On Twitter, the brand currently defining conventions of digital conversation, the source remains the strongest factor in value and quality and trust trumps emotion. New research shows the key factor in predicting a tweet's popularity is the source of the link being tweeted. And just as in search engine optimization, recognizable (brand) names help.
A just-released study from UCLA and Hewlett-Packard's HP Labs researched four factors and their influence on optimizing tweeted headlines and news links with accuracy 84% of the time:
• The credibility of the news source that generates and posts an article
• The category of news the article falls under (sports, technology, health)
• The subjectivity of the language in the article
• Famous people, brands or other notable entities mentioned.
The data was collected from Feedzilla’s API over nine days and 40,000 news articles, and popularity of articles was measured as the number of times a news URL was posted on Twitter. Using Stanford's Named Entity Recognizer to identify a famous person or company and measure prominence relative to others resulted in a score for each of those 40,000 articles based on the four factors.
The final step compared the number of retweets and shares each news article garnered using Twitter search engine Topsy with the key metric of t-density, number of tweets earned by each news link.
The authors found “a range of popularity for the article on Twitter” rather than a precise prediction of retweets, and furthermore, a significant number of articles garner medium virality from targeting highly interested and informed readers.
News related to technology rose to the top of number of links posted, followed by categories like health with a lower number of published links but higher rates of tweets per link.
As eConsultancy notes, “The report’s authors also looked at whether news sources featured more often on Google News (using ratings service NewsKnife) are also more popular on Twitter. It found that while more traditionally prominent news agencies such as Reuters and the Wall Street Journal tend to perform better on Google, on Twitter the top ten sources include marketing and tech blogs Mashable, Search Engine Land and the Google Blog.”
“So the likes of Mashable, the Google Blog and Allfacebook have a built-in advantage on social media that other organisations can only overcome with several years hard work in community management.”
Technology was the most tweetable news topic, followed by Health and "Fun Stuff." Overtly emotional, hyperbolic language does no better than logical and calm. In its story on the report about why it's the objective ("boring") tweet that generates the most retweets, The Atlantic concludes,
“Even within the tumult that is the Internet, when it comes to framing the news, objective language does just as well as emotional. What's remarkable about the HP paper and its algorithm is how back-to-the-future their results actually are. Online, the researchers are saying, the power of the brand is exactly what it has been since brands first emerged in the Middle Ages: It's a vector of trust. And it's a direct proxy for the ongoing transactional realities of the in-person human relationship.”