International Followers On Social Networks Cultural Studies Essay

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Social media networks have been significant parts of our lives and a great number of celebrities hope to communicate with their supporters via social media networks. This project discovers whether celebrities' accounts on social media networks can enhance interaction with international followers, given the fact that cultural difference and language difficulties cannot be ignored. Twenty groups of objects, one celebrity and one follower included in each group, are observed in this research project. After collecting relevant data, findings are listed as following:

Not all accounts succeed

Use of English is recommended

Popularity's impact on language gap

Picture and video eliminate gap of language

Number of replies should be moderated

To improve this project, some strategies could be taken including:

Increase amount of observed objects.

Increase diversity of nationality

Adopt application

Introduction

The first decade of 21st century has witnessed the thriving social media. For example, twitter, has been attracting people's attention since its birthday in this world. Users in this site enjoy updating their posts(Faina, 2012). At first year, namely 2007, only 5000 posts were seen. At the beginning of 2011, 2.5 million was recorded. Nowadays, Astonishing 50 million posts are shown per day.

To increase interaction between supporters and celebrities, no matter from entertainment fields or any other social spectrum, celebrities reveal their daily activities and feelings to domestic and international followers on social networking sites(Marwick & boyd, 2011). Pop star Lady gaga, owns more than 28 million followers on her private website of Twitter. She updated his posts about hair style, concert, as well as latest album. As to athletes, approximate 160 thousand supporters on twitter watch Sonny Bill Williams updating his tweets about his career, his teammates in All Blacks and so on.

Previous researches have focussed on how celebrities utilize various strategies to increase their popularity. Other projects also concentrate on the relationship between celebrities and supporters. But the difference of culture and language between stars and fans is obviously ignored, this project, will look at this domain.

Research Question

The question of this research project is: Can celebrities' account on social networks really enhance international supporters' interaction, given the fact that cultural difference and language difficulties cannot be ignored? If not, what strategies could be deployed to improve this situation?

Research Design

Observed Objects

20 supporter accounts and 20 celebrity accounts are observed. 10 supporter accounts and 10 celebrity accounts are observed in Weibo, and the rest are observed in Twitter.

Procedures

In this project, interviews and collection of data are both deployed.

First of all, 10 supporters' accounts and 10 celebrities' accounts are selected for both Twitter and Weibo representing different social background. As to Weibo, since Weibo just provide Chinese interface, most supporters may be native Chinese. Only those non-Chinese celebrities' accounts are selected. As to Twitter, since most of users are English-speakers, this project will select 10 English followers (The follower's mother tongue is English, but do not need to be British.) and 10 non-English-speaker celebrities. For the sake of convenience of research, 10 supporters on Twitter and Weibo must be my acquaintances.

Then, I will have an interview with them to query which celebrity these supporters are following. As a result 10 celebrities (sometimes these celebrity accounts may overlap since supporters are possibly fancy the same celebrities) are mapped to 10 supporters. At this moment, 10 groups are chosen.

Later, a short-term observation will be launched to gather related statistics. The whole observation lasts for nearly two months. Measurements vary between supporters and celebrities. As to the supporters, measurements are listed as following:

Number of retweets of celebrity' tweets

Number of comments on celebrity' tweets

As to celebrities, measurements are represented:

How many tweets they have posted

How many followers they have

How many replies they have made to comments of their supporters (not only observed supporters)

How many retweets with fans' account name involved

The latest time of updating

In the final step, statistics of certain measurements are collected to make conclusion. To understand observed supporters better, interviews will also occur to ask them whether they are satisfied with interaction with celebrities on social networking sites. If not, what are they disappointed about. Finally, some beneficial advices and limitations are drawn.

Findings

First of all, groups of supporters and celebrities in Weibo and Twitter are listed out.

