Exploring patterns of social relationships among food bloggers on twitter using a social network analysis approach

Allison D. Hepworth, Jess Kropczynski, Justin Walden, Rachel A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background and objective. Nutrition information conveyed by popular entities through online social networking sites (i.e., social media influencers) has the potential to impact consumer eating behavior through mechanisms of social influence. Little is known about how online communities of food-related social media influencers are structured, which could reveal influencers’ opportunities to observe and spread nutrition-related content and information design practices. This study explored patterns of social relationships (social capital, conservation of resources, and homophily) within a network of prominent food bloggers on Twitter (N = 44). Methods. Data on Twitter following/follower relationships and Twitter use (number of tweets, favorited tweets) were collected from bloggers’ Twitter profiles. Bloggers represented eight topical subcategories of food blogs (e.g., family cooking, cocktails) and comprised a one-mode social network with directed ties indicating Twitter following/follower relationships. Structural evidence of patterns of social ________________ relationships was investigated through social network visualization, centrality measures (in-degree/out-degree centrality, density, reciprocity), and inferential tests. Results. The overall network density of directed ties was 21%, with wide variability in individual blogger centrality across multiple measures. Cocktails, cooking, special diets, and culinary travel bloggers had more dense ties to bloggers in their own subcategories. Within the network, favorited tweets and outreach (Twitter following relationships) were positively associated with popularity (Twitter follower relationships). Conclusions. Food bloggers in this study formed a partially connected network, supporting the conservation of resources framework. Homophily was evident in some, but not all, topical subcategories. Associations among Twitter use, outreach, and popularity generally supported the social capital framework. Future studies should explore influencers’ motivations for connecting on social networking sites, and how content and information design practices spread among influencers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Social Structure
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

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