As we discussed last week, the key to growth isn't "viral sharing," it's audience retention. When it comes to your Twitter account, this means that getting more followers doesn't have as much to do with getting your content shared as you might think. Instead, it all about getting them to come back.
If it's not immediately clear why, let me explain. If you get a 20 percent lift on your initial audience through retweets and sharing, but you lose 20 percent of your initial audience each time you share, you get zero growth. But if you lose only 10 percent of your initial audience, you grow, and you grow exponentially.
A net 10 percent lift might not seem like much, but if you successfully did it 50 times, an audience of 100 would grow to 11,739. Do it 100 times, and that audience would grow to 1,378,061. If you could do it 200 times, your audience would be larger than the number of humans on planet Earth.
Unfortunately, most tweeters reach less than half a percent of their "followers." So how do you keep them coming back? It all starts with getting them to click.
Let's talk about how to do that.
A Word of Warning
First off, one of the reasons exponential growth eventually drops off is because CTRs drop as your audience gets larger. If you've got 50 to 1,000 followers, you'll reach about 6 percent of your audience. But if you have more than 10,000 followers, you can typically expect a CTR of 0.45 percent. It's this tapering click-through rate that limits your growth. If you want to get more followers, you need more clicks.
With this in mind, don't neglect email. With average Twitter CTRs hovering around 1 percent, and email click rates at around 3 percent, it's worth pointing out that Twitter is not the be-all end-all if you care about audience growth. If you're worried that email prevents social sharing, don't be. Brands pick up twice as many new customers from email as they do from Twitter, and brand advocates choose to share through email 25 times more often than through Twitter.
So yes, you should encourage users to choose email over Twitter, in general. Consider Twitter followership a "light" commitment, and treat it that way. At the same time, recognize that some of the most influential brand advocates are on Twitter, people are more willing to follow you on Twitter than give you their email address, and some people are hardcore and won't use any other channel.
To add to that, social sharing can boost email click through rates by 115 percent. As is usually the case, multichannel strategies are best.
Now that the rant's over, let's get to the advice.
Boosting Your Twitter CTR
The first thing you can do is tweet your best content on the weekends. CTRs are roughly twice as high around this time. On average, 6 PM is the best time to tweet, with an average CTR of 4.25 percent. That's two and a half times better than the all-day average of 1.65 percent.
Dan Zarrella has some of the best data on this. Here are a few of his insights:
- Keep tweets between 120 and 130 characters
- Put the link about a quarter of the way into your message
- Tweet about once or twice per hour. Click-through rates drop way off after this, and you can't make up for the loss with more tweets.
- The massive CTR (30 percent) on tweets containing "The Daily is Out" indicates that paper.li is a great way to get attention on Twitter.
- Use action words. Adverbs and verbs give tweets a 1 or 2 percent CTR boost. Too many nouns will sink it, and adjectives have the worst impact of all.
While I still stress audience retention over sharing, Zarrella's eBook also adds some important information on the science of Retweets:
- Retweets were three times more likely to contain a link
- bit.ly is most "retweetable"
- Complex tweets that require a higher reading level, surprisingly, are more likely to be retweeted
- Novelty is crucial (uncommon or "new" words are present)
- Retweets contain more punctuation
- Retweets are more conceptual, less emotional, and less primordial than random tweets
- Negative emotions, swearing, sensations, and references to yourself hurt your chances of being retweeted.
Clearly, general headline guidelines also apply. When Outbrain analyzed 150,000 article headlines on their platform for their click through rates, this is what they found (keep in mind these stats aren't from Twitter, so the implications are qualitative):
- Titles with 8 words had CTRs 21 percent above average
- Thumbnails work better than logos, so keep this in mind when you set up your Twitter account, as well as Twitter cards. (Incidentally, A case study by Omoii demonstrated that it was possible to double click through rates, from 1.6% to 3%, by using Twitter cards.)
- Putting a colon or hyphen in the title, which suggests a subtitle, boosts clicks
- Questions tend to elicit better responses
- As always, lists attract clicks. If the number of elements in the list is odd, they also tend to do better.
On a related note, when you ask for followers on your blog, one experiment suggests that you should start with this phrase: "You should follow me on twitter here." This received a 12.81% CTR. When Dustin Curtis ran this experiment, he found that the more specific and personal the phrasing, the better the click-through rate.
Now it's your turn. Get to work on that click through rate, test your results, and grow your following.
Image credit: José Manuel Ríos Valiente