Article: Issues in information behaviour on social media
Khoo, C.S.G. (2014). Issues in information behaviour on social media. LIBRES, 24(2), 75-96. (Available at: http://libres-ejournal.info/1399/)
Background. Social media present a rich environment to study information behaviour, as much of the user interaction is recorded and stored in publicly accessible repositories and on personal devices.
Objectives. This paper surveys the literature of the past nine years on information behaviour related to social media, focusing especially on social networking sites and online discussion forums. It reviews the characteristics of social media users and use, the predominant types of information behaviour, and new types of information found in user-contributed content.
Results. Studies have found clear age, gender and national differences, and differences between local citizens and foreigners, in the frequency and purpose of social media use, the choice of social media sites, number of online friends, and types of information posted. Social media users typically share experiential and practical knowledge in the context of everyday life. Informational support provided by social media users is complemented with socio-emotional support. Predominant types of information behaviour include asking (i.e. request for information), answering with information, unsolicited information sharing, and information integration. Browsing and monitoring are important types of information seeking behaviour on social media. Users use a combination of information behaviours, information sources, and online as well as offline sources for information needs that are important to them.
Conclusion. Social media are evolving into important sources of information that complement traditional information sources. They provide an opportunity to study types of information behaviour related to human interaction, that are difficult to study in physical environments.
Excerpt from the Conclusion section
The rise of social media should herald a new era in information behaviour research. Just as the rise of online databases and digital libraries sparked off a generation of research in online searching, so too social media should stimulate a new wave of research and theories focusing on other types of information behaviour such as asking, answering and information integration. Research on information behaviour on social media can be said to be in a nascent stage.
So far, researchers have found clear age, gender and national differences, as well as differences between local citizens and foreigners, in the frequency and purpose of social media use, choice of social media sites, number of online friends, and types of information posted. It is time to identify more fine-grained characteristics of social media use for different age ranges, communities and nationalities, as well as carry out multi-country comparisons. Beyond demographic factors, social, psychological, technological and motivation factors affecting patterns of social media use need to be investigated in greater depth.
The types of information associated with social media sites are advice, recommendations, opinions as well as experiential and practice knowledge related to everyday life issues, that may be customized for particular users and contexts including geographic location and time. However, everyday life issues encompass a wide range of topics including finance, health, local and foreign news, housing, food and beverage, shopping, fashion, product reviews, and leisure and entertainment (including social events, hobby, sports, music and travel). There is a need to study specific everyday life issues and how their saliency varies according to a person’s life stage, situation and community. In addition to informational support, users also obtain socio-emotional support from other users, which may convey more subtle types of information.
Social media is associated with types of information behaviour that have traditionally not been well-studied: asking, answering, information sharing, forwarding, integration, collaborative information behaviour, information use, critical information behaviour, as well as the more passive behaviour of browsing and information encountering. There is a paucity of theory building to explain information behaviour on social media. New information behaviour frameworks and models are needed to structure and synthesize various aspects of social media behaviour.