Illustration courtesy of Pete Simon on Flickr

By Rob Swystun

While the concept of Twitter is relatively easy — tweet out links ad nauseum — there are a few tips to remember to ensure people see those links (and maybe even click on them) or retweet your stuff.

Considering that Twitter usage increased by 40% over the last half of 2012, it seems the little bird that has become synonymous with D-list celebrities and sports stars eating their feet on a regular basis is something your company will want to get the hang of. (Just don’t put your corporate foot in your corporate mouth.)

Retweets and Replies

Media research firm Buddy Media did an analysis of user engagement from over 320 Twitter handles of the world’s biggest brands and the results were interesting:

  • 78% of engagement with a brand’s tweets is through retweets by followers
  • 22% of engagement with a brand’s tweets comes in the form of replies to tweets the brand has sent out
  • 92% of engagement with a brand’s tweets are links within the tweet being clicked

So those links seem to be working. There is a caveat, though. And that is that as your number of tweets goes up throughout the day, your engagement will inversely fall. This is presumably because people just start to skip over your tweets if you send too many of them. Sending out a dozen tweets per day just makes it look like you are tweeting for the sake of tweeting. Being selective and only sending out a couple per day makes you look a bit more discerning.

And isn’t this also true about your friends who tweet? Don’t we all just skip over Brad’s tweets because he’s sending out 30 of them a day before noon? Nobody is that interested in you, Brad. Don’t let your company become Brad.

A pic is worth 7.14 tweets

Tweets containing image links have twice the engagement rate than tweets without image links. (That subheading is right, by the way. I did the math.)

Request retweets

Tweets that specifically request followers to retweet do tend to get retweeted 12 times as much as tweets that don’t make the request. And those retweets increase with clarity, meaning that when the word “retweet” is written out in a tweet, the retweet rate is 23 times higher than average. However, when the shorthand of “RT” is used, the retweet rate falls to just 10 times higher than average.

Less than 1% of brands make these retweet requests.

Tweet timing and length

The engagement rates for brands are 17% higher on Saturday and Sunday. That’s good and all, but only 19% of brands actually tweet during the weekend.

Oddly enough, Twitter seems to sort of have business hours. Brands typically see a 30% higher interaction rate while tweeting between 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tweets containing fewer than 100 characters receive 17% more engagement than tweets longer than 100 characters. (Again, thinking back to your own experience, don’t those shorter tweets just seem to stand out more among all the wall-to-wall tweets?)

And links really affect the retweet rate, too. Tweets that contain links have an 86% higher retweet rate than linkless tweets.


Tweets that use hashtags are twice as likely to promote brand engagement as those without. It’s every brand manager’s dream to get something to do with their brand trending on Twitter via hashtags (as long as it’s something positive).

But only about 24% of tweets monitored in Buddy Media’s analysis contained hashtags. Weird.

But the caveat (isn’t that a great word?) with hashtags is that you should only use a couple. Tweets with one or two hashtags have 21% higher engagement than those with three or more hashtags. In fact, tweets using more than two hashtags actually show a 17% decrease in engagement.

Have a focus for your Twitter account

Decide what you want to do with your Twitter account. Do you want to:

  • a) provide information to customers?
  • b) use it to offer support to customers?
  • c) advertise offers and promotions?
  • d) respond to complaints?
  • e) respond to queries?

The obvious answer is that you probably want to do all of these things. You can accomplish that with multiple Twitter accounts for your brand, with each one having a specific focus.

Once you have a focus for each one of your accounts, though, stick to that. Tweet only information that is relevant to what you’re trying to accomplish with that account.  Whoever is running your brand’s Twitter account might be thrilled about the NBA playoffs, but if your brand has nothing to do with basketball, keep that kind of stuff out of your tweets.  (More on what not to do below.)

Engagement – A simple thanks for a retweet can go a long way. And answering a query posted via Twitter goes an even longer way. Although, the cav — hold on a sec … I’ve got to visit … okay, the caution with that is that once you set a precedent for answering questions via Twitter, you will kind of be expected to do it all the time.

Social media is maybe the best way for brands to shed their reputations as monolithic entities that are near-impossible to communicate with (ever tried getting ahold of Google?), so, don’t treat it like a one-way street. There’s a ton of traffic coming right at you.

Use your fans accordingly

The people following your brand did so for a reason. They either love it, they hate it and are watching for screw ups or they want something from it (deals, contests, etc).  It’s relatively safe to assume that most followers are fans of the brand and some of those fans might even be super fans (or brand evangelists if you wanna use boring marketing terms). These are the fans who love your brand so much that they will go out of their way to tell others about it on their own. Get to know them and cozy up to them. Word of mouth still reigns supreme in marketing.


Another year, another social media platform that “revolutionizes” the way we communicate (and then usually fades away with a whimper). Companies like to hop on these pseudo-revolutionary platforms fairly quickly and they can start to add up over time. Heck, my boss is constantly asking me to test various web platforms and services and I have to gently remind him that most of them will probably be defunct in a year.

If you do have a bunch of different platforms on the go, try using a dashboard to keep track of them. Most dashboard platforms will cover the main social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ (you know Google will end up punishing us all if we don’t make Google+ happen) and some of them even include platforms like Pinterest and Lunchagram or whatever that other photo-based site is called. These tools allow you to manage all of your social media platforms from one place and do things like schedule posts and monitor brand keywords etc.  Worth checking out if you have a ton of social media platforms on the go.

What not to do

Don’t spam – There’s no need to sugar coat this. Spam sucks and we all hate it. Brands (and individuals) that spam suck. Don’t spam. Just. Don’t.

Don’t talk about your competition – Ever.

Don’t automate your Twitter account – The robots are eventually going to take over, obviously, but why hasten that along by having a soulless computer run your Twitter account? How are you going to form a relationship with your followers if you can’t even be bothered to appoint a real person to communicate with them? Customer inquiries, compliments and complaints should be individually addressed and not with an automated tweet thanking them for their comment. (This will turn someone who merely has a complaint into a raging brand hate monger mighty quickly.)

TMI ain’t cool – Your brand’s followers are following the brand, not you or whoever else is running the actual account. Refrain from posting personal updates and don’t add  personal contacts from your brand’s account. Of course you want your Twitter account to have some personality, just not necessarily yours (or Brad’s … definitely not Brad’s). The account should speak in your brand’s “voice.”

Don’t reveal company secrets on Twitter – … Because that’ll get you fired. Also, corporate spies. (You didn’t think all those followers are real people and not at least some competitors keeping tabs on your brand, did you? Oh, you did? Don’t be so naive.)

Don’t make selling the main focus – If you go into a store, you probably want someone to acknowledge you, but you probably don’t want someone to follow you around and try to sell you things constantly. Your Twitter followers, although they probably like a heads up on a good deal now and then, don’t want that either. They like your brand for who it is. Twitter isn’t really designed to be a selling medium, it’s more of a fun, cool place to hang out, monitor conversations about your brand and spy on your competition.

Ready … set … tweet!

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About Rob Swystun

A former journalist, Rob has been writing professionally since 2006 and now focuses on copy writing, website content, articles, blogging, ghost writing, editing, proofreading and public relations. Currently an Athabasca University student studying for a BA in Communications, Rob holds a Journalism Diploma from Langara College in Vancouver.




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