Soton Research: One Third of Tweets ‘Worth Reading’

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Analysis of over 40,000 Tweets has shown distinct patterns in what users want to read.

University of Southampton researchers, working with counterparts from four major US Universities have published the findings of a study aimed at identifying the proportion of posts on social networking site Twitter which are worth reading, arriving at a conclusion of 36%, just over one third.

Paul Andre, listed in the research paper published last month as working both at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pennsylvania and Southampton’s Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) Unit, along with two other researchers, one from MIT and the other from Georgia Tech. built an elaborate web application in which users anonymously rate whether the other users Tweets are worth reading, and, in exchange, receive opinions of your their tweets, allowing opinions on over 40,000 tweets to be collected.

The published data shows that Tweets like “Hello Twitter” and virtually all one-word Tweets are the most widely disliked, along with repeating old news (“Woman bites off boyfriend’s testicles” from BBC News seems to never stop coming back), using too much Twitter-centric jargon, like @mentions and #tags and private discussions between two individuals, which would be more suited to either Direct Messages or even communicating without Twitter.

Meanwhile, the most-liked Tweets were informative, often involving news (48%) or funny (24%), and possibly surprisingly, Tweets of people’s personal views were also very popular.

Despite informational and news-based Tweets being popular, people were less interested by stories that had been very popular or trending, as virtually all users had already seen them, while breaking news, hyper-local stories or less significant news were very popular, as did links to blogs and content that users had created themselves.

Based on the findings of this study, the following ‘Golden Rules’ will make your Tweets among the most-liked;

  • More Context: Still within 140 characters, give more background to make your Tweet less cryptic
  • Comment: Don’t just copy and paste a headline and a short link to a news story, add your own take
  • Avoid #tags: If it links your Tweet to a trending topic, that is ok, but otherwise avoid adding hashtags
  • Don’t address: Don’t use @mentions to address Tweets to people, if it’s for one person, send a Direct Message
  • Be Happy: Whining is particularly disliked, and happier sentiments are more likely to be popular
  • Ask Questions: Asking followers a question is a good way to engage with users, also, add a specific hashtag to the question to make it easy to keep track of responses is greatly appreciated.

It may not be clear what the application of findings like these could be, but the report suggests that Tweets may be filtered to only show those people actually want to read, possibly based on an individual user’s preferences.

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