Analysing the water cooler: Conversation analysis of the University of Canberra Brumbies’ social media users

Analysing the water cooler: Conversation analysis of the University of Canberra Brumbies’
social media users

Olan Scott, Ann Pegoraro, Jerry Watkins

This paper describes a conversation analysis of social media activity by fans of the University of Canberra Brumbies, a professional rugby union team based in the capital of Australia. Although sport only makes up a small percentage of overall television programming, around half of all content posted to Twitter in 2013 was related to sport (Neilsen, 2014). Facebook, Instagram, blogs and other social media are also extensively used by sport organizations, athletes and consumers. Therefore it is increasingly important for sport organizations  and athletes to prioritise these platforms in their marketing, communications, public relations, and management strategies (Hambrick, Simmons, Greenhalgh, & Greenwell, 2010); as social media give these actors an unfiltered voice in an increasingly cluttered marketplace (Wallace, Wilson, & Miloch, 2011; Scott, Bruffy, & Naylor, in press).

Historically, communication between (sport) organizations and consumers was one-way through the mass media. With the advent and proliferation of social media, the media landscape has been changed like never before (Pegoraro, 2013). Social network sites (SNSs) allow individuals and organizations to “(a) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (b) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (c) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system” (Boyd and Ellison, 2007, p. 211). Through the creation of SNSs, the gate-keeping role of the media has diminished as organization and consumers have a vehicle they can use to disseminate an unfiltered message to their key publics (Arsenault and Castells, 2008; Scott, Bradshaw, & Larkin, 2012).

Sport fans are avid users of technology (Kelly, 2013) and express themselves and access information online using multiple devices at the same time. For example, fans may follow their team on television while using their computer, tablet, or smartphone to view real-time statistics of the game or communicate with other fans watching the same contest.  This is termed second-screen consumption and can often also include the use of SNSs such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  The popularity of second-screen viewing and simultaneous engagement through social media, justifies the incorporation of SNSs into broader marketing strategy.  Many sport fans no longer wait for the media’s post-match analysis; instead social media allows sports fans to create and share their own narrative during the game.

Social media can enhance the communication strategy of sport organizations by creating additional opportunities to connect with the sport consumer. But the substantial time and expertise required to manage successful social media activity – including rapid response to fan posting and multiplatform content moderation – can present a significant barrier for smaller sport organizations. This exploratory study will create a conceptual model for planning the desired performance of social media within the overall communication strategy of a small- to medium-scale sports organization. This model will allow identification of the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of social media activity within the organization’s communicative ecology (Hearn & Foth, 2007). A communicative ecology can be composed of three conceptual layers:

  • Who: the social layer of users or people, and the social modes which organise those people e.g. athletes, fans and coaches.
  • What: the discursive layer of content of communication e.g. the ideas or themes that distinguish the social interactions within the ecology.
  • How: the technological layer of enabling devices and connecting media.

Focusing on the social and discursive layers, this project will test conversation analysis (CA) software as a means to capture and analyse the structure, information content, and inter-mode relationships of sport fan communication in order to inform effective social media strategy. To date, much of the research in social media has had its focus on content analysis of social media consumer posts through content analytic methodologies on Facebook (Evans, 2010; Scott et al., 2012), Twitter (Blaszka, Burch, Frederick, Clavio, & Walsh, 2012; Frederick, Lim, Lim, Clavio, Pedersen, & Burch, 2014; Pegoraro, 2010), and blogs (Clavio & Eagleman, 2011; Kwak, Kim, & Zimmerman, 2010). The proposed study will build upon this line of research by analysing the conversations of publically available Twitter content. The MUSTT (Multiple User-defined Search Terms on Twitter) process refers to the collection of data from Twitter based upon a delineated set of key words for the purposes of academic research. This process enables researchers to extract tweets using search terms similar to the process of seeking newspaper articles from an online database (e.g., Naraine & Dixon, 2014). The MUSTT process of tweet extraction is able to provide useful information that researchers could utilize in addition to the user-generated content itself. This data will only be collected from open, public pages, constituting freely available public data.

