Friday, March 2, 2012

Who Gives a Tweet?

A recent academic research paper looked at the content of more than 40,000 tweets and the ratings they were given by users.  Tweets were organized into 8 broad content categories, labeled Questions to Followers, Information Sharing, Self-Promotion, Random Thought, Opinion/Complaint, Me Now, Conversation, and Presence Maintenance.  The primary rating system was whether a tweet was "Worth Reading", "OK", or "Not Worth Reading."  Raters could also indicate which of a set of 4 positive or 4 negative adjectives applied and leave more specific comments.
  • Only 36% of rated tweets were considered "Worth Reading".  25% were rated "Not Worth Reading" and the remaining 39% were considered to be "OK".
  • Questions to Followers, Information Sharing, and Self Promotion were the content types most likely to receive "Worth Reading" ratings.
  • Presence Maintenance (brief, salutary postings), Conversation, and Me Now (the tweeter’s current status) were the content categories most likely to receive "Not Worth Reading" ratings
  • Raters almost universally disliked overuse of location check-in tweets from services like Foursquare, inclusion of @mentions in tweets when a direct reply would have worked, and presence of multiple hashtags that obscured content
  • "Informative" was the most widely selected positive adjective, although both "Funny" and "Useful" were also frequently selected.  On the negative side, "Boring" seemed to be the reason behind most "Not Worth Reading" ratings (81%)

The researchers concluded that the raters in their study valued Twitter as an information medium -
Tweets worth reading were often informative (48%) or funny (24%), as seen in (the figure above). These tags had very little overlap: a tweet was often one or the other, but not both. Information links were valued for novelty or an appealing description: “interesting perspective on something I know nothing about”, “makes you want to know more.” Humor was a successful way to share random thoughts or opinions especially: “it’s witty and snarky. worth the read.” In keeping with Twitter’s focus on short messages, followers appreciated conciseness: “few words to say much, very clear.” A human aspect was also appreciated: “personal, honest and transparent.”
Sources - Who Gives a Tweet? Evaluating Microblog Content Value, report at Journalist's Resource blog.
Who Gives a Tweet? Evaluating Microblog Content Value, research paper by Paul Andre, Michael S. Bernstein, and Kurt Luther.


  1. In Spring 2009, I took Comm Studies 150 or something like that with Lisa Gary before the curriculum changed. One day we had a lecture on using Twitter. It was the first time I had heard about Twitter, and I thought it was really stupid, and I couldn't believe I had gone to class just to hear about Twitter Etiquette.

    I remember the speaker saying to us that all journalists need to Tweet, and that everybody was still learning to strike a balance: tweets that were witty and informative would do better, that tweeting about inconsequential things or whining weren't going to be well received. It was probably one of the first times that I heard about how important it is to keep a clean and informative online presence.

    It's really neat to me to see how three years later Twitter is one of the most widely used social networks, and that it's caused some real change in the world...and that the things that were just speculation three years ago have proven themselves to be true in this and other studies.

    Looking back, I'm glad that I went to class that day and paid attention. Hearing that lecture and now seeing this post makes me think a lot harder about what I post on Twitter. Working journalists have recently started following me. The last thing I want to do is scare them off by tweeting stupid things.

  2. It's funny Beth mentions this because I, too, was in that class and remembered thinking to myself, "why are we using an entire class period to talk about how to navigate a social networking site that half the class doesn't even use?" However, two years later, I finally started to see how relevant this social medium had become. Not only were celebrities using it, but universities, businesses, news websites and award winning journalists were using Twitter as a main form of communication.

    I started to see that this may very well be where the future of news and information is heading, especially in my major, and I needed to pay attention. I signed up and found that I loved it. Although, newspapers have taken quite a hit from sites such as Twitter, I feel so much more in the loop with whatever is going on in the world because Twitter is so fast!

    Beth is also right about using Twitter cautiously. It can be such an effective tool if it is used properly and not just for pointless updates such as "I'm thinking of going to the movies tonight" or "I'm reading Harry Potter again!" Because no one cares about that. Twitter is an especially useful learning device for journalists because, with only 140 characters allotted, the writer has to deliver the news just as a newspaper or news website would be formatted--direct and concise.

    All in all, I really love Twitter and sometimes use it more than Facebook. I think a lot of people do.