The four keys to tweet success

A few months ago my friend Dr. Ben Hanna led an extensive statistical study to discover the optimal tweeting strategy by running matched tests of tweets over a period of weeks. He uncovered some very interesting ideas that will help you get more out of every tweet!

Tweet quality versus tweet quantity – The study looked at the relevant importance of tweeting only when you had something really interesting to pass along (quality focus) versus a strategy of tweeting with frequency to make sure your content was always in front of your audience (quantity focus). The study showed tweet quality is MUCH more important than quantity.  Tweets that provided a higher average number of clicks per tweet with a track-able link correlated to higher follower growth.

I guess this finding verifies my hunch. People who tweet on a schedule just strike me as unapproachable and disconnected.  While the study definitely verified the “quality” strategy, you still have to be in the game – average tweets/day during their testing ranged from 2.9 to 11.0.

The first words are critical – At 140 characters, tweets are like headlines and people scan them quickly.  If you want to catch someone’s eye, think like an advertising copy writer and make sure that either the main topic keywords or a number/statistic are found in the first 3-5 words.

The results also recommended against using the standard retweet style (i.e. “RT @markwschaefer: …” to start the tweet), instead shift attribution to the end of the tweet (i.e. “… via @markwschaefer”) so people can concentrate on the first words.

Quality tweets live four days — If you measure the lifespan of a tweet by the number of days on which it receives at least one click, then tweets don’t live very long. On average, tweets with a clickable link received at least one click on four separate days with a range of one day (not a very popular tweet) to 23 days (very popular content).

Optimal time between tweets – In a study examining the number of clicks on business-related tweets, the optimal space between business tweets to attract the most clicks is either 31-60 minutes or 2-3 hours. Tightly packed tweets just don’t appear to attract as much attention as tweets with more space between them. The study really couldn’t explain the bi-modal distribution. The cause of the dip in click activity for tweets between 61 and 120 minutes is uncertain.

I found this research interesting and hope it will help you hit your tweet-spot on Twitter!  Any surprises?  What do you think makes a tweet work?

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  • I think staying on topic to whatever your business represents is also important to making tweets work. I try and stay in the 80/20, business/my goofy comments ratio. I also unfollow those who tweet hundreds of times per day.
    Excellent post!

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  • Took the words right out of my keyboard on this one. Practice the 80/20 rule with tweeting.

  • And then I think of another one:

    I usually tweet my “business” stuff in the mornings of both the U.S. and Europe (so I schedule a few tweets to run at 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. their time.), and I keep my humor for later in the day when I think people like the break – they want a little humor.

    So far that seems to work for me.

  • It has always been advocated not to write full 140 characters after a short tweet research. With abundance of information comes scarcity of attention. Two need arises from scarcity: Filtering and Discovery.

    As users are both content generator and consumer, it is important for the tweets to be interesting to be comsumed/RT often.


  • Great stuff Mark. I love hearing about these types of studies. It seams to me like I’ll have to tweak my tweeting strategy

  • Hi Mark – what say you about real-time conversations in your Twitter stream?

    I mean, there typically are no links on these and many times the conversation can be rather irrelevant to the entire community.

    Having said that as well, I don’t typically follow Twitter streams with no interaction/ conversations in them… even if the bio strikes me as interesting – it’s like the person isn’t interested in conversing with anyone, or hasn’t quite discovered the value of Twitter yet.

    Like you, I’m involved in a robust business, marketing, PR, social community… What’s your strategy?

  • Kath

    We tweet for brands and businesses at Bright Stuff Communications, and this is a great post that really resonated. We always go for quality not quantity in terms of followers too, and create tight strategies based around key influencers and business objectives. We also make it a point never to schedule tweets; it’s not authentic, and does a brand no favours. A content and digital strategists, we also create recommendations for times of tweets based on our insight and understanding of our followers.