Once data are collected using the aforementioned processes, they will be analyzed separately using manual techniques and the thematic analysis software tool, Leximancer. This is a qualitative automated tool which extracts textual data and detects key concepts that are clustered and displayed in a visual concept map (Sotiriadou, Brouwers, & Le, 2014). Given that Leximancer has been reported to be reliable in its reproducibility of results (e.g., Smith & Humphreys, 2006), as well as capable of analyzing large amounts of data (e.g., Penn-Edwards, 2010), it has gradually become more utilized in sport management research in recent years (e.g., Shilbury, 2012). Thus – with scholars indicating that social media research requires methodological enhancements (cf. Hutchins, 2014; Pedersen, 2014; Sanderson, 2014) – Leximancer was chosen to present meaningful analysis in a timely manner while also negating issues pertaining to (intercoder) reliability that a manual parsing of the data would bear.

The main outcome from this study will be a strategic communication model which forms the basis of applied research collaboration with the University of Canberra Brumbies rugby union team. Social media data collection and analysis via MUSTT and Leximancer will be supported by in-depth interviews with University of Canberra Brumbies staff marketing and social media staff, which will provide insight into the team’s existing communication strategy and the intended contribution of social media to this strategy. It is intended that the strategic communication model produced by this study will be useful to other small- to medium-scale sport organizations which seek to understand and track the social media conversations of fans.

This paper will be presented at the 2015 NASSM conference held in Ottawa, Canada


From Social Networking to Professional Networking: (Re)introducing your Students to Twitter

This post is a copy/paste of an accepted 60-minute Professional Preparation and Teaching Sport Management abstract that will be presented at the 2013 NASSM conference in Austin, Texas, USA.



Heather A. Muir, Bowling Green State University 419-372-7230

Olan K. M. Scott, Edith Cowan University +61450764966

Naila Jinnah, Queen’s University 5149665510


From Social Networking to Professional Networking: (Re)introducing your Students to Twitter


Since the advent of the Internet and the proliferation of social media, consumers have been afforded new ways to communicate with businesses, celebrities, athletes, and other Internet users. Social media usage in the sports industry is an ever-growing field of research (Clavio & Kian, 2010; Hutchins, 2011; Hutchins & Mikosza, 2010; Pegoraro, 2010; Sanderson & Kassing, 2011). Twitter, in particular, has enabled interaction between fans and members of the sports industry as well as with sport organizations, athletes and other stakeholders such as sponsors and non-profit organizations (Hambrick, Simmons, Greenhalgh, & Greenwell, 2010).

Twitter can also be used as an educational and professional networking tool. Organized conversations on Twitter are an example of how social networking can help build digital bridges across geographic boundaries. These conversations are more commonly known as Twitter chats and are scheduled, virtual gatherings where people on Twitter discuss something of interest to them, using an established subject #hashtag to keep track of the conversation (Spinks, 2009). Though social networking relationships are created, fostered, and maintained in a virtual space, they can be just as “real” or genuine as offline relationships in their impact on the individual (Booth, 2010; Guimarães, 2005; Mackay, 2005). Therefore, the bonds that form between those who interact on Twitter chats may produce connections between people of various backgrounds and across networks that may otherwise not have been linked (“A world of connections”, 2010; Chao, Parker, & Fontana, 2011). For example, a sport management student who actively participates in sport industry chats such as #sbchat, #smsportschat, or #sportsprchat may impress top executives or academics, putting them in a prime position to then connect over future job opportunities.

Twitter chats are also increasingly being integrated into post-secondary teaching plans because they promote cooperative, collaborative, and long-term information retention (Angelo, 1993; Chao, Parker, & Fontana, 2011; Dobler, 2012; Millis, 2007; Parker & Chao, 2007). Studies show that today’s students benefit from a variety of pedagogical approaches that promote active learning (Bart 2011; Junco, Heibergert, & Locken, 2010). Those who are digital natives “prefer multi-tasking and non-linear access to information, they have a low tolerance for lectures and prefer active rather than passive learning, and they rely heavily on social media for social and professional interactions and accessing information” (McCarthy, 2010; as cited in Chao, Parker, & Fontana, 2011, p.324). As students are typically already familiar with Twitter and use it regularly, they recognize how effective this participatory tool can be for their education as well (Prensky, 2007; Weisgerber & Butler, 2010). Twitter integration in the classroom has also been shown to help students develop peer support, learning communities, and professional networks, as well as to increase student engagement and grades (Junco, Heibergert, & Loken, 2010; Retelny, Birnholtz, & Hancock, 2012; ScienceDaily, 2009).

