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London - The best way to attract new followers on Twitter is to tweet positive messages, write clearly, and retweet interesting bits of news, a study says.
With the success of a Twitter account measured by the number of followers, insights into how to snare a bigger audience are keenly followed by the Twitterati.
Previous research had suggested that following, and being followed by, influential users like celebrities and the frequency and timing of tweets were the key to growing a following on the site.
But it appears from the latest study that it is the content of tweets that has the most important effect.
Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta studied half a million tweets by more than 500 Twitter users over 15 months. They gauged whether posts were positive or negative by looking for 2 800 emotive terms, including common acronyms, like LOL, emoticons and slang and swearwords.
Giving each term a score on a scale of positivity, they then assessed whether the Twitter users who used each term shrank or grew their followers.
Findings showed that the Twitter users who posted the most cheerful messages, whose tweets were the most easily readable and who retweeted news gained the most followers.
Those Twitter users who tell the world and its dog about their travails on the morning commute tended to be less popular.
Lead researcher CJ Hutto told New Scientist: “Twitter is used quite heavily as a news medium. My weak connections on Twitter care less about what I had for breakfast than they do about this neat bit of news I discovered.”
Another key factor in growing a following was how well users engaged with their followers.
Hutto said users who mentioned followers and replied and favourited their tweets had “positive follower growth”.
On the other hand, those who merely pronounced to nobody in particular, suffered from “dramatically suppressed growth rates”, he added.
To assess the clearness of tweeters’ messages, Hutto and his colleagues put together a “Tweet Reading Difficulty Index”.
They found that users whose tweets scored better on their index also grew their number of followers. “When deciding whether or not to follow a virtual stranger, we found Twitter users seek out well-written over poorly written content,” Hutto said.
“People rely on linguistic cues like spelling and vocabulary to compensate for the lack of traditional contextual cues available in face-to-face settings.”
The study is available to download for free. The researchers will present their findings at the Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris in April. – Daily Mail