Will this article get re-tweeted? According to a new HP Labs white paper, we can now predict whether or not it will become popular on Twitter.

The findings are crucial because most previous analysis of how tweets travel have focused on who has been tweeting as opposed to what they have been tweeted. If someone influential on Twitter tweets something, the conventional thinking goes, it will spread. That thinking still plays a big factor, but the new research highlights that content matters.

Researchers analyzed 40,000 articles posted to Twitter over the course of a week in August and collected information on the agency that wrote each article, the outlet that first tweeted the article, the article's information category and the emotion of the article's language. What they found is some articles are more tweetable than others.

Among the key findings predicting the likelihood of an article getting tweeted and retweeted:

  • Source was the biggest indicator. The more reliable the source, the better chances of a tweet.
  • Stories in popular categories will spread more rapidly. (As Megan Garber at The Atlantic notes, "Health! technology! cats!").
  • Mention a known person, place or organization and you're also more likely to get your story tweeted (which explains why celebrities' names often litter the trending topics column whenever I log into Twitter).

What does not, however, seem to influence an articles tweetability is emotion. Emotional articles were no more likely to be spread than objective articles, the researchers said. "Brand matters; information matters; tone, however, doesn't seem to make much of a difference when it comes to sharing," Garber wrote in her thorough analysis of the study.

The researchers classified articles "low-tweet," "medium-tweet," or "high-tweet." They said their model is 84% accurate.

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