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Study: Only 36 Percent of Tweets Are “Worth Reading”

With all the tweets bombarding our Twitter streams, it’s not uncommon to wonder how many people are actually reading your tweets. The answer, according to one new study, may surprise you.

A team of researchers from MIT, Carnegie Mellon University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology recently published an article in the Harvard Business Review that found only 36 percent of tweets are deemed “worth reading.”

Other key findings included that one quarter, or 25 percent, of tweets are not worth reading at all and 39 percent are “just OK.”

“These results suggest that users tolerate a large amount of less-desired content in their feeds,” the researchers wrote in the study.

To get these numbers, the three researchers – Paul André, Michael Bernstein, and Kurt Luther — created a website, “Who Gives A Tweet?” The site “delivers anonymous feedback from followers and strangers in exchange for rating tweets.”

The site asked 1,443 users to anonymously rate the quality of 43,738 tweets from accounts they follow. The researchers then selected users who had rated at least 10 tweets, leaving the team with a sample of 4,220 ratings.

Tweets were rated as ”Worth Reading,”  ”OK,” or “Not Worth Reading.”

“In a personally curated stream, it may be surprising that so few rated tweets were considered worth reading,” the authors said in the study.

There are some caveats to the research team’s findings. In the Harvard Business Review, the researchers note that the “raters tended to be technology-centric and news-focused (many learned about the study from sites such as TechCrunch and CNN.com), and may not be representative of Twitter users in general.”

Overall, however, the team did come away with three tips on how to keep followers engaged:

  • Be clear, not cryptic or insidery;
  • Don’t overuse hashtags;
  • Don’t retweet one-on-one conversations.

The full study can be read at http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~pandre/pubs/whogivesatweet-cscw2012.pdf.

What do you think of these findings? On average, how many of the tweets in your stream do you find “worth reading?”

Pie chart courtesy of the Harvard Business Review.

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