Twitter pattern: Those who don't know you well are more likely to retweet

Dec 12, 2013 by Debbie Freeman
Twitter pattern: Those who don't know you well are more likely to retweet
Zhan Michael Shi, assistant professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, says that if someone doesn't know you well, he or she is actually more likely to retweet something significant you say. Credit: Andy DeLisle/Arizona State University

(Phys.org) —Big news can spread like wildfire via Twitter, but did you ever think about why certain people choose to retweet? A new study from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University shows that if someone doesn't know you well, he or she is actually more likely to retweet something significant you say.

"We found that people with weak ties, such as those who only have a one-way relationship on Twitter – who don't both follow each other – are more likely to retweet," says Zhan Michael Shi, assistant professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business, one of the paper's authors. "We believe the retweeters are sharing the information because they think it will boost their reputation and influence by providing something new. People with stronger ties might not retweet because they believe their followers already know the details, and/or they may have communicated with each other in other ways."

The new research by Shi and his co-authors, professor Huaxia Rui of the University of Rochester and professor Andrew Whinston of the University of Texas at Austin, will be published in the academic journal MIS Quarterly in March. For their study, they put together a complex program utilizing 20 computers over 140 days. They were able to follow the progress of certain tweets for five-day periods and see whether the Twitter relationships between the author and retweeters were strong or weak. It's believed to be the first information-systems study using publicly available Twitter data to explore how people voluntarily relay information.

For example, the paper mentions a famed tweet in 2011, when a highly placed official in Washington said, "So I'm told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden." That tweet was sent out more than an hour before the White House officially announced the event. By the time the presidential announcement was made, tens of thousands of Twitter users had already spread the word, even though most of them didn't know anyone directly involved.

"Twitter is incredibly popular and fast-growing as a social medium, with more than 500 million registered users worldwide by April 2012," Shi says. "It's a combination of a broadcasting service and a social network, so our results aren't necessarily translatable to more pure social networks, such as Facebook. However, we think the new information is going to be very useful to people like social-media managers and marketers trying to understand how information is spread via social-broadcasting networks like Twitter."

Among the results: Those with a two-way Twitter relationship are only 6 percent likely to retweet a remark like the ones of the median quality these researchers studied. However, one-way followers are 9.1 percent likely to tweet it. That's a boost of more than 50 percent.

The full study can be found online here. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the W. P. Carey School's online resource and newsletter, at http://knowwpcarey.com.

Explore further: Tech Tips: Getting started with Twitter

Related Stories

Twitter adds photo sharing to direct messages

Dec 10, 2013

Updated mobile software rolled out Tuesday by Twitter lets smartphone users send pictures in direct, personal messages seen only by recipients instead of being shared publicly on the social network.

Recommended for you

Study: Social media users shy away from opinions

18 hours ago

People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

US warns shops to watch for customer data hacking

Aug 23, 2014

The US Department of Homeland Security on Friday warned businesses to watch for hackers targeting customer data with malicious computer code like that used against retail giant Target.

Fitbit to Schumer: We don't sell personal data

Aug 22, 2014

The maker of a popular line of wearable fitness-tracking devices says it has never sold personal data to advertisers, contrary to concerns raised by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Should you be worried about paid editors on Wikipedia?

Aug 22, 2014

Whether you trust it or ignore it, Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and accessed by millions of people every day. So would you trust it any more (or even less) if you knew people ...

How much do we really know about privacy on Facebook?

Aug 22, 2014

The recent furore about the Facebook Messenger app has unearthed an interesting question: how far are we willing to allow our privacy to be pushed for our social connections? In the case of the Facebook ...

Philippines makes arrests in online extortion ring

Aug 22, 2014

Philippine police have arrested eight suspected members of an online syndicate accused of blackmailing more than 1,000 Hong Kong and Singapore residents after luring them into exposing themselves in front of webcam, an official ...

User comments : 0