Weibo

Group Number

Celebrity

Celebrity's Background

Follower

Follower's Background

1

Michael Owen

Footballer

A

Student

2

Sergio Agüero

Footballer

B

Student

3

Helen Clark

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand

C

Web Designer

4

Kevin Michael Rudd

Former Prime Minister of Australia

D

Migration Agent

5

Jim Suttle

Mayor of Omaha, USA 

E

Manager

6

Brenda Halloran

Mayor of Waterloo, Canada

F

Embassy Staff

7

Joe Dunthorne

Novelist

G

Office Staff

8

David Mitchell

Novelist

H

Embassy Staff

9

Joyce Slayton

Education Expert

I

Education Agent

10

Mark Roswell

Language Expert

J

Student

Twitter

Group Number

Celebrity

Celebrity's Background

Follower

Follower's Background

11

Kaka

Footballer

K

Programmer

12

Chicharito Hernandez

Footballer

L

Programmer

13

Christophe Vacher

Illustrator

M

Art Student

14

John Hove

Illustrator

N

Interpreter

15

Felipe Massa

Formula One racing driver

O

Fire Fighter

16

Fernando Alonso

Formula One racing driver

P

Salesman

17

Tomomi Itano

Artist

Q

Student

18

Jang Keun Suk

Artist

R

Student

19

Nicolas Sarkozy

Former President of France

S

Professor

20

François Hollande

President of France

T

Professor

After listing out all the members of each group, situation of some groups is detailed. Only those groups which reflect significance and contribute to the last findings will be presented while others are omitted.

Group 1

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Michael Owen. Having started his career in his early age and won numbers of trophy, he is still making his best effort on the pitch although suffering from constant injuries. The follower, A, is a university student. Since Premier League had its great impact on China mainland in the last decade of 20th century, A has been worshiping Michael Owen since he was a child.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented. In this table, RT1 represents tweets having celebrity's name involved. Comments represent number of comments on celebrities' tweets. Tweets represent how many tweets they have posted. Followers represent how many followers they have. Replies represent how many replies they have made to comments of their supporters (not only observed supporters). RT2 stands for the number of tweets with followers' name involved. LTU stands for the last time of updating are recorded. The date of latest data collected is 30th September, 2012.

A

Michael Owen

RT1

Comments

Followers

Tweets

Replies

RT2

LTU

2

5

980544

149

48

34

30th September

As to the data, when compared with other celebrities listed later, Michael is really willing to interact with his followers. No matter the number of RT2 or Replies, they ranked higher than other celebrities in this project. Unlike other celebrities, he is also really dedicated to his account. His status is nearly updated everyday. Two retweets and five comments are also recorded from A.

In addition to better performance on data, the content of his status is also admirable. High proportions of his tweets are linked with daily feelings and pictures, which undoubtedly will increase followers' intimacy. To concern his Chinese followers' incompetency in English, he even post Chinese version when he launched an article about Olympic Games. As to the contents from A, they are greetings about Michael's life.

After the observation of this group, I asked A whether he is satisfied with this interaction. He said he was quite content with Michael's account. "He showed humility and respect to his followers and behave like a normal people". I asked A whether English will be a hurdle for you to read his tweets. A did not agree with that. More comments and retweets A made than other observed followers reflects what he thought.

Group 2

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Sergio Agüero. He was born in Argentina. Having started his career in Spanish, now he is playing for Manchester City FC and won the trophy last year. The follower, B, is a middle school student. Since Manchester City FC won the Premier League last season, some fans are accumulated in China. B is one of them.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented.

B

Sergio Agüero

RT1

Comments

Followers

Tweets

Replies

RT2

LTU

0

2

82913

114

0

0

26th September

As to data, Sergio updated his tweets just less than Michael a little bit. However, he never replied to his followers and posted tweets with his followers involved. B also made fewer comments than A and made no retweets about Sergio.

As to content, Sergio's tweets are divided into two major parts, namely the English part and Spanish part (Spanish is the official language of Argentina). Obviously, the tweets written in English get more retweets while others get less. In English tweets, followers are really willing to share their opinions, but in Spanish tweets, comments are few. Even in some Spanish tweets, followers complained and B asked other followers "What he is saying? I cannot understand totally!!!"

After the observation of this group, I asked B whether he is satisfied with this interaction. He did not think interaction did exist. Sergio's account looks like a single-direction information source, although daily feeling about the match is referenced.

Group 3

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Helen Clark. She was the 37th Prime Minister of New Zealand, serving three terms from 1999 to 2008. Now she is the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. C is a web designer of a local programming company in Auckland. C immigrated to New Zealand in 2005, when Helen is still in her Prime Minister's office.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented.

C

Helen Clark

RT1

Comments

Followers

Tweets

Replies

RT2

LTU

0

0

16396

2

0

2

5th May

As to data, only 2 tweets were posted. No replies and only 2 retweets with followers involved were post. And the latest time of update is 5th May. As to C, no replies or retweets with Helen involved is also witnessed.

