Science-- there's something for everyone

Monday, February 13, 2012

What do people look for in a tweet?


If you use twitter, you may wonder both why you get a lot of tweets in which you have no interest, and why no one seems interested in your tweets.  Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, MIT and the Georgia Institute of Technology wondered this as well.  To answer the burning question of what makes a good tweet, they set up a study asking people exactly that.  The results are being presented at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work.


At ‘Who Gives a Tweet’, the scientists collected feedback from 1400 volunteers who offered to rate the tweets of people they were already following.  This being twitter, you won’t be surprised that the researchers got data on close to 45,000 tweets made by 21,000 people in just nineteen days. 

And what did these twitter testers think?  Overall, they liked about a third of the tweets they received and actively disliked about a quarter.  They were neutral about the rest. 

Here’s what distinguished the most liked from the most disliked tweets:  Good tweets were topical, relevant and short.  They were also easier to read, lacking excessive use of #hashtags and @mentions.  They weren’t overly negative or condescending.  Most importantly, they didn’t discuss mundane personal items.  People don’t want to know what kind of sandwich you’re making, but they do want to know what your next project will be.

The study is complete, but you can still go to Who Gives a Tweet and rate a few tweets yourself if you like.

By the way, this isn’t the first twitter study.  Ryan Kelly of Pear Analytics put out this handy graph back in 2009.