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Social Media: Have You Been Ratioed?
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Social Media: Have You Been Ratioed? - Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: Have You Been Ratioed?

Executive Leadership Articles

Social Media: Have You Been Ratioed?

A little more than a year ago, someone on Twitter pointed out that when a tweet had a very high number of replies versus a comparably low number of retweets or likes, it was likely to be a “bad tweet,” or very unpopular. The reasoning was that when the Twittersphere agrees with a tweet, it is more likely to retweet it or like it than to reply, while replies with no corresponding likes or retweets usually mean disagreement or disparagement.

Esquire’s Luke O’Neil may not have coined the phrase, but when he wrote a column on the phenomenon, calling it The Ratio, it was the naming of a quick and dirty, completely unofficial and informal Twitter metric. Although reasonable skeptics might quickly object with any number of arguments against The Ratio meaning anything, it turns out to be pretty reliable, at least for tweets reaching a sizable audience. A quick look at the numbers gives one a general sense of the audience’s sentiment.

A commonly cited example of a bad Ratio is the April 10, 2017 tweet from United Airlines, quoting United’s CEO about the passenger who was dragged off a plane the day before. The message, which many have pointed to as an example of how not to apologize on behalf of a corporation, received 60,000 replies versus 20,000 retweets and 7,000 likes, an eye-popping Ratio of three to one.

Merriam-Webster online includes this use of “ratio” in its series of “words we’re watching,” a commentary on words its lexicographers are seeing with increasing frequency but don’t quite meet the dictionary’s criteria for inclusion. “Ratioing (yes, it's really a word) is common enough on Twitter that it has its own hashtag: #ratioed (also really a word). It refers to the negative response that a tweet gets,” M-W writes. It makes the interesting observation that so far, the word is used only in the context of Twitter, and it remains to be seen whether it will cross over into general use. Given that “retweet, “mentions,” and “don’t @ me!,” which have all been around much longer, don’t seem to have made the leap into general non-Twitter parlance, the odds seem slim that a hyper-specialized new slang such as “ratioed” will be any different.

It should be noted that a bad Ratio, while fairly reliable in assessing an unpopular tweet, isn’t necessarily undesirable. In the case of the United Airlines tweet, it’s certainly an indication that the company’s executive leadership probably stepped poorly. However, in the case of a politician or media figure, the Ratio may be less important than the total number of engagements. In the case of CNN’s Chris Cillizza, whom some are calling the Ratio King, engagements may be the whole story. Cillizza often plays devil’s advocate, and he was hired away from the Washington Post partially because of his constant presence on Twitter. A journalist whose job is to interact with viewership may consider a bad Ratio as valuable as a good one.

While there’s nothing especially revealing about a tweet’s Ratio, it’s a quick glance at the general audience reception of a tweet, as long as the tweeter has sizable enough a followership to render robust data. It may never be among Twitter’s official analytics, but it is a handy measurement worth paying attention to, for those keeping a finger on the pulse of the Twittersphere.

Reference links:
Esquire: https://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a54440/twitter-ratio-reply
United Airlines tweet: https://twitter.com/united/status/851471781827420160


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Social Media: Have You Been Ratioed? - Executive Leadership Articles

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