As to content, the first tweet is the self introduction. The second is the polite reply to a fans' greeting. This tweet is "a comment that I can understand! Thank you, and wish to have more interactions with Chinese people in the future." It implied that she actually did not understand most comments written in Chinese.

After the observation of this group, I asked C whether he is satisfied with the interaction. C was quite disappointed about Helen's account. He hoped that Helen can put more energy in running this account, not considering it just to be the publishing tool.

Group 4

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Kevin Michael Rudd. Kelvin was the former Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia. Familiar with Chinese culture and language, he does have good relationship with Chinese-Australians. D, migrated to Australia in 1995, established a migration agent company. Because of his company, he constantly concerns about the impact of Australian government on education and immigration.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented.

D

Kevin Michael Rudd.

RT1

Comments

Followers

Tweets

Replies

RT2

LTU

2

0

323518

24

12

0

30th September

As to data, only 24 tweets are posted. Nevertheless, 12 replies are made on followers' comments on these tweets, showing a high proportion. Also, unlike Helen in Group 3, he continued his trends on updating tweets. D also only made 2 retweets about Kevin but no comments.

As to content, although the number of tweets Kevin posted is not huge, the content is dedicatedly prepared. When the tweets are about family life, there must be harmonious pictures attached. When international policies are referred, China is involved in most of time. What is more, Kevin's account plays a significant social role. There were some discriminated violent attacks against Asian students in Sydney. After D told this horrible situation to Kevin on Weibo, Kevin, as a member of parliament asked police force to stop these terrible violence effectively.

After the observation of this group, I asked D whether he is satisfied with the interaction. Surprisingly, D only posted 2 tweets about Kevin, reflecting low interaction at first glance. However, he is quite satisfied with the interaction. He concentrated the quality rather than quantity of tweets of Kevin.

Group 5

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Jim Suttle. He is the current mayor of Omaha, USA. After accumulating experience while serving HDR, Inc. in his earlier career, he was elected to represent District 1 on the Omaha City Council. On April 7, 2009, Suttle was elected as Mayor of Omaha. E, the manager of foreign affairs, was once sent to Omaha as the representative of his company. Although E has come back to his own country, still continuously keeps his eyes on the news of Omaha.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented.

E

Jim Suttle

RT1

Comments

Followers

Tweets

Replies

RT2

LTU

0

1

63562

37

0

0

30th May

As to data, in the past two months, Jim posted 37 tweets continuously. But no replies and retweets were made. When talking about E, he also just had one comments on Jim's tweets.

As to content, Jim's posts always contain a link. In these links, Jim shared the speech he launched, the activity he participated in, as well as improvement work the council did, for example, the apps of smartphone make citizens easier to voice their opinions. However, maybe for some unknown reasons, some links are broken. A few followers complained and reflected this situation to Jim in English, but it still remained. Interaction in this moment obviously does no success.

After the observation of this group, I asked E whether he is satisfied with the interaction. "Not bad, but his account looks like one-direction advertisement of Omaha council and himself." E hoped that Jim could post his relevant video and pictures directly on the tweets but no referred in a link. As a result, this could increase feeling of convenience and intimacy of followers.

Group 6

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Brenda Halloran. She is the current mayor of Waterloo, Ontario. After defeating incumbent and former mayor, she was elected in 2006 and got another re-election in 2010. Regarding to the follower, F is a staff of Canadian embassy, whose major work is to publish Canada.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented.

F

Brenda Halloran

RT1

Comments

Followers

Tweets

Replies

RT2

LTU

10

12

12931

156

150

81

30th Sept

As to data, Brenda outperformances other observed celebrities. 156 tweets and 150 replies were recorded. Also 81 retweets were seen. Until the last date of observation, Brenda still keeps on updating her tweets. F, to propagate policy and culture of Canada, made 10 retweets about Brenda. 12 comments are also made. Yet, surprisingly, although Brenda seems to make much effort compared to Jim in group 5, however, fewer followers are following her.

As to content, Brenda made her best effort. She was the only observed celebrity employing a team to manage her accounts. The content of her tweets cover not only history, but also landscape, immigration policy as well as the advertisement of famous universities in Waterloo. All her tweets were typed in Chinese. When her followers asked question, sometimes even in biased perspective, her team tried to answer questions in courtesy, although sometimes answers tend to be simple and repeated. F was also willing to utilize the content of Brenda's tweets when she used her account to republish.

