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Tuesday, July 12 • 13:31 - 14:30
An Exploration of the Uses and Gratifications (U&G) of Twitter and its Features

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
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  • Anabel Quan-Haaseand, University of Western Ontario, Canada
  • Lori McCay-Peet, Dalhousie University, Canada


The U&G approach has a longstanding history in communication research and, most recently, social media research (Quan-Haase & Young, 2010). Past research showed that Twitter users gain a wide range of gratifications, of which the most important was a need for social connection (Chen, 2011). Johnson and Yang (2009) corroborate and expand these findings by showing that what motivates users is a need to maintain contact with friends and family, to communicate with many people simultaneously, and to pass the time. Smock et al. (2011), on the other hand, took a more targeted approach and investigated the U&G of Facebook features. The present study builds on this past research.


While most prior research has examined the gratifications gained from the Twitter platform as a whole, we were interested in the gratifications associated with specific features. What motivations predict the use of specific Twitter features? Why do users choose to retweet or employ a hashtag? Does one feature provide different benefits from other features? Obtaining insights into what motivates users to employ specific features has three important insights. First, it will help developers as they update the site. Second, it will inform how microblogging works in the context of user needs. Finally, it will provide a more fine-tuned understanding for why users prefer one social media tool to another. Past work by Quan-Haase and Young (2010) has called for a need for more comparative research. We need to understand how social media platforms work in relation to one another, as a majority of users adopt more than one platform (Duggan et al., 2015).


A paper- and web-based survey was used to collect data relating to social media use. Participants were predominantly women (74%) with an average age of 28. Of the initial pool of 222 participants, 162 indicated they use Twitter and 142 of these completed the survey. Twitter users were asked about their frequency of use of features (e.g., tweet, retweet), based on previous work by Coursaris et al. (2013). Factor analysis was used to help develop U&G variables that could be included in six multivariate analyses with six Twitter features as the dependent variables and the U&G variables as the independent variables. 


More than half of the participants (56%) reported using Twitter for four years or more, though they tended to use Twitter less than one hour per day (59%). The majority of the participants used the following features at least weekly: timeline, tweet, retweet, #, @, and search. Not unlike the Facebook (Smock et al. (2013), features were correlated (.49 to .78), but were not measuring the same things. Four U&G factors were extracted using principal components analysis: (1) Professional, (2) Leisure, (3) Social, and (4) Escape. Several U&G items were removed during analysis due to cross- or low-loading. Some of Coursaris et al.’s (2013) original factors converged, but were retained as the composites made sense at face value (e.g., information and professional advancement).

All six multiple regression analyses were significant (p < .001). All six twitter features share a significant relationship to the Professional U&G of Twitter. In contrast, Escape was not significantly related to any features. The Leisure U&G shared a significant relationship with participants’ timeline viewing (p < 0.001) and use of the search function (p < .5). Social U&G were significantly related to timeline (p < .05), tweet (p < .01), and @ (p < .01).

Future Work:

The results indicate that specific features are related to different U&G constructs and suggest the potential of operationalizing U&G factors through Twitter feature use. Further, big data analysis has the potential to expand on this work by showing what features users are making use of in what contexts. This work establishes a baseline for future work that will allow to compare various social media platforms and show how they provide different U&G for users in different social contexts. 


Chen, G. M. (2011). Tweet this: A uses and gratifications perspective on how active Twitter use gratifies a need to connect with others. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(2), 755–762.

Coursaris, C. K., Sung, J., Osch, W. Van, & Yun, Y. (2013). Disentangling Twitter’s adoption and use (dis)continuance: A theoretical and empirical amalgamation of uses and gratifications and diffusion of innovations. Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction, 5(1), 57–83.

Duggan, M., et al. (2015). Social media update 2014: While Facebook remains the most popular site, other platforms see higher rates of growth. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/social-media-update-2014/

Johnson, P. R., & Yang, S.U. (2009). U&G of Twitter: An examination of user motives and satisfaction of Twitter use. Paper presented at the Communication Technology Division of the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, Boston, Massachusetts.

Quan-Haase, A., & Young, A. L. (2010). Uses and gratifications of social media: A comparison of Facebook and instant messaging. Bulletin of Science, Technology and Society, 30(5), 350–361. Retrieved from http://bst.sagepub.com/content/30/5/350.abstract

Smock, A. D., Ellison, N. B., Lampe, C., & Wohn, D. Y. (2011). Facebook as a toolkit: A uses and gratification approach to unbundling feature use. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(6), 2322–2329. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.07.011 

Tuesday July 12, 2016 13:31 - 14:30 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2