Twitter pattern: Those who don't know you well are more likely to retweet

December 11, 2013

Big news can spread like wildfire via Twitter, but did you ever think about why certain people choose to retweet? A new study from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University shows that if someone doesn’t know you well, he or she is actually more likely to retweet something significant you say.

“We found that people with weak ties, such as those who only have a one-way relationship on Twitter – who don’t both follow each other – are more likely to retweet,” says Zhan Michael Shi, assistant professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, one of the paper’s authors. “We believe the retweeters are sharing the information because they think it will boost their reputation and influence by providing something new. People with stronger ties might not retweet because they believe their followers already know the details, and/or they may have communicated with each other in other ways.” Assistant Professor Zhan Michael Shi Download Full Image

The new research by Shi and his co-authors, professor Huaxia Rui of the University of Rochester and professor Andrew Whinston of the University of Texas at Austin, will be published in the academic journal MIS Quarterly in March. For their study, they put together a complex program utilizing 20 computers over 140 days. They were able to follow the progress of certain tweets for five-day periods and see whether the Twitter relationships between the author and retweeters were strong or weak. It’s believed to be the first information-systems study using publicly available Twitter data to explore how people voluntarily relay information.

For example, the paper mentions a famed tweet in 2011, when a highly placed official in Washington said, “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden.” That tweet was sent out more than an hour before the White House officially announced the event. By the time the presidential announcement was made, tens of thousands of Twitter users had already spread the word, even though most of them didn’t know anyone directly involved.

“Twitter is incredibly popular and fast-growing as a social medium, with more than 500 million registered users worldwide by April 2012,” Shi says. “It’s a combination of a broadcasting service and a social network, so our results aren’t necessarily translatable to more pure social networks, such as Facebook. However, we think the new information is going to be very useful to people like social-media managers and marketers trying to understand how information is spread via social-broadcasting networks like Twitter.”

Among the results: Those with a two-way Twitter relationship are only 6 percent likely to retweet a remark like the ones of the median quality these researchers studied. However, one-way followers are 9.1 percent likely to tweet it. That’s a boost of more than 50 percent.

The full study can be found online here. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the W. P. Carey School’s online resource and newsletter, at

Service leadership class benefits foster children, ASU students

December 11, 2013

Thanks to a new Arizona State University service leadership class, foster children in metropolitan Phoenix are benefiting from tutoring assistance provided by a group of ASU students. The tutoring is also positively impacting the ASU students, as they experience first-hand the benefits of civic engagement.

The project is a collaborative effort between Arizonans for Children, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of children in foster care, and ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. New College is the core college on ASU’s West campus. Service learning participants Download Full Image

Before beginning their work with foster children, the students in New College’s Service Learning course completed orientation activities with Arizonans for Children staff, including Joanie Sirek, community outreach coordinator. Sirek also took part in facilitating the initial meetings between the ASU students and foster children.

“It was a profound experience witnessing the students interacting so gracefully with the foster children,” Sirek said. “I was especially struck by the introduction of one ASU student as she shared her dreams to pursue higher education and become an ambassador. The foster children followed suit by sharing their dreams. The foster children would soon move towards creating a plan of action to make their dreams a reality by focusing on achieving academic success with the assistance of ASU students.”

One of the students, Elena Zavalza, has gone from being worried about whether the children would accept her at the first meeting to being hired by Arizonans for Children. She recently successfully completed the interview process and now serves as a supervised visitation coordinator.

“I love coming to work, and I love the people I work with,” Zavalza said. “I work with the divorce family cases. These families have one parent who will be granted custody, but the other one can’t see the child unless supervised. I supervise visits, schedule visits and contact the judges to inform them about the case and send them reports. I am very happy here and have been reminded many times by my coworkers that I am doing a good job.”

New College history major James Cooper was motivated to assist foster children based on his experiences as a youth, seeing the difficulties faced by classmates who were foster children. “I figured that if I can provide some help for them in school, it will reduce their chances of becoming at-risk, and in a way, promote the Sun Devil cause,” he said.

Embedding ASU in the community is one of the goals of the Service Learning class, according to Anne Suzuki, New College’s assistant dean for enrollment management.

“The real-world experience the students gain complements students’ classroom learning as they broaden their knowledge and social awareness,” Suzuki said. “The students come to realize that they truly have the ability to impact people’s lives; at the same time, they help strengthen New College’s ties to the community.”

Suzuki and Nikki Bonnet, student recruitment/retention specialist senior, worked with Tatiauna Wasyln to develop the new course. Wasyln is an academic success coordinator in New College’s School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies.

For Cooper, one of his most memorable experiences as a tutor was the “aha moment” he was able to achieve when helping a young student with multiplying and dividing positive and negative numbers.

“After a few problems of explaining the formula to him, I saw the proverbial light bulb just switch on over his head, and he finished the rest of his homework without need of my assistance,” Cooper said. “That made me feel like I made a huge difference in his road to education.”

Arizonans for Children is willing to make use of the talents of ASU students in other ways besides tutoring in traditional academic subjects. When Sirek discovered that one of the New College students, Alyssa Rico, had a background as a dancer, she involved Rico in the organization’s dance program. Rico also was able to secure space in the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the West campus for Sunday dance classes for foster children.

The new Service Learning course is part of an ongoing effort by New College faculty and staff to provide meaningful service activities to students. Last summer, New College formed the Service Learning Student Leadership (SL2) group to provide an organization and platform for students to volunteer and serve multiple organizations throughout the local community, helping those in need.

SL2 activities to-date include providing assistance to the Valley View Community Food Bank. The group also helped with a volunteer fair on the West campus in November and decorated the offices at Arizonans for Children for the organization’s holiday party. SL2 members attended the Arizona Summit on Volunteerism and Service Learning in December. Bonnet, who serves as the group’s coordinator, said that activities planned for spring include involvement with Habitat for Humanity and ASU Cares.