After the observation of this group, I asked F whether he is satisfied with the interaction. "I am definitely satisfied with the outcome. She is really willing to talk to us, just like a friend." But F also hoped that Brenda is really able to spend more time to post her own tweets, not only leave this work to her team. What is more, as to F, too much retweets with followers' name involved posted on the timeline seems annoying and redundant.

Group 11

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Kaka. He is an attacking midfielder footballer born in Brazilian, currently playing for Real Madrid and Brazilian national team. Winning FIFA World Player of the Year, he enjoys his popularity. The follower, K, is a programmer now. Watching professional football match is his daily habit.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented. Unlike Weibo, when the users in Twitter reply to others, the reply is in the form of tweet but not in the form of reply under one tweet.

K

Kaka

RT1

Followers

Tweets

RT2

LTU

4

12975973

16

6

30th Sept

As to data, Kaka did not tweet too much on Twitter. However, more than one third of tweets are the reply to his fans, with his fans' account name attached in the tweet. Also, he seldom stopped his trend to update his tweets until the last day of observation. K is also really willing to refer Kaka's name is his tweet. 4 tweets are recorded in two months.

As to content, Kaka's tweets are divided into two major parts, namely the Portuguese and English. According to the record, only 3 are English and others are the Portuguese. However, the retweeted number of English tweets is much more than that of Portuguese tweets. Obviously, when Kaka updated his tweets in English, his followers are more willing to interact with him.

After the observation of this group, I asked K whether he is satisfied with the interaction. Originally I think he will be disappointed about following Kaka on twitter, since most of tweets Kaka posted are Portuguese that he did not understand. Surprisingly, K is quite happy to talk to Kaka on twitter although he did not get Kaka's answer back in one time. "He is quite kind and I believe one day he will reply me back." I asked "How about the Portuguese that you don not understand? " He answered "Never mind, I will translate in Google."

Group 17

Firstly, group members are introduced. The celebrity in this group is Tomomi Itano. She is a member of the Japanese idol group AKB48. This young idol group is popular among Asian youths. Q is a programmer, addicted to watching Japanese TV entertainment programme and young idols' performance.

Then, the statistics of two-month observation is also presented.

Q

Tomomi Itano

RT1

Followers

Tweets

RT2

LTU

2

87354

44

1

30th Sept

As to data, Tomomi updated reasonable amount of tweets. 44 Tweets are recorded. And one retweets with her fan involved is posted. Although the total number of updating is not massive, she kept her trend of updating. As to Q, 2 retweets with Tomomi's name attached are posted.

As to content, Tomomi's tweets are all about her album and daily feeling. To concern about that not every her followers can understand Japanese, Tomomi divide her some tweets into two parts, namely the Japanese part and English part. Two parts hold the same meaning and just in different language. Yet, there are quite a lot tweets are purely written in Japanese.

After the observation of this group, I asked Q whether he is satisfied with the interaction. He said he was quite content during these two months, although his two retweets were not responded by Tomomi. "Following her account offers me illusion that I can make friend with her." I asked "Don't you think most of tweets written in Japanese will bring inconvenience to you?" He answered "Not really, actually it encouraged me to study Japanese."

Analysis and Discussion

Data collected from this project is not sufficient enough, which undoubtedly will undermine discoveries. However, some innovative outcomes are still worth to be discussed.

Not all accounts succeed. In respect of data collection and the feedback from followers, there are only 5 groups in 20 groups success in interaction, namely group 1,4,6,11,17. Other groups suffer from various problems. Due to the language, both sides show little willingness to make comments and make retweets. If interpreter is not employed to translate followers' comments, celebrities are only able to understand information in their own language or universal language like English. Secondly, social media websites reflect the real society. In most group, just like the reality, celebrities who are in high social position seldom reply to their followers. As to followers, they gradually showed little enthusiasm to interact with celebrities. Group 2 is the best example of this situation. In addition, the frequency of updating should be paid attention to. Low frequency of updating may lead to loss of support. In group 3, Helen's account has been left in dated for more than 4 months. Her followers are quite dissatisfied this situation.

Use of English is recommended. To most of non-English speaking followers, the use of English in tweets is reasonable. However, if other foreign language is used, there is another case. English or other local language translation would be preferable. For example, in group 2, B, with other followers, is quite confused about Spanish. But in the group 11, although not every tweet is translated into English, the follower still considers tweets as acceptable. What is more, tweets written in universal language can invoke more interaction. Michael Owen in Group 1 and Sergio in Group 2 are also footballers. Sergio even behaves more brilliantly than Michael. However, tweets written in English make Michael easily talk with followers while Sergio's tweets are less responded. In group 11, tweets written in Portuguese got little interaction than tweets written in English.

