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In A five-point guide to getting your tweets retweeted The New Scientist reports on, well, a scientific approach to successful tweeting.

Researchers at the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany studied more than 60 million tweets and 4.5 million users to find what helps people decide to retweet.

The answers boil down to five tips:

  1. Punctuation matters. Tweets with exclamation marks were unlikely to be retweeted, but question marks help get messages retweeted.
  2. Accentuate the positive. Positive and negative words such as great or suck are likely to retweeted. Positive terms work better.
  3. But not with emoticons. On the other hand tweets with positive emoticons are less likely to be retweeted than those with negative ones.
  4. Relevant messages. People are more likely to retweet news or real information. What I had for breakfast messages are rarely relayed.
  5. Bad news travels faster than good. As every journalist knows, bad news sells. This is just as true on Twitter. People are much more likely to retweet bad news that good news.

As the comments on the New Scientist story point out, reaching the maximum audience of strangers isn’t a goal for most Twitter users.

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