The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

This is the perfect tweet, according to science

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Countless books, conferences — entire careers, even! — are devoted to the idea that social media can somehow be optimized and perfected. Marketers and social media editors pursue the perfect tweet like the holy grail. Is it vague or newsy? Long or short? Does it — ugh — contain hashtags? At last, researchers at Cornell University have found the secret to eternal RTs, and the answer is, per their recent paper:

… adding more information, making one’s language align with both community norms and with one’s prior messages, and mimicking news headlines.

Including positive or negative words and requesting followers to retweet also pays off. (That’s it? Really?!)

Perhaps the most salient takeaway here is that, despite all the algorithms and optimizations, social media remains a fickle and serendipitous beast. The “perfect tweet” (or perfect Facebook post, Instagram, whatever) will change based on dozens of factors, some of which we can quantify — and frankly, some of which we still can’t. That will not, of course, keep crusaders from seeking the perfect tweet.

Chenhao Tan, one of the researchers behind this study, even built an interactive to help you test the wording of your tweets against their algorithm. I tried it several times to optimize a tweet about this post. Here’s what I ended up with:

… now let’s see if it works!