The purpose of this workshop is to: 1) show educators how Twitter can be used as a pedagogical tool for post-secondary learning in sport management, and 2) provide a hands-on Twitter chat learning experience for educators and students who may be interested in participating in educational and/or industry chats. The workshop will take place in a Wi-Fi-enabled room (if available at the conference) and participants will be asked to bring a device through which they can access their Twitter account (cellphone, tablet, or laptop). The workshop will provide strategies for running a Twitter chat in the classroom. The format, grading, and gauging of students’ experiences will be discussed, and examples of best practices will be given based on feedback from professors, students, and industry professionals who currently use Twitter chats for educational and/or professional purposes. The session will conclude with a question and answer Twitter chat that will familiarize participants with the unique experience of tweeting with others who are in the same physical space.

Abstract Type: Teaching

Abstract Category: Professional Preparation, Teaching Sport Management

Status of Work: In-progress

Presentation Type: 60-minute workshop

NASSM presentation

This is a copy of the abstract that forms the presentation that I will be doing on 4 June 2011 at the North American Society for Sport Management Conference in London, Canada.

It is also available from NASSM’s website

2011 North American Society for Sport Management Conference (NASSM 2011)
London, ON June 1 – 4, 2011. Page 11-12
Scripting the National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals: An Analysis of Announcer Discourse and the Portrayal of Race
Olan Scott, University of Ballarat
Dwight Zakus, Griffith University
Brad Hill, Griffith University

Communication Saturday, June 4, 2011 20-minute oral presentation

Abstract 2011-216 4:05 PM (Room 9)

During sporting broadcasts, the media use frames to create discourse. Through embedding messages, the media are able to create a scripted telecast that ensures that only selected aspects of a communication message are salient to viewers. The media select aspects of its communication or discourse and enhance the salience of these messages (Entman, 1993). Through framing a telecast, the media build, capture and maintain audience numbers by ensuring that its communication is salient to the greatest number of viewers. Rowe (2004) notes that it is insufficient for a media company to focus solely on the sight and sound of a sporting event. Thus, framing allows a television network to create a broadcast that embeds multiple storylines into the coverage. To uncover how an event is framed by the media, the 2008 NBA Finals was analysed to uncover the framing function of the

The NBA Finals series features the winners of the Eastern Conference taking on the Western Conference champion in a best-of-seven-games format. This series takes place each June. This study compared announcer discourse surrounding the 2008 NBA finals based on the race of the player: black or other. This study builds and adds to the existing body of knowledge regarding media bias during sporting events (e.g., Alabarces, Tomlinson, & Young, 2001; Billings & Eastman, 2002; Larson amp; Rivenburgh, 1991; Tudor, 1992). While a wide body of literature around race and sport exists, this study looks at a discrete event not often studied, a National Basketball Association Finals series, to analyze and evaluate the frames employed when commenting on the racial origins of the competing players. This study sought to uncover how the concept of race was portrayed by commentators during the broadcast of the finals.

The theoretical framework that this study employs is agenda-setting. McCombs and Shaw (1972) noted that the media play an important role in the “shaping of … reality” (p. 176). Entman (1993) comments that the amount of coverage an issue receives is indicative of its importance, which aligns with Cohen’s (1963) maxim that the press “may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers [and viewers] what to think about [original emphasis]” (p. 13). Through framing and scripting the coverage of an event, the media are able to set an agenda that its announcers will follow to ensure that its encoded discourse is correctly identified and decoded by viewers. This study seeks to uncover how the portrayals of race are framed by the American Broadcasting Corporation during the 2008 NBA Finals, which will uncover the agenda-setting function of the media.

