Researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology recently conducted a longitudinal study of follow predictors on Twitter and found that those who were positive and provided informational content gained more followers than those who were negative and shared content about themselves. For the study the researchers followed over 500 Twitter users who collectively sent over 500,000 tweets over the course of 15 months. The researchers were careful to note that the results are specific only to their own dataset, but believe their research provides new insight into how followers are gained through social behavior and message content.
This made me feel pretty good since I try to share at least one to two informational items from third-party sources every day. In addition, I make a point to frequently @reply on Twitter with “Thank you” courtesies. Now, I’m not a person who’s greatly concerned with the number of followers I have, but more concerned with how engaged and receptive those followers are. If a day passes where I’m not engaging with someone on Twitter, I figure I’m doing something wrong.
In a comment made to Poynter.org, the researchers noted that they did not specifically exclude institutional or brand accounts, but believed that most of their results were from typical non-celebrity users with very few (if any) brand or institution accounts.
So how can you further use this information to help improve your Twitter followers and interactions? Let’s start by gathering a bit more information. Earlier this month Twitter released their own study providing insight on their 200 million active users. One of the fascinating revelations is that the average Twitter user follows five brands, while the average user who primarily accesses Twitter from their mobile device are likely to follow substantially more brands; which is great news considering 60 percent of Twitter users log in through mobile at least once per month.
Moreover, an April 2010 study by ROI Research found that 33 percent of active Twitter users share opinions about companies or products at least once a week, 32 percent make recommendations while 30 percent ask for them.
I think it’s important to step back and remember that social media is about real connections, trust and friendship. In the physical world it can be difficult to sever ties with someone who is annoying you or is constantly bringing up the negative side of things. Online, cutting those relationships is much easier. In fact, you just have to click the “Unfollow” button.
We’re all trying to figure out the perfect balance of business and personal when it comes to using social media. I only have a few thousand followers, but I feel pretty connected and engaged with those tweeps. I don’t have any scientific evidence to back up the foundation of my Twitter relationships, but I want to share a few tips I’ve leaned on even before I saw this research that backed up some of my practices.
1. As with any true friendship, I try to avoid negative talk and harmful rumors.
2. Be polite and show common courtesy.
3. Express gratitude.
4. Retweet information that your followers would find insightful (this is backed up by the Georgia Tech research)
5. Compliment the good work of others.
6 Answer questions when they’re asked—if you don’t have time to talk with your customer on Twitter, when will you have the time?
7. Ask questions of your followers—don’t just broadcast your message, engage with them.
8. Loosen the corporate tie every once in a while and remind them you’re a person.
9. Be the expert. Don’t keep your knowledge a secret.
10. Be proactive in finding new friends through your extended network. That’s right, pay attention to who your followers recommend on #FollowFriday or #FF.
What are your tips?