    One other piece of advice we give to our clients is to remember that it’s essential to develop a Twitter tone of voice in their brand guidelines. Many companies still do not have their social media tone and approach to imagery etc outlined in their guidelines, which can lead to inconsistency and off-brand messaging, especially when multiple users are tweeting on behalf of a brand or business.

  • This is superb advice. Thank you so much for taking the time to share it!

  • Hey Mark! The research that Ben did was pretty limited in its focus but still useful I think. Actually, I know of know stasticially-valid research that looks at conversations and interactions. There is an implied measurement in some of theses Twitter Grader or Klout scores but I don’t know how you would dissect these algorithms to find anything measningful. Your question is excellent, especially as it pertains to a business account and I’ll have to give it some more thought! Thanks for the thought-provoking question!

  • Yes, I believe this makes common sense. In other words, “Tweet unto others as you would like to be tweeted to!!” : )

    Thanks for contributing today Rakesh.

  • That is simply awesome advice. I love those ideas! I don’t schedule my tweets for the international crowd but many do successfully. Aaron Lee is a best practice in this regard. He works hard to do this right and gives the appearance of engaging 24 x 7.

    Wonderful advice Paul!

  • Perfect advice Samantha. Much appreciated!

  • It would be cool if everybody followed these practices. The Twitterstream would be a lot more pleasant for everybody! : ) Glad it helped Dino!

  • I think I like tweets about blog posts or articles over a sales pitch…though sales pitches are ok if used sparingly…

    I really don’t like constant sales pitches, people that tweet the same thing over and over without any time between….

    …and people that constantly tweet quotes, proverbs and scriptures over & over….

    One or two here and there, ok…..but come on people…some of them must have a book of quotes opened in front of them!

  • Wow, what a great post Mark. I really appreciate these insights, they are very useful. Just out of curiosity, you don’t schedule any tweets yourself then, do you?

  • I don’t get the whole quote thing. I mean once in awhile maybe but a steady diet — comes across as a little desperate I think. Thanks!

  • I have never scheduled a tweet but I’m not against it, espcially if you are trying to establish an audience in far-off time zones. As I mentioned below, @AskAaronLee is a best practce in this regard. Thanks for your question Leon.

  • I came to the same conclusions about a year ago. This is not a brag, but it is a confirmation. For me too. Thanks.

    Keep on sharing your insights.

    Kind regards,
    Stan Faryna

  • Personally, I don’t think Aaron sleeps.

  • Cool. Thanks for sharing today Stan.

  • Interesting. I’m not surprised about the quality v. quantity thing. That’s another thing that disturbs me about Klout. I’ve noticed that when my tweeting becomes less frequent my Klout score goes down. However, if I know that I’m going to be tweeting less, I work hard to provide links to valuable blog posts and information. Shouldn’t that be more valuable?

    The RT thing I also agree with. When I first started tweeting I always started every tweet with an @ sign or RT. Not only does this cut down on valuable character space, but as my friend Maya pointed out, if you open a tweet with an @ you’re really just replying to that person.

    The thing I’m scratching my head about is the time thing. That seems to fly in the face of promotion more than one time a day. I know that my traffic to my blog increases on days when posts get mentioned more than once. I’ll have to keep an eye on that.

    Thanks for the post!

  • I usually tweet out a new blog post twice, once in ther moning and once in the afternoon. Then I might tweet it out a few days later and find that gets a lot of new traction too. That would actually make an interesting study on its own, wouldn’t it? Thanks Marjorie!

  • Yeah, it would be interesting to take posts with very similar content and see how they do, or maybe get several people to riff on the same subject.

    The thing that you wouldn’t be able to control is retweets though. And with the new Twitter and the Twitter clients I’ve been using, I’m finding it really hard to track who exactly is RTing things.

