How much of what you see on your Twitter feed is really worth reading? According to a new study, only about 36% of it. What's more, a full quarter of tweets aren't even worth the effort it takes to read them.
These statistics come from a project by researchers at Carnegie Mellon, MIT and Georgia Tech, who created a website called "Who Gives A Tweet?" that enabled 1,443 site visitors to rate more than 43,000 tweets from over 2,000 Twitter accounts. The idea was to develop an understanding of the value users generate from reading tweets. At the moment, there are only two rather extreme ways for users to rate content on Twitter: Either by retweeting something or by unfollowing someone's account. The researchers wanted to "understand the broad continuum of reactions in between, which are typically not shared publicly."
Results showed that 36% of tweets are perceived as having value, 25% are not worth reading at all, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle - which begs the question: What makes a good tweet?
Apparently, the more informative, the better: The greatest number of highly ranked tweets in the survey had quality information to share, while those seen as funny, exciting or useful also did well.
The worst thing a tweet can be? Boring.
As the researchers write, "being boring is far more prevalent a problem than expected. It was the standout reason for rating [Not Worth Reading], accounting for 82% of all explanations."
Of course, everyone likes to think that what they have to say qualifies as interesting, rather than boring. What else separates a good tweet from a bad one?
The study found a few key points that you might want to keep in mind:
1. Information Sharing and Questions to Followers are among the most liked categories of tweets - meaning that giving your followers something new and asking their feedback scores well.
2. Presence Maintenance, Conversation and Me Now were the most disliked categories, which means: unless it's particularly interesting, no one cares what you're doing right now, especially if it can be summed up with "I'm on Twitter" (i.e. "Checking in," "Hello Twitter") or involves a description of what you're eating.
3. Twitter-specific syntax: Slow down on the hashtags and @mentions, which was a major complaint by survey participants ("Too many tags - can hardly find the real content")
Other useful advice? Add context, keep the personal interactions and shout-outs to direct messages, and keep it short.
In case all of that information comes in too many characters for your Twitter-centric mind to take in, not to worry. We asked Paul André, who co-wrote the study with colleagues Michael S. Bernstein and Kurt Luther, to sum up his research findings in a single tweet:
Here are a couple of the major findings that Paul and his colleagues put together, in graphic form:
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