T11: Understanding user behaviors on and through social media

Monday, 24 July 2023, 08:30 - 12:30 CEST (Copenhagen)
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Qin Gao (short bio)

Tsinghua University, P.R.China



The rise of social media and the profound changes it brings have brought new waves of HCI research on and through social media. Such research endeavors are often carried out through an interdisciplinary approach, combining theories and methods from domains including HCI, human factors, psychology, sociology, and data science. The aim of this tutorial is to provide an introduction to

  • major concepts and theories to understand social media user behaviors,
  • major approaches for doing research on social media, and
  • demonstrations of how these theories and approaches are applied in research from two domains: e-commerce and news sharing.



  • Introduction
    • A brief history of technologies to support online social interaction
    • Types and classifications
    • Features characterizing social media
      • Technological affordances
      • Sociability affordances
      • Media content
  • Understanding social media user behaviors
    • Needs, gratifications, and motivations
    • Media richness, awareness and social presence
    • User behaviors and patterns
      • Consuming Content
      • Sharing and Recommending Others’ Content
      • Generating and Broadcasting New Content
      • Interpersonal Interactions
  • Doing social computing research
    • Key dimensions of investigation
      • Users: motivations, and behavioral patterns
      • Social networks: communities, key players, and structural analysis
      • Social media content: generation, dissemination, and content mining
      • Affordance and interface design of technological systems
    • Research methods beyond questionnaires and laboratories
      • Web analytics and A/B tests
      • Content analysis and data mining
      • SNA and community mining
      • Qualitative and mixed methods
      • Internet ethnography
      • Crowdsourcing
  • Application domains
    • Communicating with consumers through social media
    • News sharing and information credibility on social media


Target Audience:

Professionals, academics, and students who are interested in gaining an efficient grasp of major user research issues on social media and in learning how to carry out interdisciplinary research to understand social media user behaviors.


List of materials or devices required by the participants:

Demonstration notes will accompany screen sharing during tutorial. The demonstration notes can be replicated by colleagues with Windows and Mac-based computers.

Bio Sketch of Presenter:

Qin Gao is an associate professor in the Department of Industrial Engineering at Tsinghua University, China, specializing in human factors and human-computer interaction. Her research interests include user behaviors and experiences in social media, IT design for older people, and human factors in complex systems. She currently serves as the president of China Chapter of HFES and a Co-Chair of International Conference on Human Aspects of IT for the Aged Population (ITAP), a HCII affiliated conference. She received the President Medal from the Ergonomics Society, UK in 2008.

Qin Gao has 15 years of experience in researching user behaviors on and through social media. She was interested in, on the one hand, how the use of social computing technologies is driven by users’ inherent needs, and on the other hand, how the design of the technologies in turn shapes users’ attitude and behaviors. In most of her research, she combined behavioral research methods, user-centered design approach, with data mining and visualization techniques. The mixed-method approach helps to gain insight into social media phenomena from multiple perspectives, e.g., user motivation, information dissemination, and system design, and enables user-centered design and evaluation of novel solutions to support users to better harness the power of social media. In addition to related journal publications, she authored the chapter of "Human Factors in Social Media" in the Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics (5th edition).

Qin Gao holds a PhD in Human Factors (from Tsinghua University) and a MS in Production Engineering (from RWTH-Aachen University, Germany). She has served as a faculty member in Tsinghua University since 2006.

Links to Qin Gao's Profiles: