Tweet’s anatomy: Microsoft retweet research (Pls RT)



Frankly I think my spell-checker’s a bit of laggard when it comes to the social web. But, bless it, it’s learning fast at the moment…

Every other word or phrase it thinks I need correct.

“Retweet” is a phrase it will need to learn soon, very soon indeed.

Danah Boyd at her colleagues at Microsoft Research have created a draft paper on the phenomenon, called Tweet, Tweet, Retweet: Conversational Aspects of Retweeting on Twitter. It is based on analysis of over over 700,000 tweets (430,000 or so users), taken in samples of five minute chunks between January and June 2006.

  • 36% of tweets mention a user in the form ‘@user’
  • 5% of tweets contain a hashtag (#)
  • 22% of tweets include a URL (‘http’)
  • 3% of tweets are likely to be retweets in that they contain ‘RT’, ‘retweet’ and/or ‘via’
  • 9% of retweets include the users own handle – dubbed “ego retweets” (though the paper acknowledges that sometimes this can be “a way of giving credit” or saying thank you, as i’ve seen it.
  • ‘RT’ is very much the predominant form, with 88% of the retweets using this (Tweetie please take note and change your app’s retweet function).

Retweeting is such an interesting phenomenon I’m sure there will be further studies soon and they will find shifting patterns in these sort of numbers as the practice evolves and/or matures.

There is a nice analysis of the reasons for retweeting (for ’tis now a verb – get used to it spellchecker) including amplification, commenting, making the retweeter’s presence known, qualifying a statement made by someone else, recognition of another, to get more followers and as a form of bookmarking a tweet. It’s not always a postive behaviour and can be “a selfish act of attention seekers”.

It’s a draft paper at the moment, with the final version scheduled to be published in January 2010 in HICSS (Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences) – congratulations, guys.

The authors Twitter handles are @zephoria, @redlog and @gilgul.


  • http://www.litmanlive.co.uk Michael Litman

    Brilliant stuff, thanks for sharing.

    @litmanlive

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