Want more followers on Twitter? Followers are Twitter “gold” but unless you are a celebrity or part of the “Twitterati” they are pretty hard to get. Georgia Tech with 522,368 tweets in hand found a few Twitter secrets.
A research team led by Eric Gilbert, assistant professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing and Ph.D. student C.J. Hutto and Sarita Yardi, now an assistant professor in the University of Michigan’s School of Information studied over a half-million tweets over 15 months and found a reliable set of predictors for building a Twitter following.
How Twitter users can grow their followers:
- Don’t talk about yourself: Informational content attracts followers at a rate 30 times higher than content focused on the tweeter. The study found users talked about themselves in 41 percent of their tweets on average.
- Be happy: Twitter is mainly based on weak social ties (most followers do not know each other offline), which makes it more important to stay away from negative posts such as death, unemployment and poor health. Negative sentiment may be uncomfortable for a potentially new follower to see.
- Cool it on the hashtags: While hashtags are definitely useful tools for expressing emotional commentary or tying tweets to larger events or issues, they can be abused. Researchers found that the higher a Twitter users’ “hashtag ratio,” the less likely they were to attract new followers.
The researchers observed 507 active Twitter users and isolated 2,800 terms used in the tweets that conveyed positive and negative emotions. The terms were scored on a sliding scale and the researchers observed whether the use of those terms led to the Twitter users losing or gaining followers.
The team also discovered:
- “Twitter “informers” (users who share informational content) consistently attract more followers than “meformers” (users who share information about themselves).”
- Having content that is “retweet worthy” as well as using more sophisticated language had some effect on gaining and maintaining followers in the long run.
The research also confirmed previous studies done for Facebook networks that showed the positive effect of completing the user profile. Though these profiles can be faked, they lend some authenticity and social responsibility to the equation.
A factor called the “Tweet Reading Difficulty Index” (TReDIX) has a positive impact on audience growth. Essentially, vocabulary and spelling play an important role when there is a lack of face-to-face contact.
“Followers are Twitter’s most basic currency, yet little is understood about how to grow such an audience,” said Gilbert. “By examining multiple factors that affect tie formation and dissolution over time on Twitter, we’ve discovered information that could help technologists design and build tools that help users grow their audiences.”
The paper, “A Longitudinal Study of Follow Predictors on Twitter,” which will be presented this week (May 2013) at the ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Paris, France.