How to Get More Twitter Followers—and Keep Them

Look—email marketing is still king, but if you’re sold on using Twitter for your business, you might as well do it the right way.

So, what’s the secret? How can you get more twitter followers?

The answer is simple. Write tweets that people want to read, and avoid writing tweets that people hate to read.

What’s the difference?

Instead of overloading you with social media platitudes, I’m going to tell you exactly what you should write, and I’ve got data to back it up.

Who Gives A Tweet? The Value Of Content on Twitter

Three researchers—Paul Andre from Carnegie Mellon, Michael Bernstein from MIT, and Kurt Luther from Georgia Institute of Technology—ran a research experiment and figured out exactly what people like to read on Twitter. They also discovered what Twitter users call “boring,” and “useless.”

The experiment went like this:

The researchers created a website called “Who Gives A Tweet?” where people could figure out what people thought about their tweets in exchange for rating other peoples tweets.

To ensure people shared their true feelings, they made all of the feedback anonymous. In addition to short answer replies, people were also encouraged to click one of three options “Worth reading,” “Ok,” and “Not worth reading.”

And here’s what happened:

After 43,778 tweet ratings from 1,433 users, the researchers had a viable dataset and they were able to figure out what Twitter users liked to read and what they hated to read.

So, let’s talk about that now.

What Twitter Users Hate To Read

If you want to get more Twitter followers, the first order of business is to ensure you don’t annoy your current Twitter followers.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive to some of the advice I’ve given in the past—remember when I told you I happily unsubscribe people from my mailing list?—but Twitter is different.

To build a loyal Twitter following, you need your Twitter followers to click your links, share your tweets, and recommend that people follow you.

Moving on, what do Twitter users consider “not worth reading?” According to the research, the following:

  1. Cryptic tweets
  2. Repeating old news
  3. Using too many # and @ signs
  4. Just links without commentary
  5. Boring tweets

Of that list, “Boring” tweets are the most prevalent, accounting for 82% of all tweets rated with “Not Worth Reading.”

Since boring is the most prevalent, let’s dig into that a bit further. When people rated tweets as boring, they said things “so, what?,” “it’s fine, but a bit obvious,” and “Yes, I saw that first thing this morning.”

What’s the key takeaway?

When you write tweets that share common content, make sure you add some color around that content.

As an example, look at this Tweet by Ramit Sethi:

“The Economics of Big Ski Resorts.” Fascinating how these ski resorts de-risk and diversify revenues. Check it out: http://bit.ly/xZAsv4” – Original Tweet

See how he takes the headline, and then adds additional commentary after it? That’s a perfect example of a Tweet that would be labeled “worth reading.”

What Twitter Users Find Valuable

Now that you know what kind of tweets to avoid, the question is what types of tweets make your followers happy?

According to the research, the tweets labeled “worth reading” fell into four different groups: Informative (the largest group with 44%), Funny (24%), Useful (20%), and Exciting (12%).

I know that sounds vague, so here are some short answer responses that people left:

  1. “interesting perspective on something I know nothing about”
  2. “makes you want to know more.”
  3. “it’s witty and snarky, worth the read.”
  4. “few words to say much, very clear.”
  5. “personal, honest, and transparent.”

To elaborate further, it seems that people like tweets that are concise, witty, interesting, and personal.

How can you encourage people to feel that way about your tweets?

Here are some tactics:

1. Be Funny and Witty

This makes sense. People like people who can make them laugh. Go figure :-).

For this, let’s look no further than Chris Pearson, the king of witty and snarky tweets.

“Me + hair gel + no shower = Don King” – Original Tweet

However, if you’re struggling to be funny, there are proven joke templates that you can follow to work on your humor.

To walk you through that, I’ll share my favorite which is called “the rule of three.”

Here’s how it works:

You’ll need a list of three items, 2 normal items, and one ridiculous item. Much like what Chris Pearson did in his tweet—Me (normal), Hair Gel (normal), and No Shower (ridiculous).

As another example, let’s look at the famous Chris Rock joke from one of his standup comedy shows “Women like food, water, and compliments.”

This is a perfect template for Twitter because it’s short, and can fit in 140 characters or less.

2. Create Curiosity

I’ve written about this before, but to rehash, the easiest way to create curiosity is by opening an information gap.

What’s an information gap?

As George Loewenstein puts it, an information gap is the crevice between what people know and what people want to know.

How can you do that on Twitter? Let me show you one of my tweets as an example:

“You’ve got to see this graph showing a possible link between SAT scores and income – http://bit.ly/zlIN6Y” – Original Tweet

See what I did there?

I didn’t tell people about the link, I told people about a graph, and if they wanted to see the link, they’d have to look at the graph.

What happens then? If people read that, chances are the gap between what they know and wanted to know was successfully created.

3. Be Interesting

To be interesting, you’ve got to introduce your followers to people, places, or ideas they may not have heard about.

In other words, you’ve got to break out of the “echo chamber.”

For example, over on my Twitter account, I often share links to articles about neuroscience, psychology, and other things related to human behavior.

Yes, my target audience are business owners and entrepreneurs, but I’m one of the few people who connect human behavior with online marketing. So, when I introduce an academic researcher they haven’t heard of before, they can’t help but be interested.

The Bottom Line

If you want to get more Twitter followers, you’ve got to write tweets that people want to read.

And while I showed you some types of tweets that are perfect for attracting readers, this list is not comprehensive, and I’m sure there are other tweet examples that work.

So, why don’t you share your results. What tweets have worked for you? What tweets helped you gain more followers? Share it in the comments.

Also, if you want to follow two people on Twitter, follow Chris Pearson and Derek Halpern.

About the author: Derek Halpern ran marketing at DIYthemes, and is the founder of Social Triggers. To get more tips on how to be confident, sign up to his list here.