Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How do you categorise tweets?

Obviously there are several different approaches. But the three main ones I'll be focusing on are "Content", "Originality" and "Audience".
It can be difficult to categorise tweets in terms of these individually, though. So the easiest way to start off is to look from an outside perspective - how followers may interact with a tweet when it pops up in their time-line.
To demonstrate the different interactions, I've put together this sort of flowchart,
So what this does, is show the different ways a person may interact with someone through a tweets. As you go down the levels, you start to interact more directly with the tweeter.
Level 1 is deciding whether to read the tweet or not, usually based on who tweeted it, or a quick glance.
Most tweets will stop at Level 2. Personal response is how you react emotionally; whether it be laughter, anger, an uplifting feeling of inner joy... Whatever. The important thing about Level 2 is it still involves no direct interaction with the tweeter.
When you get to Level 3 interaction, things can get a little more complicated. Level 3i gives the different ways a user might interact with the tweeter, numbered one (least direct) to five (most).
NB/ Passive responding is posting in response to, but not directly at the original tweet(er). For example, if you post your own tweet inspired by the original user's.
Like if someone posted something about Tabloids, which in turn made me rant about mass media, but not retweeting, quoting or @-replying the original tweeter.

What this means now, is that we can look at the above in reverse - what we get is a way of defining tweets in terms of how the writer intends them to be interacted with, (ordered by increasing degree of interaction).
[Keep in mind though, that intention doesn't always match up to real response.]

Type 1) Ignore/Disregard
Content: Venting, or thinking out-loud. Whether tweeting for tweeting's sake, or just trying to get something out of your mind or off your chest.
Originality: Generally, 100% original.
Audience: No-one

Type 2) Consume
Content: To inform, entertain or inspire. Jokes, news, interesting thoughts, etc; But things you don't necessarily want or expect a response to. Retweets (of other sources) and shared content/links also fall into this category (as do quotes).
Originality: Can vary from completely original, to entirely someone else's work.
Audience: Anyone and everyone. Though some content may be targeted at a more specific group.

Type 2i) Promotion
Content: Like informing, only indirect. Usually, it involves linking to something of your own - e.g. a blog or a creative piece. In the case of celebrities, this may also include new products, up coming events, etc.
Originality: Generally original/links to original content. Can include quoting another person's praise/promotion of your content.
Audience: Anyone who's interested or willing.

Type 2ii) Retweet
Content: As in Type 2, but created with the hope or intention of being shared and spread around. These tweets my include phrases like "RT if", "please RT", or "RT to win" (but won't always be so direct).
Originality: Usually original, unless already retweeted from original source.
Audience: Anyone who'll play along.

Type 3) Reply
Subgroup a) Direct
Content: Could be potentially anything (including any Type 2 content). But usually more personal and conversation specific.
Originality: Content dependent. Original, more often than not.
Audience: Clearly directed at a specific individual or group, either by name or @user

Subgroup b) Passive
Content: Also known as "baiting" - a tweet engineered to provoke a response (positive or negative) from it's intended audience. This can include things like open question or requests, flame-baiting, cries for attention, sympathy seeking, etc. Outwardly, these tweets can appear as though they're Type 2.
Originality: Tends to be more original, but not always.
Audience: Varies with the poster's intention. Can be a specific person or group, or just anyone who'll take the bait.

Fringe Cases.
Obviously, these cases aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. Where multiple categories overlap, we get the below:
NB/ Type 2ii may be seen as the overlap of Type 2 and Type 2i

Case 1-2) Biographical
Content: This happens when a user over-estimates their followers' interest in the details of their personal life. As a result, these usually get ignored.
Originality: 100% original
Audience: Intended, anyone and everyone. Actual, approaches zero.

Case 1-3b) Passive aggressive.
Content: Directed at a specific user or group without explicitly saying who. Usually malicious.
Originality: Almost always original. But, may include quotes, either from the "target" or from e.g. a song - expressing the poster's emotion.
Audience: Not intended to get a response from the "target". Sometimes directed at a specific user or intended to gain sympathy from a wider audience.

Case 3a-b) Indirect
Content: An open tweet (visible to all followers) not directly aimed at, but mentioning a specific user or group.
Originality: Usually original, but can include shared content.
Audience: Anyone and everyone, but with emphasis on the mentioned user(s)

Case 2i-3a) Directed Spam
Content: Junk. Links to spam sites. Tends to mention several @users.
Originality: Usually nonsensical junk.
Audience: A spam-bot will usually scan tweets for mentions of a given word of phrase and target those users. Almost anyone is a potential target.

Case 2i-3a-b) Friend Promotion
Content: This case covers things like Follow Friday or any instance when you praise or promote another user.
Originality: Completely original, unless retweet-based.
Audience: Usually everyone. But can be a specific group (usually with a common interest.)

Of course, don't assume this is a comprehensive list of tweet types. These are just the ones I could think of. Feel free to post others you think of in the comments.

Twitter Celebrities.
Using these categories, we can (to an extent) define a twitter user by which type of tweet they post the most. With your standard everyday user, this isn't always easy. Celebrities on the other hand, tend to fall into one category more than any other.
So here are some examples:

The Entertainer/The Joker

Comedians in particular; most of what they post are jokes, amusing anecdotes or links to funny stuff.
A sub group of this is The Spoof/Parody account. These are, as the names suggest, accounts claiming to be famous people (real or fictional), organisations, or even animals or inanimate objects. Almost everything they tweet is a joke (with varying degrees of quality).

"One of Us"
Also known as The Biographer, they remind us that sometimes, the lives of celebrities are just as boring as our own - albeit with more round the world travel and encounters with other celebrities. Okay, so some have interesting lives. But that's often not the case.
Also in this group are those who will frequently interact with fans, or even with other celebrities - a truly surreal experience to observe. Especially when the fight.

The Shameless Self-Promoter
Everything or almost everything they tweet is an advertisement for their new product, there next gig, their next TV appearance, their new column, etc. While occasional promotion is okay, and sometimes welcomed, too much will have you reaching for the unfollow button.
The worst example of the is The RSS Feed, an account where the only posts are links to the user's latest blog entry.

The Opinionated/The Activist
When you follow certain people, you pretty much expect this sort of thing - the politicians, the satirists, etc. The majority of what they tweet are their opinions, and in particular (but not necessarily) their opinion on matters of or relating to politics.

The Sharer/The RT'er
This category often overlaps with The Entertainers and/or The Opinionated. In special cases, if you @reply them with something funny or interesting, they will retweet you - instant fame!

[But keep in mind, a general unspoken rule of Twitter is not to pester the celebrities. It's just common courtesy.]

So, now you know. Go forth and tweet, my friends!


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