I was in two minds over whether to write this post. I mean the number of followers you have is kinda irrelevant, and if you’re really keen to bulk up your numbers you can easily buy a whole lot of fake followers for next to nothing. It’s much more important that you have engaged followers that are doing things that contribute to the overall goals of your organisation.
That said, there is an increasing number of academic studies into Twitter, and in particular the patterns that emerge out of the vast quantity of data posted to the network. Only this morning I shared some research from the University of California Santa Barbara looking at predictive patterns on Twitter, whilst previous research has looked at how our post frequency changes as we gain more followers, how often a tweet will be retweeted, and indeed what kind of tweets get retweeted most often. DARPA are even mining social data to try and predict the suicide risk of veterans.
Suffice to say that this study by Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan is not in that league, but it looks at the important (for some) issue of how to grow your followers.
To try and discern some patterns, they followed some 500 Twitter users over a 15 month period, during which time they made around 0.5 million tweets. Each account had on average 400 followers, so they weren’t complete newbies. At regular intervals during the study, they would calculate how many followers each account had gained (or lost).
They then analysed this data against 22 different facets of user behaviour. These included demographic information and their Twitter habits, including how they posted, how often they retweeted and so on. As a result of this, they identified nearly 3,000 terms that conveyed either positive or negative emotions, with which they could score each tweet made on a positivity scale.
How to stand out from the crowd
The research provided a few tips on how to best grow your followers
- Focus on the reader – As any experienced copywriter will tell you, the best writing focuses on the reader. Twitter is no different. They found that the average user wrote about themselves in 41% of their tweets. Those tweets were however found to drive down follower growth. When they wrote about other people and things however, followers grew some 30 times higher (yes, 30 times higher!) than when people wrote about themselves.
- Be positive – Save your sad and whiny posts for Facebook where the network links are stronger and people are more likely to give a damn. On Twitter, your relationship with followers is likely to be weaker, so happier, more positive messages work best.
- Go easy on the hashtags – I’ve never been a fan of hashtags, so it’s nice to see some support for minimal use of them. The research found that the more you use hashtags the less clout you receive.
- Converse as well as broadcast – Having actual conversations with people was also a positive influence on follower growth rates, especially in comparison to broadcasting posts (usually with links). They also found that the more retweets you get the better.
- Make the first impression good – Seems a bit shallow, but they found that a nice looking profile helps your cause, so make sure you have a nice description of yourself and include some biographical info in your profile.
How many of those do you do?