Authors explain: "When software is usable it is easy and efficient to use, easy to remember, has few errors and is subjectively pleasing" (Silius, Kailanto, and Tervakari 506).
Other categories are equally important. The added value assesses whether there is anything new or special for the user. Accessability is important because social media outlets are designed for individuals who contribute content in different contexts. Privacy and security deals with protecting the users, while the motivating factors looks at how rewarding the participation for the user is, whether it takes into account all users (beginners, advanced users, etc.), whether it provides personalization and maintaining of interest, and whether it makes it easy to follow the development in the media. The web tool evaluates information reliability by assessing "accuracy, authority, objectivity, currency, and coverage" (Silius, Kailanto, and Tervakari 506).
The approach presented by Silius, Kailanto, and Tervakari is a good example of how the quality of social media may be evaluated within a specific context. But the tools they used in this context may not work properly in other cases. Twitter or Facebook cannot be evaluated by using the same methods. Here again, a specific context is important. As Gayo-Avello explains, generalizing methods and approaches in evaluating social media may lead to inaccurate results. He explains it in the case of evaluating voter preferences in 2008 elections by reading Twitter posts. Twitters posts are used for variety of reasons. Some authors use Twitter data to predict future revenues for newly released movies, while others have used it to predict elections outcomes in the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Germany. But Gayo-Avello explains that the "direct correlation" between Twitter data and future events "is simply not the case" (Gayo-Avello 122).
He gives various reasons why Twitter data may be misleading. For instance, Twitter users are a sample, but not representative of the general population. The users may also be biased as Twitter is not used as heavily by older people or rural citizens as it is by the younger generation and urban citizens. There is also "the tendency of researchers to report positive results while suppressing negative results. This so-called 'file-drawer' effect can have a harmful influence if it is assumed that conclusions from a few selected positive experiments are directly applicable to any other conceivable scenario" (Gayo-Avello 123). Indeed, certain methods in evaluating Twitter data to predict box-office revenues of movies might have worked, but there is no ground for assuming that the same methods would work for predicting future election results. In his own analysis of Twitter data for during and immediately after the election of President Obama, Gayo-Avello found that the data greatly exaggerated Obama's chances. He notes that there are several problems which need to be avoided in evaluating social media. These include big-data fallacy, which refers to the assumption that if the data is big it should yield accurate information; demographic bias; the fact that silence speaks volumes, i.e. nonrespondents should not be ignored; and that the positive results in certain cases do not justify generalizations (Gayo-Avello 128).
The importance of social media is evident. But the criteria for evaluating the quality of it may be tricky. The most important thing in the evaluation process is the context that the researcher should be aware of. As the examples in this paper demonstrate, generalizing evaluation tools and methods may be misleading. The researcher should be aware of the specific context under which the social media outlet is being used. And the methods of evaluation should be developed considering these specific contexts.
Gayo-Avello, Daniel. "Don't Turn Social Media into another 'Literary Digest' Poll." Association for Computing Machinery.Communications of the ACM 54.10 (2011): 7. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 28 Nov. 2011.
Silius, Kirsi, Meri Kailanto and Anne-Maritta Tervakari. "Evaluating the Quality of Social Media in an Educational Context." 2011 IEEE Global Engineering Education Conference. 4 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Nov. 2011
Pauline Howes, et al. "An Examination Of The Role Of Online Social Media In Journalists' Source Mix." Public Relations Review 35.3 (2009): 314-316. Academic Search Premier. Web. 27 Nov. 2011.