Rachel Metz

A View from Rachel Metz

Life and Death of Tweets Not so Random After All

Researchers have created a model to quickly predict how many times a tweet will be retweeted.

  • May 29, 2013

For many people that use Twitter–myself included–it’s impossible to tell which carefully crafted tweets will be endlessly retweeted, and which ones will fade after their original posting. As it turns out, though, you can predict how popular a tweet will be, and this knowledge could be pretty useful.

MIT assistant professor Tauhid Zaman and two other researchers (Emily Fox at the University of Washington and Eric Bradlow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School) have come up with a model that can predict how many times a tweet will ultimately be retweeted, minutes after it is posted. The model was created by collecting retweets on a slew of topics and looking at the time when the original tweet was posted and how fast it spread. That provided knowledge used to predict how popular a new tweet will be by looking at how many times it was retweeted shortly after it was first posted.

The researchers’ findings were explained in a paper submitted to the Annals of Applied Statistics. In the paper, the authors note that “understanding retweet behavior could lead to a better understanding of how broader ideas spread in Twitter and in other social networks,” and such data may be helpful in a number of areas, like marketing and political campaigning.

You can check out the model here.

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