This post originally appeared on BI Intelligence, a paid subscriptions service that focuses on the mobile industry.
Are there really any fail-safe ways to grow Twitter followers?
A groundbreaking academic study that tracked hundreds of Twitter accounts over 15 months has a few data-tested answers. They may surprise you. Other than the length of time the Twitter account has been active, which is an obvious factor, the top three factors for follower growth were:
- The overlap between your Twitter network and your followers’ networks.
- The degree to which your tweets received retweets over a given period.
- The informational richness of your tweets. Measured as the ratio of tweets containing a link, an RT (retweet), MT (modified tweet) or HT (hat tips), to total tweets.
The study, published in April, also uncovered a couple of factors that were associated with suppressing follower growth:
- Tweeting negative emotions and opinions.
- The use of hashtags.
- Meformer content or self-referencing content.
Overall, the study found that network structure — the composition of your followers and their relationship to one another — was just as important as the content of messages. Some other takeaways: hashtags do not help recruit followers and actually suppress follows, and positive tweets attract followers, while negative ones drive users away.
Some of the factors associated with follower growth, such as having a complete profile and following people back, were simply practices tied to being a good social media citizen.
For the study, researchers from Georgia Tech and The University Of Michigan analysed 500,000 tweets.