income tweet
September 25, 2015

People can guess your income based on your tweets

Researchers have figured out a way to accurately predict your annual income based on your tweets, a new study reports. (Hint: Tweet less to appear richer.)

Previous research has shown that digging into your tweeting history can reveal your age, gender, location, political preferences, and even whether or not you suffer from insomnia. But now, a new study has developed a statistical model that can predict your annual income.

The study analyzed over 10 million tweets from 5,191 twitter accounts to explore the link between profile features, tweet content, topics, and emotional behavior with annual income.

The researchers trained a statistical model using 240 variables collected from the selected Twitter accounts. These included variables such as the ratio between how many followers the user has and how many people they themselves follow, the number of hashtags and links used per tweet, and common topics of discussion.

The authors used twitter accounts which clearly identified the user’s profession, so they were able to compare their income predictions to the national average wage each user would likely receive. And it turns out, they were able to predict each user’s income with great accuracy.

“Our approach replicates broadly accepted norms or statistically supported trends," the authors said, “such as income being correlated with perceived education, intelligence, and age as well as the difference in pay between males and females.”

The rich tweet less

Some of the findings would be no surprise to anyone who is twitter savvy. Users who have a high follower to following ratio and get re-tweeted a lot typically have a higher income than those who don't. Likewise, posting excessively throughout the day tends to indicate a lower income.

Among some of the tweet topics studied that produced strong links with high income were talking about politics or not-for-profit organizations and initiatives. On the other hand, being classified as obviously Christian was linked to lower income.

It isn’t just the topics of your tweets that's giving you away either. Researchers found that “users with higher income post less emotional (positive and negative) but more neutral content, exhibiting more anger and fear, but less surprise, sadness and disgust.” It was also apparent that those who swore more frequently in their tweets had lower income.

The findings have broad implications, the authors say, for example for personalized advertising. By automatically inferring your income, advertising companies could send you a more fitting ad, increasing the chance that you will click on it.

So complaining and swearing all day on Twitter may land you an eBay ad of a very old Kia, while tweeting a fearful comment about the next presidential candidate may land you a nice ad for a brand new BMW.

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Feature Image: Thinkstock