How to grow your Twitter following

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past four years, you know that Twitter is a simple communications tool that helps to connect both individuals and businesses with the right audience at the right time.

There are some facts about this microblogging giant that you just can't escape. The website is the No. 3  social networking site of all time. And with more than 190 million users worldwide and the 11th highest overall traffic, it's a marketer's dream.

So, what's the best way to expand your social media influence and increase your Twitter followership?

I took a random sampling of 20 Twitter handles -- some organizations with follower counts of less than 50 and some individuals with first-rate followerships of more than 50,000 --  and studied when they tweeted, what they tweeted, and how often they tweeted in order to identify trends. The results after three months revealed the following:

  • Certain types of tweets attract new followers, and other types retain them.
  • Despite the #FF (#FollowFriday) phenomenon, people tend to follow new timelines earlier in the week.
  • Consistency and frequency play a huge role in both follower attraction and retention.

Content type matters
Whether you are a brand or an individual, what you tweet is important. In order to increase your Twitter following, you have to appeal to people's thirst for knowledge and direct engagement. The majority of tweeps do not care to know what you had for lunch (random musings) or why you don't care for your competitor (negative sentiment).

Here's a snapshot of the best content type to employ when attracting tweeps to your timeline:

And here's a snapshot of the best content type for retaining tweeps:

Lesson learned: When it comes to content, the best way to build and maintain your Twitter followership is to be direct and engage others in conversation.

Don't put all your eggs in the #FF basket
During the three-month study, one specific day and time consistently proved to be the most successful when it came to attracting new followers.  While most would assume that the vast majority of new adds occurred on Friday, it is interesting to note that in our sample, more than 85 percent of the accounts experienced an increase in followership on Tuesdays at noon. Fridays were a distant third, following behind Mondays at 9:00 a.m.


Lesson learned: If you had to choose only one day to tweet, select Tuesdays at high noon. Earlier in the week gives you the biggest bang for your buck as you build your followership.

Showing up is half the battle
According to a recent study, "the average Twitter account is abandoned after a month with less than a dozen tweets or followers." With 70 percent of Twitter accounts having tweeted less than 10 times, it's no surprise that consistency and frequency play a huge role in both follower attraction and retention. HubSpot, an internet marketing software vendor, studied more than 1.6 million Twitter users and found that "users who tweet between 10 and 50 times per day have more followers on average than those that tweet more or less frequently. The 'peak' of the curve is at about 22 tweets per day."

In our study, a growing Twitter account updated more than 20 times per day, confirming HubSpot's finding. Those that tweeted less than 20 times a day (42 percent of the sample accounts) actually decreased their followership by 11 percent over the three-month period. The healthiest, most vibrant Twitter account added an average of 5-15 new followers a day -- that's up to 5,400 new followers per year!


The number of Twitter followers is closely paralleled to the number of times you update your timeline. See graph below:

As far as retaining followers on Twitter, 82 percent of our study sample maintained their followership count as long as they continued to tweet more than 20 times a day. Once they decreased the number of updates, they lost six followers a day on average.

Lesson learned: When it comes to consistency and frequency, the best way to build and maintain your Twitter followership is to update your timeline about once every hour. You can accomplish this by using a free scheduler (Twuffer, SocialOomph, TweetDeck) to post updates around the clock.

Multiple elements can affect your Twitter followership. The best way to determine what works best for you is to test several theories and measure the results. If you can at least engage your audience by tweeting often and more toward the beginning of the week, you should see a spike in your number of followers.

What they say is true: 90 percent of success is just showing up.

Courtney Wiley is director of digital marketing at INgage Networks.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

 

Comments

Vincent Nelson
Vincent Nelson December 15, 2010 at 12:07 PM

AWESOME ARTICLE.

Courtney Wiley
Courtney Wiley September 22, 2010 at 2:57 PM

Thank you for the comments to this article, Ben and Liz.

Ben, I agree that content is king. I would also follow that up by saying that context is queen. Twitter is definitely an app that enables faster curation, collaboration, and consummation of data. Good thoughts.

Liz, in my experience, the best times of day for clicks via Twitter is 4 p.m., any time zone. However, in order to increase followers, I've found that Tuesdays around lunch are the best time to actually add newbies to your followership base. ;)

Glad you two found the article to be insightful. Regards.

Liz Zedo
Liz Zedo September 22, 2010 at 2:14 PM

Interesting post about when tweeters decide to start following other tweeters. I have read that tweets posted at 10am and also at 3pm receive the most clicks (over other times of the day). I wonder if there is any correlation that can be made between these studies and if we will ever see a twitter manual with actual concrete best practices for marketers based on studies performed over time (and how much time that would take!)

Liz
Marketing Manager
www.zedo.com

Ben Acheson
Ben Acheson September 22, 2010 at 9:32 AM

Broadly I agree that it is important to tweet frequently. But I don't advise overwhelming the audience. So you should tweet when you have something worthwhile to say. If that happens once a week then tweet once a week. There's no point tweeting garbage because you haven't tweeted for an hour!

@ replies and RTs are important ingredients in the Twitter mix. That's because social media is about engagement. Rather than talking at your target audience, aim to join in the conversations your stakeholder communities (employees, customers, your industry...) are having amongst themselves.

But the educational article spikes clearly demonstrate what every good internet marketer already knows: that content is king.

They twin keys to successful digital marketing (including social media) are:

1) Quality, compelling, relevant content
2) Engagement, interaction and conversation

The internet enables us to break down the barriers between providers and consumers of content and open direct dialogues. That is what it should be used for.