Popularity's impact on language gap. Sometimes foreign language is not the hurdle at all if the celebrity is quite popular. In group 11 and group 17, one follower said he was willing to use Google Translate to translate Portuguese and another follower said he preferred to study Japanese to read through his idol's tweets. When the international followers fancy the celebrity enough, they pay little attention to weather the language will abandon them interacting with their idols.

Picture and video eliminate gap of language. Although language may be the hurdle of interaction, pictures and videos can arouse the shared feelings. In group 4,5,11 and 17, although the celebrities' tweets are not typed in Chinese and seldom respond to their followers, their followers show better enthusiasm to respond with them compared with other groups. In group 5, Jim attached more individual pictures while responded less to followers than Brenda in group 4, still possessed more followers.

Number of replies should be moderated. In group 6, Brenda's team replies to nearly every question in Chinese, leaves Brenda's account filled with retweets with followers' name involved. The whole website page of Brenda seems redundant. In contrast, in Group 1, Michael replies one question every 5 tweets averagely, still getting a good outcome. In conclusion, replies to followers are not as good as possible. Number of replies should be moderated.

According to the discoveries, celebrities are able to post their tweets according to the following advices.

The choice of language. If the mother tongue of the celebrity is different from the most-used language of that social media, the celebrity can tweet in both her or his own language and the most-used language. In case of any error in grammar or spelling, employing an interpreter to translate is preferred.

Use of multimedia. It is recommended to use multimedia content as much as possible to leave the form of presentation vivid. Although not understanding the actual meaning of tweets in foreign language from celebrities, followers can still sense what their celebrities try to express through pictures, videos as well as audios.

Reply to followers selectively. Do not reply every comment followers made. When replying to followers, celebrities could choose to retweet, with follower's name involved in the content of tweet. This strategy undoubtedly will provide impression to followers that the celebrity is really willing to interact with followers and treat them equally and respectively.

Limitation and Future Works

Small amount of observed objects. Small groups of observed objects are involved. Small quality of samples undoubtedly undermined the significance of discovers. In the future, larger groups of celebrities or followers should be observed.

Representativeness of observed objects. In this project, in twitter, celebrities are non-English speakers and followers are English speaker. In Weibo, followers are native Chinese while celebrities are foreigners. However, research outcome of this project is possibly biased since observed object cannot represent the whole picture. In the future, observed objects from a broad range of nationality are chosen to be observed.

Inefficient method of collecting data. As to collecting data manually, large effort has to be paid to collect data and mistakes could not be ignored. After hours of collecting data, fatigue is likely to lead errors when counting relevant data. For instance, Weibo and Tweeter do not provide function of counting tweets, all the relevant statistics has to be collected by counting tweets on the screen. This method undoubtedly is less efficient than automatically counting by applications. In the future, collecting data could be finished by smartphone apps or applications.

Figure 1 Authority Permission Page

As the Figure 1 shows, applications, utilizing OAuth, ask the permission from social media users. If users consent to grant authority to application, application is able to automatically collect data from users.

Some important measurements are missed. After collecting data and drawing conclusion, it is discovered that measurements are not precise enough to reflect the fact.

As to followers, only one individual follower's opinion and personal thought are considered. One individual's response to one tweet is interfered by other factors, like temporal emotion and whether she or he missed that tweet from the timeline. In contrast, number of total response and total retweets of a tweet reflect interaction much more objectively. To be more precise, number of followers should be considered. For example, if celebrity A posses 1000 followers while B posses 10000 followers. The average comments' number of a tweet from A is 100 while data from B is 150. Although B's data is higher than A's, the base should be considered. The ratio of

As to celebrities, number of followers is not precise to reflect the truth neither. Admittedly, number of followers means how people are eager to talk and listen to that celebrity to some extent. Nevertheless, number of followers is influenced by reputation and the filed celebrities are working on. For example, a phenomenal sports star posses more followers that a mayor of a city, despite the fact that the mayor is more dedicated to speak to her or his followers than that sports star. As a result, measurement could be improved. In the future, fluctuation measured by percentage could be presented in line chart along with number of comments and retweets of every tweet and the time of tweet posted. Then a more comprehensive view could be reached.

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