Paul André, a post-doctoral fellow in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII) was lead author of a study into how Twitter messages are perceived.
That’s something Twitter users rarely get, if ever. Which is partly down to the transient nature of Tweets.
André with Michael Bernstein and Kurt Luther, doctoral students at, respectively, MIT and Georgia Tech created the website"Who Gives a Tweet?" to collect reader evaluations of tweets.
From the evaluations that were done using the web site they drew up 9 lessons that could be learnt from using Twitter. And I suspect these lessons apply to other social media sites too.
The lessons (taken from Carnegie Mellon University website) were:
- Old news is no news: Twitter emphasizes real-time information. Followers quickly get bored of even relatively fresh links seen multiple times.
- Contribute to the story: Add an opinion, a pertinent fact or add to the conversation before hitting "send" on a link or a retweet.
- Keep it short: Followers 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 a reason to click on it, was "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 them, 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.