Setting An Exercise In Social Media “Research”

Reading @briankelly’s post on Institutional Use of Twitter by Russell Group Universities just now, where he refers to an old list of Twitter accounts compiled (in a blog post) by Liz Azyan, I wondered how I’d go about finding, or compiling, a comprehensive list of official Twitter accounts for UK HE institutions.

My first thought was: Google “uk universities twitter list” to find lists folk are currently curating themselves. This search (for me) turns up lists such as @thirdyearabroad/uk-universities and @bellerbys/uk-universities/, as well as Liz’s post.

Peeking at the two lists mentioned above, I notice they follow different numbers of Twitter users, which suggests to me I need to build a couple of scripts:

1) a script that will take a list of N Twitter lists and generate a union list
2) a script that will take a list of N Twitter lists and generate the set of users who:
2a) appear on each list;
2b) appear on at least M of N lists;
2c) appear on only one list.

The second idea that came to mind was in response to the question: is there a more effective way of finding lists of UK HE Twitter accounts? And what came to mind was this script I now need to hack together:

3) pick a handful of (official UK university) Twitter account IDs and pull down the lists that they have been added to; find the intersection set of lists that follow all the users in the test set, under the assumption that these may be lists that follow some common characteristic of those users, e.g. the fact that they are official UK university accounts.

This second approach uses a set of user IDs you would expect to be on a particular list as bait for finding lists that do include all those IDs.

(A corollary of this might be to look at a set of people you might expect to follow a particular sort of list, pull down the lists they follow/subscribe to, and then look for the intersection set of lists that all the sample users follow…?)

The third idea was to see whether I could find Twitter accounts linked to from university pages, searching Google for things like, but that wasn’t very satisfactory. Searching for university improves matters, and inspection of the result suggests intitle:university may be even more effective…

Searching for intitle:university -inurl:status excludes results from tweets, but we still get results relating to lists as well as accounts. I can’t find an obvious way of only searching for UK universities…

So the exercise is this: how would you generate a comprehensive list of official UK university Twitter accounts?

PS FWIW, I think coming up with search/discovery strategies such as the above is the sort of information skill we might consider or indeed, expect to be a graduate level information skill. Discuss.

PPS I would of course appreciate ideas for alternative, and indeed, more effective ways of completing the “how to find lists of official Twitter accounts for UK universities” in the comments:-)

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

3 thoughts on “Setting An Exercise In Social Media “Research””

  1. I’ll give you a head start:

    Lincoln’s coporate account is @unilincoln. We use it for public service announcments and 1-2-1 engagement.

    We also have a few joke accounts for the two lifts in the main admin building @mab_sheila and @mab_jane who banter with one another.

    @whatsonlincoln is a Twitter account for events at the University.

    @ulcal is a Twitter bot for interacting with calendars (e.g. DM the account with ‘today’ and it will send you your agenda for today or DM it something like ‘3pm Meeting tomorrow with in the Atrium’ and it will create a new event in your calendar and send and event invite to my email address.

    Also un-releated to Twitter but we also use Get Satisfaction – and we’re moving our support services to Zendesk. We’re also going to be using the coporate Facebook page for 1-2-1 engagment with people as we are with Twitter.

    Alex Bilbie

    1. @alex I love that use of a twitterbot as a calendar autoresponder. I guess you have to register details with the bot somehow?

      As to the tweeting lifts, my immediate thought was of @redjets, and whether you could chain together a whole load of tweetjects to essentially track the dynamics of, err, things in the built and transport environment?!

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