What are we missing? An empirical exploration in the structural biases of hashtag-based sampling on Twitter
The hashtag is a recognized and often used method to collect Twitter messages. However, it has its limits with respect to the inclusion of follow-messages, or @replies, that do not contain a hashtag. This paper explored to what extent the inclusion of non-hashtagged responses affected the study of interactions between Twitter users. We drew from the Twitter debate on the 2014 Belgian elections, collected under the #vk2014 hashtag. Our dataset included non-hashtagged responses to assess (1) how they differ from hashtagged responses; and, (2) how this affects the conversation network. The findings showed that (1) hashtagged responses were more likely to include other interactive elements (e.g., hyperlinks); and, (2) the inclusion of non-hashtagged responses generated larger and more reciprocal networks. However, central users further strengthened their position in the network.
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