Along with Facebook, Twitter has changed the way we interact online. Whilst Facebook was initially just about maintaining contact with people we knew, Twitter opened up access to practically anyone. It is little surprise, then, that celebrities are the most followed people on the site, with the most successful having tens of millions of followers.
Now the chances are you are not a celebrity, and you probably don’t have many followers either – eighty per cent of Twitter users have fewer than ten followers. According to a 2013 report by O’Reilly Media, having one thousand followers puts you in the top four per cent of tweeters. So how can you climb this social media ladder? In 2013, computer scientist C. J. Hutto, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, led a study analyzing over half a million tweets and looking at aspects of Twitter behaviour which lead to an increase or decrease in followers. First, here are the factors that they found will decrease your followers:
- Only broadcasting, not discussing.
The power of Twitter is in its ability to be a tool for discussion. Not mentioning other people, or not replying to their tweets, saw an exodus of hard-won followers.
- Being overly negative. People want to hear good news more than they do bad.
- Hashtag abuse. A well-chosen hashtag can work wonders. But, like, #totally hashtagging the #hell out of your #tweet is annoying #awkward #twitteradvice #lol.
- Talking only about yourself. Tweets with lots of “I” and “me” in them saw a drop in followers. If you are already avoiding these pitfalls, then you are off to a good start. But according to Hutto’s study, there are positive things you can do to grow your followers:
- Get retweeted. If your existing followers are sharing your content among their network, then you are increasing your exposure to potential new followers (more on this later).
- Become a source of information. That means sharing links to interesting content elsewhere on the web. The boost associated with posting information was found to be thirty times the detrimental effect of using “I” and “me” all the time.
- Make it personal. Users whose profile had a detailed biography and a link to a website had more followers.
Do all of these things, and you will be well on your way to Twitter success. But just how do you get people to retweet (RT) your content? That’s the question Bongwon Suh and colleagues at the Palo Alto Research Center in California set out to answer.
They analysed seventy-four million tweets and what they found backs up much of the advice we have already given. A key factor was the inclusion of a URL or hashtag (not too many of course!). People are far more likely to share a link to an interesting article than your description of what you had for lunch.
The other thing you could try is simply asking people to retweet your content – a tactic that is surprisingly effective. According to self-styled social media scientist Dan Zarrella, include “Please Re-Tweet” and it is nearly five times as likely to happen.
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