Study at CMU, MIT, Georgia Tech Suggests Nine Ways to Improve Tweets
Posted on March 1, 2012
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Georgia Institute of Technology conducted a study and found that users say only a little over a third of the tweets they receive are worthwhile. They also found that users say one quarter of tweets are not worth reading at all. That figure actually seems low.
The researchers, lead by Paul Andre, a post-doctoral fellow in Carnegie Mellon's Human-Computer Interaction Institute, created a website, called Who Gives a Tweet?, where they let people anonymously rate tweets over a period of 19 days. 1,443 visitors rated 43,738 tweets from 21,014 Twitter accounts. Overall, the readers liked just 36 percent of the tweets and disliked 25 percent.
The researchers came up with the following nine lessons for improving tweet content:
- 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 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 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.