Spatial, temporal, and socioeconomic patterns in the use of twitter and flickr

Linna Li, Michael F. Goodchild, Bo Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

355 Scopus citations


Online social networking and information sharing services have generated large volumes of spatio-temporal footprints, which are potentially a valuable source of knowledge about the physical environment and social phenomena. However, it is critical to take into consideration the uneven distribution of the data generated in social media in order to understand the nature of such data and to use them appropriately. The distribution of footprints and the characteristics of contributors indicate the quantity, quality, and type of the data. Using georeferenced tweets and photos collected from Twitter and Flickr, this research presents the spatial and temporal patterns of such crowd-sourced geographic data in the contiguous United States and explores the socioeconomic characteristics of geographic data creators by investigating the relationships between tweet and photo densities and the characteristics of local people using California as a case study. Correlations between dependent and independent variables in partial least squares regression suggest that well-educated people in the occupations of management, business, science, and arts are more likely to be involved in the generation of georeferenced tweets and photos. Further research is required to explain why some people tend to produce and spread information over the Internet using social media from the perspectives of psychology and sociology. This study would be informative to sociologists who study the behaviors of social media users, geographers who are interested in the spatial and temporal distribution of social media users, marketing agencies who intend to understand the influence of social media, and other scientists who use social media data in their research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-77
Number of pages17
JournalCartography and Geographic Information Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Flickr
  • Georeference
  • Socioeconomic
  • Spatio-temporal footprints
  • Twitter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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