Cracking the code of successful tweets

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(MoneyWatch) Twitter is one of those Web services that seems like some sort of black magic. No matter who you are -- a social media manager, knowledge worker, executive or freelancer -- you probably tweet and want to get the best engagement possible. But there are so few solid metrics to help us understand how to do that.

Most of the social media experts I know tend to evaluate the performance of their tweets over a daily cycle. They'll fire one off and then check back eight hours later to see if it's performing. A recent article at PC World suggests that by then it's too late. Indeed, the entire model for evaluating Twitter engagement over the course of a day is broken.

Here's the deal: Tauhid Zaman, an assistant professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, has just published a study that predicts the popularity of tweets. His research indicates that tweets follow a fairly predictable engagement model -- they get about 10 percent of their retweets in the first 10 minutes. It doesn't matter if you have 100 followers or a million. The curve is consistent.

And that suggests a different way to monitor and react to Twitter engagement. Rather than waiting hours, you should check on a tweet very quickly to see if it is moving the needle. As PC World says:

If you aren't seeing a near-immediate pickup of your tweets, your best move is to try again with a new one rather than hope that the original will eventually find its mark. "It doesn't matter if you have a lot of followers or a few. If you don't hit a critical mass in the first few minutes, the chances are very slim that your tweet will have broad appeal," says Zaman.