15-Month Study Reveals The Top Factors That Drive Twitter Follower Growth

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:

  1. The overlap between your Twitter network and your followers’ networks.
  2. The degree to which your tweets received retweets over a given period.
  3. 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:

  1. Tweeting negative emotions and opinions.
  2. The use of hashtags.
  3. 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.


Click here for the chart and data in Excel.


Click here for a larger version of this chart.

Here are explanations of the other 10 factors that helped to increase follower count:

  • Profile description length (in characters)
  • Profile includes a URL
  • The peak rate of tweets per hour (burstiness)
  • Attention-status ratio, or the ratio of a user’s followers to those a user herself follows (how much attention one earns relative to the attention directed to other accounts)
  • Positive sentiment: tweeting positive emotions
  • Reading difficulty: The linguistic sophistication of tweets
  • Reciprocity rate: The number of followers that the user is also following
  • Twitter profile includes location
  • Directed communications index: The number of tweets in which a user mentions someone else, replies to someone else, or favourites their tweets, divided by their total tweets.

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