
  • evolution of hashtags
  • hashtags and the media
  • social media changes
  • user generated news
  • hashtag news spread
  • hashtag trending


Primarily, we looked into the keywords such as hashtags, twitter trends, hashtag news, breaking news twitter etc that would directly send us to the sources that would discuss our general topic of hashtags providing breaking news.


We would gather our collected and base them on what is the most important for our research and what could be used as secondary information for whenever we might need it.


Below you will find our research strategy that we used for this research report.

Research Strategy

Step 1

 Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 5.24.34 PM

Step 2


Research Statement:

How are hashtag replacing the way we learn about important breaking news?


Step 3

(Keyword 1) (Keyword 2) (Keyword 3)
Hashtag Replacing News

Step 4


1) statement – one liner – emphasizing – symbolize – attention

2) change – take over – succeed – reinstate – shit


3) announcement – broadcast – report – story – message

Step 5




OR “Statement” OR “Emphasizing”





OR “ Change”


OR “Take Over”






OR “Broadcast”



OR “Report”


Step 6


Hashtag – hashtags – hashtagging – hashtagged

Statement- statements – stated

Emphasizing – emphasis – emphasize – emphasized

Replacing – replacement – replace – replaced

Change – changing – changed – changement

Take over – taken over – took over


Broadcast – broadcasting – broadcasted

Repot – reportage – reporting – reported – reports

Step 7


  1. Your library catalogue search tool (LUCAS)
  2. An electronic bibliographical database such as SAGE or Science Direct
  3. An Internet search engine such as Google Scholar.
  4. Try narrowing down your search by filtering by / selecting ‘journal articles’ or ‘scholarly journals’.
  5. Track how each of your search techniques reduced number of hits.



Lucas Database (Sage) Database (Science Direct) Google Scholar
Date 24.02.2016 24.02.2016 24.02.2016 24.02.2016
hashtag trends


330 results

Article names:

– Trends in Twitter hashtag applications

– Political hashtag trends

– How Instagram spots a trend

– Perils and pleasures of prediction

167 results

Article names:

– A social way to experience a scientific event: Twitter use at the 7th European Public Health Conference

– The Multiple Facets of Influence: Identifying Political Influentials and Opinion Leaders on Twitter

– Twitter as “a journalistic substitute”? Examining #wiunion tweeters’ behavior and self-perception

414 results

Article names:

– The pragmatics of hashtags: Inference and conversational style on Twitter

– Predicting the topic influence trends in social media with multiple models


8630 results

Article names:

– Political hashtag trends

– Secular vs. islamist polarization in egypt on twitter

– Political hashtag hijacking in the US

“hashtag trends” 27 results

Article names:

– Political Hashtag trends

– What Tweets tell us about MOOG participation

– I am not censoring myself anymore

2 results

Article names:

– Studying Normal, Everyday Social Media

– Mapping Controversies with Social Media: The Case for Symmetry



2 results

Article names:

not useful

68 results

Article names:

– # WorldSeries: An Empirical Examination of a Twitter Hashtag During a Major Sporting Event.

– On predicting twitter trend: Factors and models

– Data-driven political science

hashtag and trends 6046 results

Article names:

– Social searching with hashtags

– Trends in Twitter hashtag applications

– Political Hashtag Trends

167 results

(for results see ‘hashtag trends’ above)

414 results

Article names:

(repetition of findings)


(for results see ‘hashtag trends’ above)

hashtag near trends 0 results 51 results

Article names:

– Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: Communication and Cultural Performance on “Black Twitter”

– Mediated gesture: Paralinguistic communication and phatic text


– Investigating the Community of Practice of World Language Educators on Twitter



119 results

Article names:

– A Rule Dynamics Approach to Event Detection in Twitter with Its Application to Sports and Politics


2780 results

Article names:

– Will this# hashtag be popular tomorrow?

– Near-Future Trends in Interactive Media Convergence Using Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches

news through hashtags 17 results

not useful

246 results

Article names:

– The linguistics of self-branding and micro-celebrity in Twitter: The role of hashtags

– Agenda setting in the twenty-first century

476 results

Article names:

– Neanderthals drew first: #hashtags

– Twitter hashtags predict rising tension in Egypt

18.500 results

Article names:

– Twitter as a reporting tool for breaking news: Journalists tweeting the 2011 UK riots

– What is Twitter, a social network or a news media?

– The use of Twitter hashtags in the formation of ad hoc publics

“news through hasthags” 2 results

Article names:

– A Volatile Public: A Whole Foods Boycott on Facebook

0 results 0 results 2 results

Article names:

– Google and the Culture of Search

hashtags and news 13006 results

Article names:

– Hurricane and Hashtags: How the Media and NGO’s treat Citizens’ Voices Online

– Hashtags.

– The Hashtag: New Word or New Rule?

264 results

Article names:

– Hypertextuality and Social Media: A Study of the Constitutive and Paradoxical Implications of Organizational Twitter Use

476 results

Article names:

– In the mood for sharing contents: Emotions, personality and interaction styles in the diffusion of news

– Small stories and extended narratives on Twitter

– Triggering participation: Exploring the effects of third-person and hostile media perceptions on online participation

20.600 results

Article names:

– Twitterstand: news in tweets

– Analyzing user modeling on twitter for personalized news recommendations

– Researching news discussion on Twitter: New methodologies

– News-Topic oriented hashtag recommendation in twitter based on characteristic co-occurrence word detection

hashtags and the media 19316 results

Article names:

– Hashtags and How to Use Them

– Social Media and Free Access Medical Education

316 results

not useful

710 results

Article names:

– Nursing and Twitter: Creating an online community using hashtags

– Social media and crisis management: CERC, search strategies, and Twitter content

24.600 results

not useful

“hashtags and the media” 82 results

Article names:

– Social Media Rules

– Hashtag: Friend or Foe?


0 results 0 results 1 result

Article names:

– The social multimedia experience

hashtags and social networks


7033 results

not useful

282 results

Article names:

– Candidate Networks, Citizen Clusters, and Political Expression: Strategic Hashtag Use in the 2010 Midterms


– Switching in Twitter’s Hashtagged Exchanges


615 results

repetition of previous findings

21.000 results

Article names:

– Virality prediction and community structure in social networks

– User-level sentiment analysis incorporating social networks

“hashtags and social networks” 4 results

Article names:

– Semi-automatic Detection of Sentiment in Hashtags in Social Networks

– Tag: Meme or Event?

0 results 0 results 0 results
“hashtag usage per country” 0 results 0 results 0 results 0 results
hashtags and countries 7824 results

Article names:

– When countries become the talking point in Microblogs

– Online social networks and offline protest

177 results

Article names:

– Serial activists: Political Twitter beyond influentials and the twittertariat




314 results

Article names:

– Time, place, technology: Twitter as an information source in the Wisconsin labor protests


10.400 results

repetition of previous findings