In particular, this study breaks ground in analysing a finals-series based around the concept of ethnicity. Often, global events, such as the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and various sporting world cups are featured in media analyses focusing on bias of race, nationality, and gender. However, annual events, such as league finals or various sporting world cups are less often the site for analysis. Furthermore, the mediation of an audience and cultural influence of viewers may be more salient as these events are on television more often than an Olympic Games or world cups, such football/soccer. Thus, there might be a more sustained and continued mediation of viewers through broadcast discourse.

All six of the 2008 NBA Finals games featuring the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics were included in the sample for investigation. A content analysis was conducted based on the ABC’s live telecasts of the series. Only ABC employee discourse was included in the study. Analyzing a finals series allowed for the study of frames and the change that scripts may undergo as there is at lease one day between each game. Thus, the ABC can alter its series frame to cater for any changes in the series. In this study, each game was transcribed verbatim. Then, the transcription sheets were coded using a fourteen category taxonomy, which was used to record (a) the announcer uttering the phrase, (b) the race of the player, and (c) the resultant descriptor code. In addition, 20% of each game was coded by a second trained researcher to ensure inter-coder reliability, which was conducted using Holsti’s (1969) coefficient of reliability. Inter-coder reliability exceeded 86% for each game, indicating a good level of reliability among the two trained coders. The fourteen categories were: (a) athleticism, (b) appearance/looks, (c) background, (d) motivation, (e) skill, (f) history, (g) work ethos, (h) leadership, (i) mentality/composure, (j) creativity, (k) speed, (l) experience, (m) negative descriptors, and (n) positive descriptors.

Overall, there were 1519 total comments in this analysis. Of this total, 1288 or 84.79% were about black players, while the remaining 231 or 15.21% were discussing players of other races. These data were analysed using two expected scores: overall game commentary and player percentage. Thus, in the overall game commentary, the expected scores were 84.79% and 15.21%. In the third analysis, the expected scores were 73.33% and 26.67%, as 22 of the 30 players were black.

In the analysis at the overall percentage of commentary, which was 84.79% for black players and 15.21% for other ethnicities, there were two significant chi-square results. These were: leadership (df = 1, n = 80) = 11.00, p < .001 and negative descriptors (df = 1, n = 135) = 82.55, p < .001. In the second analysis of the 2008 NBA finals based on ethnicity, player participation ratios were used. These ratios represented the overall participation of this series, as 22 of the 30 players were black. At these expected scores, there were eight significant chi-square results, which were: background (df = 1, n = 214) = 17.51, p < .001; motivation (df = 1, n = 51) = 11.27, p < .001; skill (df = 1, n = 208) = 30.93, p < .001; history (df = 1, n = 246) = 32.61, p < .001; leadership (df = 1, n = 80) = 26.43, p < .001; mentality (df = 1, n = 157) = 8.21, p < .001; negative descriptors (df = 1, n = 35) = 15.143, p < .001; and positive descriptors (df = 1, n = 336) = 16.18, p < .001.

This study was successful in uncovering that announcer discourse overwhelmingly favored black players. The ratio of commentary between black and other players was 5.6:1. Thus, the coverage of the NBA Finals was framed by the ABC to feature black players more in the commentary. In addition, black players received an unequal distribution of comments as this group represented 73.33% of all players but received 84.79% of commentary. Therefore, the ABC set its broadcast agenda to favor black players and set an agenda through the framing of its telecast to ensure the audience decoded broadcast discourse in the manner intended (Hall, 1973; McCombs & Shaw, 1972).

Furthermore, black players were significantly portrayed as more effective leaders. In addition, more negative comments were provided to this group. Thus, players of other races were characterised less negatively. The results of this study underscore the fact that black athletes received far more comments than expected, based on commentary percentage, but it was found that this group was described more negatively. Thus, viewers may have been provided with a skewed view of this group, which aligns with Billings and Tambosi’s (2004) notion that television networks have the ability to “culturally influence perceptions” of reality.