15 Fascinating Academic Studies Done on Twitter

Three hundred million users, one billion tweets each week, and three thousand tweets per second. This thing called Twitter is blowing up. It’s been five years since Jack Dorsey released the blue bird of social connectedness onto the scene, but it’s only been fairly recently that tweeting has caught fire. The soaring popularity of the microblogging service has attracted the attention of researchers who have come up with some pretty rad data through fascinating studies like these.

1. Twitter got help from the real world
Researchers at MIT looked at Twitter data from over 400 U.S. cities with the highest rates of new tweeters from 2006 to 2009. They found that online hype is no replacement for real-world word-of-mouth and coverage by old-school media outlets. As the video shows, there was a “contagion process” that fueled Twitter’s growth in areas of the country that are geographically close to each other.

2. #Unhappiness is so hot right now
If Twitter users are representative of the world at large, we’ve been one sad human race lately. University of Vermont scientists did a study to try to measure society’s happiness by rating 10,000 common English words as they appear in the Twitter universe and tallying the scores. After scoring 46 billion words, they found happiness has been declining since 2009, falling quicker in the first half of 2011. Bummer
3.Wake up happy, go to bed happy
Cornell grad student Scott Golder analyzed 400 messages from every new Twitter account opened between February 2008 and April 2009. The study found that across the globe, people wake up in a good mood that gradually deteriorates as the day goes on, then improves again in the evening. Before you call him Captain Obvious, Golder found the pattern holds true on the weekends. Turns out it’s your circadian rhythm, not work, that’s making you grouchy

4. We are the .05%
You know that friend of yours who tweets links all the time? He and just 19,999 other tweeters generate a whopping 50% of all the URLs clicked through Twitter, according to Yahoo! Research. The study also showed that birds of a feather flock together: musicians click links tweeted by musicians, athletes click links tweeted by athletes, and so on.

5.Yes, I follow Ashton Kutcher. And no, I don’t listen to anything he says
We finally have the data to prove what we had all suspected: no one cares what celebrities think. Watching tens of millions of tweets to see which ones caused trends, researchers at Northwestern University found average-Joe tweeters who are experts in their respective fields influence more people than celebrities with far more followers.

6. Don’t call us, we’ll tweet you
In a 2010 study, computer scientists at Carnegie Mellon University showed that Twitter provides polling results as reliable as those obtained by traditional polling organizations over the phone. The researchers used text analysis software to filter one billion tweets for tweets about politics and the economy. The results could mean the end of those pesky pollsters calling asking for just a few minutes of your time.

7. Brand news
Research group Chadwick Martin Bailey came up with some numbers that no doubt sent retailers scrambling to get on Twitter if they weren’t already there. CMB looked at about 1,500 adult tweeters and found that of Twitter users that follow certain brands, 60% are more likely to recommend the brand to friends and 50% more likely to buy that brand themselves. And once they follow, they stay — 75% said they’ve never unfollowed a brand.

8. Students bored? Let ’em tweet
Dr. Reynol Junco of Lock Haven University had 70 students in a pre-med program incorporate tweeting into their assignments and class discussions. Another 55 students were given the same workload but could not involve Twitter. Using a survey, he gauged all the students’ levels of class involvement at the beginning and end of the semester. He found that not only were the tweeters twice as engaged in class, they also earned half a point better GPA.

9. All the news that’s fit to get us more customers
George Washington University and the Pew Research Center brought this one to light. Over the course of a week in February, 2011, researchers sifted through 3,600 tweets by news outlets and found that 93% had links back to their own websites. Only one lonely percent linked to another news group’s site. In other words, bringing information to the public is a close second to bringing the public to them.

10. Twitter makes you dumber
At least one researcher claims using Twitter weakens your working memory, the thing you need to recall information and use it. Dr. Tracy Alloway of the University of Stirling in Scotland created a program for slow-learning kids to strengthen their working memory. She found that Facebook greatly increased IQ, but YouTube and Twitter diminished attention span and memory skills.

11. Twitter is worthless
Yes, Twitter is wildly popular. But according to a 10-year study by USC’s journalism school, not a single living soul would pay to use it. That’s right: zero percent of those surveyed said they would pay a dime to post a tweet. Fifty-five percent said they would tolerate ads on Twitter, but half said they never click ads anyway.

12. Twitter is prophetic

As more proof we don’t need to be harassed by polling calls anymore, the analysts at 140elect discovered that Twitter can accurately predict shifts in the popularity-poll numbers of GOP presidential candidates. Simply by tracking the changes in the number of a candidate’s Twitter following over a seven-month period, the guys were able to show that in each case, the Twitter change precipitated the change in polling figures.

13. So, they’re all libertarian?
Apparently Twitter users aren’t Democrat or Republican fans. Analysis of two million tweets by the Project for Excellence in Journalism showed tweeters post twice as many negative comments about GOP presidential candidates as they do positive. President Obama does even worse, with a 3 to 1 negative-positive ratio. And even though the Repubs have been on center stage lately, Obama has been the subject of well over twice the number of tweets than all the other candidates combined.

14. Me, me, me
Thanks to this study, we now have a word to describe people who tweet nothing but updates about themselves: “meformers.” After reading 3,500 tweets from 350 tweeters, professors at Rutgers determined that 80% of users on Twitter are meformers. The sample tweets were sorted into nine different groups, like “sharing,” “me now,” and “statements and random thoughts.” Only one in five users qualified as informers, who had a median following twice that of meformers.

15. Did they really need a study to find that?
Are you sitting down? Forty percent of tweets are pointless! Data company Pear Analytics sorted 2,000 tweets into six categories: news, spam, self-promotion, pointless babble, conversational, and pass-along value. Anything that started with “@” or could fit into more than one category was rated “conversational.” Even that was not enough to keep the “I’m eating a sandwich now” tweets from coming out on top.

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