A recent study by the comp.social lab at the University of Georgia dissected 500 Twitter accounts and about half a million tweets to determine what was most effective to acquire Twitter followers. Their results were quite interesting, but I wonder if they are practical for most businesses and users of the platform.
How to be a Twitter superstar
From their research, the following three conclusions were drawn:
- Message content significantly impacts audience growth.
- Social behavioral choices can dramatically affect network growth.
- Variables related to network structure are useful predictors of audience growth
One of the more interesting insights was that informational content has about thirty times more user affinity than self-centered content. This confirms some of the data that researchers have already found about sharing. They also said that the size of a network didn’t necessarily create an affinity to follow (apologies to any Twitterers that may have purchased followers assuming the contrary to be true).
All in all, a lot of the information was very intuitive. Poynter summarized some of the best practice recommendations:
Number of connections in-common with potential new followers
High frequency of others retweeting your tweets
High frequency of informational tweets
A detailed profile description or “bio”
Profile has a URL listed
“Burstiness” of your tweets, or the peak rate of tweets-per-hour
High ratio of followers to following
Lots of tweets with positive sentiment
Use of long, fancy words
Your tendency to follow-back those who follow you
Profile lists your location
You can see that very detailed criteria can be derived from this.
Is social affirmation the point?
While studying passively acquired Twitter followers is interesting, I question its relevance to both business and personal users. Specifically, do people use Twitter for the purpose of follower acquisition?
For a business, that would be a pretty reckless strategy. Most businesses would prefer to have a high-concentration of fans that are congruent with their target market, and that necessitates an acquisition strategy that is much more deliberate than residual outcome of published content. Also, Universal McCann’s Wave 6 study showed how analogous social content can be interpreted differently depending upon the vertical. So while there is merit to a study of Tweep acquisition for businesses, it seems to me that it’s recommendations are probably too generic to be useful.
For a typical Twitter user, I’m not sure that this is a recipe for success either. Is the purpose to be on Twitter to gain as much audience as possible or to publish user-specific content (what the study calls “meforming”)? While there is some ego involved in all social media, I’m not sure that the gamification of running up a follower number is sustainable or important to most.