    Anyway, yeah. Time is a very interesting topic in regards to Twitter, all the way around 🙂

  • Hurray for quality!!! I’ve long considered part of my value the fact that I read posts/articles and only retweet what I think is of good value to my followers. I feel so validated!!! Excellent info on the headline and RT structure, too. Boy, we’re already down to 140 characters and a pretty scannable structure with Twitter, and people still need it shorter!

    I’m going to add this data to my living document of tweet/posting best practices. Thanks, Mark!

  • Helen Brown

    As someone relatively new to using Twitter to connect with clients and keep up with the latest in my industry, this is really useful advice. Thanks for sharing it, Mark. I wonder if tweets get read/clicked more on a particular day or if tweeting at a particular time of day makes any difference.

  • Here is an extensive report with Twitter data that answers your questions. Hubspot usually does a good job with their research, however intuitively some of the findings don;t seem to match my experiences:

  • Great Neicole. Glad this helps!

  • Helen Brown

    Thanks, Mark!

  • I’d love to see the results of that one, Mark!

  • Anonymous

    I would have never guessed about the optimal time between tweets but what constitutes a business tweet and does it mean they can be grouped with non-business tweets? My assumtion has always been to group a few together at a time but too many will cause them to be tuned out.

  • @Johnny, that’s something I am cognizant of. Too many tweets one after another is one of the key things that makes me unfollow people.

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  • Agree with you Jon. Too many grouped together seems like it’s programmed or something.

  • I’ve had the same experience Marjorie. Klout frustrates me. Does Klout want me to tweet just for the sake of tweeting?

    Mark – I am trying out this RT formula. I will let you know if I have success!

  • That’s what it seems like from my limited checking of my profile (as in maybe 1x a week). I just don’t have the time to have klout, I guess 🙂

  • I don’t know if high Klout is compatible with good tweeting, but since we don’t know the formula, we may never know for sure. A very interesting topic though!

    Will be interested to know how it goes Jenn!

  • It does make sense to time your tweets with different content theme to get maximum kick out of it.

    Additionally being located in India, I sometimes time my tweets for US/UK timezone to get replies and right expose to links as the lifetime of tweets are very less before it gets buried under latest timeline.

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  • Thanks for mentioning me Mark 🙂

  • I do sleep! LoL! just odd hours. I just got up at 3am (now)

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing this info. I’m still trying to figure twitter out. 🙂

    Please feel free to stop by: Trailing After God

  • I checked out your blog and am very impressed. Powerful stuff.

    I have not made a big splash about this, but I do have a new book out to help people figure out Twitter. I am quite sure it can help you get up to speed very rapidly. It’s available here:

    I think Twitter and blogging success go hand in hand so this is probably an important channel for you to develop. Thanks for stopping by Melinda!

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  • Mentioned your post here in my Get More Twitter ReTweets post:


  • Ayan_jama

    Before this post I was one of those annoying Twitter users that people talk about. I would tweet about the knots in my hair and blisters on my feet… (Yes, gross I know) However your article pulled me out of that funk and now I feel like a Twitter queen! Your advice is on point when you explain the importance of making the first words you tweet count. As a magazine major I have learned that without a catchy headline, you will not get anywhere so I was able to relate to this entirely. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Glad it helped. Look forward to your new and improved tweets!

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  • Mark,
    Thank you for this post. I am trying to better understand how I can use Tweeting to establish an online community for my Tribe, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Your insight has helped. Also, I fully credited you for this when I blogged it.
    Again thank you,
    Andy Jenness

  • Thanks Andy. If you are just trying to figure Twitter out, you might also find this useful:

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  • Great post and some really interesting insights. As someone who is just getting started with my twitter campaign this is very useful!

  • I’ve started tweeting for work and sometimes scheduling is unavoidable. Any ideas on the ‘ideal’ time to send out tweets?

  • The research I have seen consistently points to sending out tweets during business hours, presuming that most of your followers are in your time zone. I usually tweet in the morning and then after work, but I guess I’m not normal! Great to hear from you Sarah!

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