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Two-Thirds of All Tweets Bore or Annoy, Study Finds

by Alex Porter on February 06, 2012

woman with tweet blackboardEver wonder just how much your Twitter followers are really getting out of your relentless updates? Chances are that most of the time your tweets are met with a shrug of indifference or downright irritation, according to a new study by a group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Georgia Tech.

The researchers built a website called Who Gives a Tweet and let users anonymously rate tweets of people they already follow. Part of their goal is to understand what we like and why. This will help in building technology that can filter and refine social networking communications. So for 19 days in December and January, 1,443 visitors rates 43,738 tweets from 2,014 accounts. The results? Many of the updates n the twittersphere just aren't worth reading.

Least-liked tweets included mood or activity updates of the “ug, doing the laundry again” variety. Also insider-y tweets that are part of someone else’s conversation drew boos. Tweets that rated higher, however, were the ones that shared information and asked questions of followers.

The study’s authors offered these suggestions for producing better tweets:

  • Old news is no news: Twitter emphasizes real-time information, so information rapidly gets stale. Followers quickly get bored of even relatively fresh links seen multiple times.
  • Contribute to the story: To keep people interested, add an opinion, a pertinent fact or otherwise add to the conversation before hitting “send” on a link or a retweet.
  • Keep it short: Twitter limits tweets to 140 characters, but followers still appreciate conciseness. Using as few characters as possible also leaves room for longer, more satisfying comments on retweets.
  • Limit Twitter-specific syntax: Overuse of #hashtags, @mentions and abbreviations makes tweets hard to read. But some syntax is helpful; if posing a question, adding a hashtag helps everyone follow along.
  • Keep it to yourself: The clichéd “sandwich” tweets about pedestrian, personal details were largely disliked. Reviewers reserved a special hatred for Foursquare location check-ins.
  • Provide context: Tweets that are too short leave readers unable to understand their meaning. Simply linking to a blog or photo, without giving readers a reason to click on it, was described as “lame.”
  • Don’t whine: Negative sentiments and complaints were disliked.
  • Be a tease: News or professional organizations that want readers to click on their links need to hook the reader, not give away all of the news in the tweet itself.
  • For public figures: People often follow you to read professional insights and can be put off by personal gossip or everyday details.

What are your most and least favorite kinds of updates? Sound off in the comments.


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