Think you're witty on Twitter? We've got bad news for you. Twitter users say only a little more than a third of the tweets they receive are worthwhile. Most are not worth reading at all, while 25% of tweets are actively disliked, according to a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, MIT and Georgia Tech.
The new study (the aptly-titled "Who Gives a Tweet?") reveals some surprising data about the two hundred million Tweets posted globally on Twitter every day, and the factors that lead users to tune out or unfollow.
Twitter users participating in the study reported liking only 36% of overall tweets; actively disliking 25%; and having no strong opinion about 39% of tweets, indicating a waste of the tweeter and, er, tweetee's time.
The reasons cited for the 25% of disliked tweets: using too many hashtags; constant, boring updates about where people are (especially those "I'm at..." updates from airports, restaurants and other locations); and users who habitually complain. The most-liked tweets?
Typically, those tweets that include questions, shared information or self-promoted creative works got a thumbs up from followers. That's right: self-promotion is preferable to hashtag overuse.
"If we understood what is worth reading and why, we might design better tools for presenting and filtering content, as well as help people understand the expectations of other users," comments Paul André, a post-doctoral fellow in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) and lead author of the study.
André (that's him in the video at top) and colleagues Michael Bernstein and Kurt Luther, fellow doctoral students at MIT and Georgia Tech, respectively, created a “Who Gives a Tweet?” website where for 19 days, 1500 visitors rated over 43,000 tweets from the accounts of over 20,000 Twitter users they followed.
"A well received tweet is not all that common," Bernstein said. "A significant amount of content is considered not worth reading, for a variety of reasons."
The researchers' suggestions for sweeter tweeting:
•Old news is no news: Twitter emphasizes real-time information. Followers quickly get bored of even relatively fresh links seen multiple times.
•Contribute to the story: Add an opinion, a pertinent fact or add to the conversation before hitting "send" on a link or a retweet.
•Keep it short: Followers 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 cliched "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 a reason to click on it, was "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 them, 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.
"Social media technologies such as Twitter pose questions regarding privacy, etiquette and tensions between sharing and self-presentation, as well as content," said André. "Continued exploration of these areas is needed for us to improve the online experience."
The findings will be formally presented Feb. 13 at the Association for Computing Machinery's Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work in Seattle, Wash.
What type of tweets turn you off/on? Tweet your answer to @brandchannelhub and we'll share with the class. Just don't complain, tell us where you're tweeting from or use a hashtag.