How you can tell if a tweet is from a man or a woman [research]

There’s already quite some research that shows that women are more into social networks than men (most recently a Pew research). A study by the Department of Computer Sciences at Johns Hopkins took a look at how women tweet differently from men.

Something that might be interesting to remark first: the researchers found no big differences in how the networks of men and women are built up. They both have roughly the same ratios of people they follow and people who follow them in return.

Also, the sheer number of followers was roughly the same for both genders, as was the response frequency and the retweet frequency. Men and women do differ substantially in what they say/write on Twitter, though:

1. Women use (a lot) more emoticons

“Emoticons are key `non-verbal’ cues in informal communication. We found that female users were 3.5 times more likely to use emoticons than their male counter parts. This is in line with the findings in speech research where laughter in conversational speech is more frequently associated with a female speaker.”

how women tweet

2. Men wink ;) and grin :D , women <3

“Men and women also differ in the kind of emoticons used. While both men and women like to smile (:)), women are likely to use emoticons like heart (<3) and men tend to grin (:D) and wink (;)).”

3. Women use … more often

“Ellipses are a sequence of 3 (or more) periods used to indicate a pause or an unfinished thought or as a rhetorical device. We found women use ellipses 1.5 times more than men.”

4. Women say “niiiiice” and “gawwwwd” more

The researchers call this “pumping” of identical characters to emphasise what they say: “Some examples of character repetition from our corpus include niceeeee, gawwwd, and noooo waaaay. We found that female users in our corpus employ such character repetition 1.4 times more often than male users.”

5. Excitement

In a 140 character Twitter message there are limited ways for users to express excitement, say the researchers. They distinguished:

Repeated ExclamationA string of !’s. We found women were more than twice likely to repeat exclamation than men.

Puzzled Punctuation: A combination of any number ! and ? in any order. Women tended to have puzzled comments 1.8 times more than men.

OMG: This refers to the abbreviation of the common slang expression `oh my god’. Women were 4 times likely to use this expression than men and a sequence of OMGs exclusively identi es a female user.

Warning: the researchers say that the differences are probably also due to differences in age, but they didn’t give instructions to balance the age groups in the dataset. If anyone knows of any studies that are more recent (this one is from 2009), let us know.

[Source: Johns Hopkins][Photo, wonderferret, Flickr]

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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