Stop the presses! 40% of tweets are 'pointless babble'

Study breaks down Twitter posts into categories; 'pointless babble' wins the day

Breaking news! A study out this week shows that a large chunk of Twitter posts are, well, useless.

Who would have guessed it? The most surprising part of the study by Pear Analytics LLC shows that 40.55% of tweets are "pointless babble." At least it's not a higher percentage.

The Twitter Microblogging site has skyrocketed in popularity, with users increasing their time on the site by 3,712% between this summer and last. That bump makes Twitter the fifth-most popular social networking site, according to The Nielsen Co.

Twitter also gained much-needed credibility when astronauts used it to communicate from space, and when tweets were issued from the White House, and when Twitter turned into a sort of a lifeline for the people of Iran during the recent government crackdown over disputed elections there. But Twitter is still dogged by the reputation that many people simply use the site to blather on about a bad cup of coffee, a good hair day or the annoyance of having to park too far from the mall entrance.

Ryan Kelly, founder and CEO of San Antonio-based Pear Analytics, decided to see what percentage of tweets are somewhat meaningful.

"A while back, we embarked on a study that evolved after having a debate in the office as to how people are using and consuming Twitter," Kelly wrote in a blog post. "Some felt it was their source of news and articles, others felt it was just a bunch of self-promotion with very few folks actually paying attention. But mostly, many people still perceive Twitter as just mindless babble of people telling you what they are doing minute-by-minute; as if you care they are eating a sandwich at the moment."

Kelly said his firm looked at a sample of 2,000 tweets -- in English and originating in the U.S. -- that were posted between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Eastern time over a two-week period. The researchers categorized the captured tweets into six categories: News, Spam, Self-promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-along Value.

As many might have guessed, Pointless Babble (as in "I just spilled my coffee" or "My kid is soooo cute") was the biggest category, with a whopping 40.55%. Conversational was a close second, with 37.55%, and Pass-along Value was a distant third, with 8.7%.

"With the new face of Twitter, it will be interesting to see if they take a heavier role in news, or continue to be a source for people to share their current activities that have little to do with everyone else," Kelly wrote.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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