Is there a science to optimising retweets? Or is it a combination of luck and network reach?
I believe that some tweets are more likely to be shared than others, and that you can increase your chances of being retweeted by following a few simple tips.
There are various factors that come into play, and thankfully there is some data to back up some of these ideas.
So let's start with a great slideshow by HubSpot's Dan Zarrella, which contains the data we need to underline many of these points. Take a look:The Science of Twitter
Smart publishers optimise the publication of their articles to coincide with busy periods of the day. You are more likely to attract more retweets between the hours of 12pm and 5pm than you will at 4am. There are different timezones to think about too. 2pm GMT is post-lunch in the UK and breakfast in New York, but a little too early for your friends and followers in California. Zarrella’s data suggests that 5pm EST is a sweet spot (possibly because there is a nice overlap: it is evening in London, late afternoon in New York, lunchtime in San Fran…)
People like to share links
I have previously described Twitter as “Delicious with opinion, in real time, and delivered to your door”. Follow the right people and the news comes to you: there’s no need to browse the news aggregators. Zarrella found that retweets are about three times as likely to contain a link, compared with a standard tweet. So spread the love and share links, if you want to be retweeted.
Keep it personal
People respond to words like “you” and “your” in tweets. It is an age-old trick as far as news headlines go, and it can help engage followers, persuade them to click links, and to subsequently retweet.
People tune out to noise. If you tweet too often your followers may develop a tolerance to you and your tweets, and you may miss out. Zarrella discovered that people who tweet less often are more likely to have their tweets shared.
Tweets about Twitter generate retweets
A little self-referential, you might think, but it figures. People who use Twitter frequently are likely to tune into stories about Twitter, and they’re likely to share them too.
Hashtags can help
Trending topics and popular hashtags can open you up to a wider audience than your own network of followers. Including a relevant hashtag can help to extend the reach of your tweet, thereby increasing the chances of being retweeted.
Include a call to action
“Read this” or “check this out” or "must read" can push people in the right direction. The first step towards a retweet is to persuade your followers to take action. After all, most people don’t retweet without first clicking on the link. Everybody is a curator these days, and if you happen to find a great link to share then you can label it as such.
Personally I hate this, but it works. Zarrella found that ‘please’ is found in more than 5% of retweets.
Leave a little space
When writing headlines for your blog posts – or publishing tweets, especially those that include links – you want to try to leave enough space for the sharer to add a comment. It's often the description of a link in a tweet that attracts the eye. It's pretty much impossible to click on every link in your tweetstream, but if enough people retweet the same thing - and especially if they're all saying "great post" or similar - then I'm highly likely to check it out.
I’m a big believer in the power of adjectives in headlines, and the same applies to tweets. Adjectives are like herbs and spices, and can add flavour to stories. By all means rewrite that headline you’re about to share.
What do you think? What works for you? Please leave a comment below...
[Image by Josef Dunne via Flickr, various rights reserved]