News at Smith

Complexity in Business Conference Explores Social Media Messaging

Nov 13, 2013
World Class Faculty & Research


Decision makers in public and private sectors should be paying attention to and leveraging chatter on a platform like Twitter to better connect and resonate with the masses.

At the Smith School’s Center for Complexity in Business (CCB) Conference from Nov. 7 to 8 at the Ronald Reagan Building, experts from academia and industry discussed methods for investigating and disseminating social media content.  

The presenters at the 18 panels and keynotes ranged from PhD students to British Academy of Social Sciences Fellow Paul Omerod, noted for investigating the role of complex systems in boom and bust cycles. Overall, 40 attendees from throughout the world participated.

This fifth annual event was organized by Assistant Professor of Marketing and CCB Director Bill Rand, who described social media as providing “unique insight” to reactions to urgent events and popular issues. “Social media often yields information at a faster pace, and in more detail, than traditional media coverage. It is possible to model and understand how information diffuses in these situations and how this understanding can help businesses and governments serve its customers and constituents more effectively.”

Rand’s point was illustrated by Winslow Farrell, a Boeing Kestrel vice president and George Mason University PhD, who linked Twitter chatter to Japan’s move to abandon nuclear power over the coming decades. 

Farrell analyzed keywords in about three million archived tweets made by Japan residents as the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake crisis unfolded.  He measured a “sharp rise in anger” in tweets over a two-day span as reaction shifted from the quake to the subsequent nuclear power plant meltdowns.

Smith-CCB postdoctoral fellow Shankar Prawesh and UMD computer science PhD Peratham Wiriyathammabhum broke down this concept through “Analysis of Conversations on Twitter.” They explained the “tensor” approach to distinguishing views and consensus, which incorporates and analyzes the different components of Twitter exchanges including bare text and hash tags, “friend” and “follower” relationships, and message context (“replying,” “quoting,” “retweeting” and "mentioning").

Rand served as an adviser for this presentation, along with Smith professors Yogesh Joshi (marketing) and Louiqa Raschid (information systems). 

Raschid also is affiliated with the University of Maryland’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and Department of Computer Science, where Ben Shneiderman, a UMD Distinguished University Professor, is widely respected for his research into human-computer interaction.

Shneiderman delivered the closing keynote, “Visual Analytics for Social Networks: Actionable Insights about Community Structures.” His message covered, in part, his work with NodeXL – an emerging tool for social network analysis. This free, open-source template for Microsoft Excel “gives users better control over displaying graphs and data in a way that reduces complexity,” he said.

For more information about the conference, including a complete description of presenters and topics, go to


About the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business 

The Robert H. Smith School of Business is an internationally recognized leader in management education and research. One of 12 colleges and schools at the University of Maryland, College Park, the Smith School offers undergraduate, full-time and part-time MBA, executive MBA, online MBA, specialty masters, PhD and executive education programs, as well as outreach services to the corporate community. The school offers its degree, custom and certification programs in learning locations in North America and Asia.