Social Media Users’ News Sources Limited to ‘Social Bubbles’

Multitud azulIf you get your news from social media, you might want to try using a search engine from now on. A new study from the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing has found that the millions of people who get their news through social media are more likely to be trapped in a social bubble.

Researchers analyzed more than 100 million web clicks and 1.3 billion social media posts from 2006 through 2010 and quantitatively tracked users’ web traffic, assigning them a score based on the range and diversity of their clicks.

They found that those who consumed news through social media got their info from a less diverse range of sources than those who got their news through search engines.

“People should be aware that the channels they use to find information can affect what they’re exposed to,” study author Dimitar Nikolov told NPR.

Though the study is limited to news consumption, it also has implications for brands who use online marketing tactics such as social media and search engine optimization. On the one hand, it may mean that a brand can engage with consumers more effectively through social media, but it may also mean that a brand could have more trouble reaching new audiences through social media than they might using search engine optimization.

“This study provides an excellent argument against receiving news from social media,” said Chris Wielinski, Managing Partner with Brown Box Branding Dallas. “Social media can contain false information, inaccurate studies, etc., but it is a fast and convenient way to learn about what’s going on in the world. Social media should not be discredited, but users do need to make sure the source is legitimate before sharing.”

According to study co-author Filippo Menczer, users must first recognize the existence of social bubbles in order to challenge them.

“Perhaps sometimes you see an opinion that doesn’t quite square with your opinion,” Menczer told NPR, “and you might want to think twice about unfriending that person, because that person, even if you don’t agree with them, can provide a different perspective.”

According to Nikolov, the research will continue using more recent data.

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