Microblogging is an online broadcast medium that exists as a specific form of blogging. A microblog differs from a traditional blog in that its content is typically smaller in both actual and aggregated file size. Microblogs "allow users to exchange small elements of content such as short sentences, individual images, or video links", which may be the major reason for their popularity. These small messages are sometimes called microposts.
As with traditional blogging, microbloggers post about topics ranging from the simple, such as "what I'm doing right now," to the thematic, such as "sports cars." Commercial microblogs also exist to promote websites, services and products, and to promote collaboration within an organization.
Some microblogging services offer features such as privacy settings, which allow users to control who can read their microblogs, or alternative ways of publishing entries besides the web-based interface. These may include text messaging, instant messaging, E-mail, digital audio or digital video.
|“||Blogging has mutated into simpler forms (specifically, link- and mob- and aud- and vid- variant), but I don’t think I’ve seen a blog like Chris Neukirchen’s [sic] Anarchaia, which fudges together a bunch of disparate forms of citation (links, quotes, flickrings) into a very long and narrow and distracted tumblelog.||”|
|“||A tumblelog is a quick and dirty stream of consciousness, a bit like a remaindered links style linklog but with more than just links. They remind me of an older style of blogging, back when people did sites by hand, before Movable Type made post titles all but mandatory, blog entries turned into short magazine articles, and posts belonged to a conversation distributed throughout the entire blogosphere. Robot Wisdom and Bifurcated Rivets are two older style weblogs that feel very much like these tumblelogs with minimal commentary, little cross-blog chatter, the barest whiff of a finished published work, almost pure editing...really just a way to quickly publish the "stuff" that you run across every day on the web||”|
However, by 2006 and 2007, the term microblog was used more widely for services provided by established sites like Tumblr and Twitter. Twitter for one is especially popular in China, with over 35 million users tweeting in 2012, according to a survey by GlobalWebIndex.
As of May 2007, there were 111 microblogging sites in various countries. Among the most notable services are Twitter, Tumblr, FriendFeed, Plurk, Jaiku and identi.ca. Different versions of services and software with microblogging features have been developed. Plurk has a timeline view that integrates video and picture sharing. Flipter uses microblogging as a platform for people to post topics and gather audience's opinions. PingGadget is a location-based microblogging service. Pownce, developed by Digg founder Kevin Rose among others, integrated microblogging with file sharing and event invitations. Pownce was merged into SixApart in December 2008.
Other leading social networking websites Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Diaspora*, JudgIt, Yahoo Pulse, Google Buzz, Google+ and XING, also have their own microblogging feature, better known as "status updates". Although status updates are usually more restricted than actual microblogging in terms of writing, it seems any kind of activity involving posting, be it on a social network site or a microblogging site, can be classified as microblogging.
Services such as Lifestream and SnapChat will aggregate microblogs from multiple social networks into a single list, while other services, such as Ping.fm, will send out your microblog to multiple social networks.
Internet users in China are facing a different situation. Foreign microblogging services like Twitter, Facebook, Plurk, and Google+ are censored in China. The users use Chinese weibo services such as Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo. Tailored to Chinese people, these weibos are like hybrids of Twitter and Facebook. They implement basic features of Twitter and allow users to comment to others' posts, as well as post with graphical emoticons, attach an image, music and video files. A survey by the Data Center of China Internet from 2010 showed that Chinese microblog users most often pursued content created by friends, experts in a specific field or related to celebrities.
Several studies, most notably by the Harvard Business School and Sysomos, have tried to analyze the user behaviour on microblogging services. Several of these studies show that for services such as Twitter, there is a small group of active users contributing to most of the activity. Sysomos' Inside Twitter survey, based on more than 11 million users, shows that 10% of Twitter users account for 86% of all activity.
Twitter, Facebook, and other microblogging services are also becoming a platform for marketing and public relations, with a sharp growth in the number of social media marketers. The Sysomos study shows that this specific group of marketers on Twitter is much more active than the general user population, with 15% of marketers following over 2,000 people and only .29% of the Twitter public following more than 2,000 people.
Microblogging has also become an important source of real-time news updates during socio-political revolutions and crisis situations, such as the Mumbai terror attacks or Iran protests. The short nature of updates allow users to post news items quickly, reaching its audience in seconds. Clay Shirky argues that these services have the potential to result in an information cascade, prompting fence-sitters to turn activist.
