#SMLabTO Speaker Series: Tweeting to the Target: Candidates Use of Strategic Messages and @Mentions on Twitter


Please join us ​on ​Friday, February 26, 2016 at 3 pm at the Ryerson Social Media Lab for a talk by Jeff Hemsley, Assistant Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and co-author of the book ‘Going Viral’.

This event is FREE but seating is limited, please custombutton

(Note: If you are not able to join us in person, you can also join us virtually  via @SMLabTO on the day of the talk.)


Event: Social Media Lab Speaker Series
Date: Friday, February 26, 2016
Time: 3:00-4:00 pm
Location: 10 Dundas Street East, Toronto
Ryerson Social Media Lab at the Ted Rogers School of Management


Jeff’s talk will focus on recent work examining the use of Twitter by political campaigns. Politicians use a variety of communication platforms in the service of winning the elections and in recent years have turned to Twitter. Twitter is an important platform for politicians because its users skew towards those who disproportionately have agenda setting power, such as political elites and journalists. In 2014, 36 of the 50 states in the U.S. held gubernatorial elections. All but 2 of the 66 candidates running for office were active on Twitter, posting 35,639 tweets in the weeks leading up to the election. This paper focuses on politicians’ use of the @mention, one of Twitter’s interactive affordances. Through systematic content analysis, machine learning, and quantitative analysis, we detail how their messaging strategies differ when mentioning themselves vs. their competitors, and between incumbents and challengers. We provide empirical evidence that candidates’strategies are similar to TV, websites and blogs, but show that campaigns use subtle the @mention feature as an audience targeting mechanism. Our findings extend political communication theory by showing that candidates engage in a kind of controlled interactivity, wherein they use digital affordances of Twitter to create a simulacrum of interaction with the public while actually carefully controlling campaign messages.


Jeff Hemsley is an Assistant Professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Washington’s Information School. His research is about understanding information diffusion and user interaction in social media. He draws on theories from sociology and communication to frame his thinking and research questions, but uses computational methods to collect, wrangle, visualize and analyze large, heterogeneous datasets. Exploratory data analysis, inferential statistics, social network analysis and content analysis are methods he uses to answer his questions. He is co-author of the book Going Viral (Polity Press, 2013 and winner of ASIS&T Best Science Books of 2014 Information award and selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2014), which explains what virality is, how it works technologically and socially, and draws out the implications of this process for social change. He is a founding member of the Behavior, Information, Technology and Society Laboratory (BITS lab) here at the Syracuse iSchool.

About the Social Media Lab Speaker Series:

The Social Media Lab Speaker Series bring together scholars, researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas and debate key issues associated with social media and new media research. Held throughout the year, the Ryerson Social Media Lab Speaker Series is open to the public. It’s an opportunity to meet, network, hear and ask questions from fellow researchers and practitioners. Traditionally we invite leading and emerging researchers in the field to discuss theoretical and methodological topics that are of interest to the broader research community. We usually feature 8-10 talks per semester. The talks are typically about forty minutes long followed by twenty minutes of Q&A. For those who cannot join us in person, the lecture are broadcast live over Periscope and posted on YouTube after the event.  We hope you can join us! Space is limited, please RSVP.


We are located at 10 Dundas St East, Toronto, Canada. When you enter 10 Dundas, look for the elevator bank (marked as Office Tower) next to the Starbucks Coffee on the 1st floor. Take the elevator to the 10th floor, our office suite #1002 will be on the right.