Stop the presses! 40% of tweets are 'pointless babble'

Study breaks down Twitter posts into categories; 'pointless babble' wins the day

Breaking news! A study out this week shows that a large chunk of Twitter posts are, well, useless.

Who would have guessed it? The most surprising part of the study by Pear Analytics shows that 40.55% of tweets are "pointless babble." At least it's not a higher percentage.

Microblogging site Twitter has skyrocketed in popularity, with users increasing their time on the site by 3,712% between this summer and last. That bump makes Twitter the fifth-most popular social networking site, according to the Nielsen Co.

It also gained much-needed credibility when astronauts used it to communicate from space, tweets came from the White House and Twitter was used as a sort of lifeline for the people of Iran during the recent government crackdown over disputed elections. But Twitter is still dogged by the reputation that many people simply use the site to blather on about a bad cup of coffee, a good hair day or the annoyance of a parking space too far from the mall.

Ryan Kelly, founder and CEO of Pear Analytics, decided to see what percentage of tweets are somewhat meaningful.

"A while back, we embarked on a study that evolved after having a debate in the office as to how people are using and consuming Twitter," Kelly wrote in a blog post. "Some felt it was their source of news and articles, others felt it was just a bunch of self-promotion with very few folks actually paying attention. But mostly, many people still perceive Twitter as just mindless babble of people telling you what they are doing minute-by-minute; as if you care they are eating a sandwich at the moment."

Kelly said they looked at a sample of 2,000 tweets - in English and from the U.S. - that were posted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. ET over a two-week period. They categorized all the captured tweets into six categories: news, spam, self-promotion, pointless babble, conversational and pass-along value.

As many might have guessed, pointless babble (as in... 'I just spilled my coffee' or 'My kid is soooo cute') was the biggest category with a whopping 40.55%. But conversational was a close second with 37.55%. Pass-along value was a distant third with 8.7%.

"With the new face of Twitter, it will be interesting to see if they take a heavier role in news, or continue to be a source for people to share their current activities that have little to do with everyone else," noted Kelly.

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Sharon Gaudin

Computerworld (US)
Topics: twitter, social networking
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