Microblogging has noticeably revolutionized the way information is consumed. It has empowered citizens themselves to act as sensors or sources of information that could lead to consequences and influence, or even cause, media coverage. People now share what they observe in their surroundings, information about events, and their opinions about topics from a wide range of fields. Moreover, these services store various metadata from these posts, such as location and time. Aggregated analysis of this data includes different dimensions like space, time, theme, sentiment, network structure etc., and gives researchers an opportunity to understand social perceptions of people in the context of certain events of interest. Microblogging also promotes authorship. On the microblogging platform Tumblr, the reblogging feature links the post back to the original creator.
The findings of a study by Emily Pronin of Princeton University and Harvard University's Daniel Wegner have been cited as a possible explanation for the rapid growth of microblogging. The study suggests a link between short bursts of activity and feelings of elation, power and creativity.
While the general appeal and influence of microblogging seem to be growing continuously, mobile microblogging is still moving at a slower pace. Among the most popular activities carried out by mobile internet users on their devices in 2012, mobile blogging or tweeting was last on the list, with only 27% of users engaging in it.
Users and organizations often set up their own microblogging service – free and open source software is available for this purpose. Hosted microblogging platforms are also available for commercial and organizational use.
Considering the smaller amount of time and effort to make a post this way or share an update, microblogging has the potential to become a new, informal communication medium, especially for collaborative work within organizations. Over the last few years communication patterns have shifted primarily from face-to-face to online in email, IM, text messaging, and other tools. However, some argue that email is now a slow and inefficient way to communicate. For instance, time-consuming "email chains" can develop, whereby two or more people are involved in lengthy communications for simple matters, such as arranging a meeting. The one-to-many broadcasting offered by microblogs is thought to increase productivity by circumventing this.
Another implication of remote collaboration is that there are fewer opportunities for face-to-face informal conversations. Workplace schedules in particular have become much busier and allow little room for real socializing or exchange. However, microblogging has the potential to support informal communication among coworkers and help it grow when people actually do meet afterwards. Many individuals like sharing their whereabouts and status updates through microblogging.
Microblogging is therefore expected to improve the social and emotional welfare of the workforce, as well as streamline the information flow within an organization. It can increase opportunities to share information, help realize and utilize expertise within the workforce, and help build and maintain common ground between coworkers. As microblogging use continues to grow every year, it is quickly becoming a core component of Enterprise Social Software.
Dr. Gregory D. Saxton and Kristen Lovejoy at the University at Buffalo, SUNY have done a study on how nonprofit organizations use microblogging to meet their company needs and missions, with an emphasis on Twitter use. Their sample included 100 nonprofit organizations, 73 of which had Twitter accounts, and 59 that were considered “active,” or sent out a tweet at least three times a week. In a one-month time period 4,655 tweets were collected for analysis from these organizations.
They developed three categories with a total of 12 sub categories in which to place tweets based on their functions, and classify organizations based on the purpose of the majority of their tweets. The three head categories include information, community, and action. Information includes one-way interactions that inform the public of the organization's activities, events, and news. The community head category can also be broken down into two sub categories of community building and dialogue intended tweets. Community building tweets are meant to strengthen ties and create an online community, such as tweets giving thanks or showing acknowledgement of current events. Tweets meant to create dialogue are often interactive responses to other Twitter users or tweets invoking a response from users. Action tweets are used to promote events, ask people for donations, selling products, asking for volunteers, lobbying, or requests to join another cite.
Through their analysis, Saxton and Lovejoy were able to identify nonprofit organizations’ main purpose in using the microblogging site, Twitter, and break down organizations into three categories based on purpose of tweets: 1. “Information Sources,” 2. “Community Builders,” and 3. “Promoters & Mobilizers.” In their discussion of the study, they stated that they believe their findings are generalizable to other microblogging and social media sites.
Privacy is arguably a major issue because users may broadcast sensitive personal information to anyone who views their public feed. Microblog platform providers can also cause privacy issues through altering or presetting users' privacy options in a way users feel compromises their personal information. An example would be Google’s Buzz platform which incited controversy in 2010 by automatically publicizing users’ email contacts as ‘followers’. Google later amended these settings.
On centralized services, where all of the Microblog's information flows through one point (e.g. servers operated by Twitter), privacy has been a concern in that user information has sometimes been exposed to governments and courts without the prior consent of the user who generated such supposedly private information, usually through subpoenas or court orders. Examples can be found in recent Wikileaks related Twitter subpoenas, as well as various other cases.
Security concerns have been voiced within the business world, since there is potential for sensitive work information to be publicized on microblogging sites such as Twitter. This includes information which may be subject to a superinjunction.
Live Blogging is a derivative of microblogging that generates a continuous feed on a specific web page.
Instant messaging and IRC display status, but generally only one of a few choices, such as: available, off-line, away, busy. Away messages (messages displayed when the user is away) form a kind of microblogging.
Past microblogging services, no longer active.