When your average tweet engagement is around eight, then all of a sudden something goes viral, naturally as an agency we want to know why, what we can learn from it and most importantly, how it can be replicated. When it comes to Social Media, we know, we're total geeks!
Meet Andy, our MD and ruler of all things 10Yetis. This exact situation happened to him just last week. His early morning tweet displayed a picture of his daughter’s plait that he had beautifully crafted for the first time. A nostalgic moment in itself, but this went on to gain a whopping 1,931 likes, 81 comments and 62 retweets to date (not to mention the subsequent spike in web traffic as his handle is @10Yetis). So here we are now, about to dive into the depths of the Twitter algorithm in order to unleash the secrets of how to maximise performance on this channel.
First things first, this is Andy’s tweet in all its glory. Day and timing were fairly standard, a regular Tuesday morning at 07:40 to be precise. There were no hashtags or paid activity boosting discoverability and impressions, just pure organic Twitter love.
Have a scroll through Andy’s life as it is laid out on Twitter and you will see that work and play fuse into one. This man lives for the Yetis, and naturally, he loves to tell the world all about it. Through sharing quality content consistently throughout the years, it has led to him building up his social presence and developing a credible profile. In the same way you wouldn’t necessarily trust that little pop-up shop claiming to sell ‘genuine’ goods that’s there one minute and gone the next, Twitter thinks much the same when it comes to its users and rewards regular tweeters with greater placement.
Furthermore, because Andy readily engages with his users, creating valuable two way conversations, this displays further signals that he is a valuable community member. It’s members like this that Twitter holds dear as they are the lifeblood that make the social media channel what it is. Second Twitter algorithm tick. Love Twitter, nurture it and care for it the way you would your grandmother and it will love you back.
If you’re a long term Twitter user, you will also know that posting native images and videos will organically boost the performance of your tweet. Why? Because Twitter knows that attention spans are dwindling with the rise of the Millennial and post-Millennial generations. They (we 😉) have grown up in age where information is readily available in easily digestible formats and Twitter wants to ensure that they are staying with the times. Aside from the fact that the photo is super cute, which we all know is a fantastic way to captivate the attention of cat loving, baby cooing communities far and wide; this equates to a third tick for Andy as Twitter’s algorithm rewards his media choice as another indicator of quality content. Now, that doesn’t mean to say that all your tweets should feature media and text only tweets should be forgotten. Variety is still very much the spice of life and Twitter still wants you to mix it up here and there.
This leads us onto our fourth point. Have you noticed that if you switch up the subject or the type of media you share, Twitter rewards you with increased impressions too? In Andy’s case, as varied as the content is that he posts, he rarely posts about his children. Not only was Andy’s tweet different in subject, but most of his tweets usually consist of text only, or silly Gifs that leave him sniggering in the corner. So, posting a native image, that is different from his usual media types gives him another round of applause from Twitter for mixing it up. Nice one Andy.
Our next point will likely come as no surprise. Twitter loves to keep people engaged on its platform and because of the nature of Andy’s tweet and the pure fact that he simply wanted a pat on the back from fellow Twitter users, there was no need for any external links. The result? No penalisation from deterring Twitter users away to other apps or sites. Algorithm point 5, check.
Further ranking signals which boost tweet performance relate to the responses generated from the community engaging with the tweet. One of these factors includes how much time people are spending reading through your post. As Andy’s tweet would be considered long form with 273 characters (almost at the 280 limit there Andy!) people would be pausing for longer periods of time mulling over his content. This is another indicator to Twitter that your tweet is engaging. As a credible piece of content, it maximises peoples experience using the platform and therefore should be promoted to naturally increase impressions by the algorithm.
The final factor, and one we’ve saved for last, is what we believe to be the main reason for Andy’s tweet success. Each engagement contributes to an overall tweet quality score, which is interpreted by the Twitter algorithm as to how well the tweet is performing. Likes = one point; replies = two points and retweets = three points. With each engagement, Andy’s tweet not only had gained visibility from further communities connected by people engaging, but the algorithm is tracking the quality score of the tweet using this points based system. Within a short space of time, Andy’s post had attracted more engagements than he usually would have; giving him a high quality score. This signalled to Twitter that the tweet was potentially something worth sharing to a larger audience, so it boosted the impressions by sharing among a larger audience. When those people also engaged at an above average rate, another signal was fired and Twitter opened up the metaphorical gates by displaying his tweet on areas of interest (found on the Twitter App, beneath What’s Happening). We suspect that Andy’s tweet likely appeared as an update for those interested in PR and other relevant areas which Andy regularly shares updates on. This exposure would have been significantly bigger than usual and hence the traction gained. The more visibility with high quality content, the more engagement you are likely to receive. The more engagement, the more visibility you get. The two go hand in hand, hence the start of posts gaining traction and if you’re lucky, going viral.
There are many factors that contribute to your tweet’s performance and we have tried to include a number of the most significant algorithm signals which contribute to this. The rule of thumb is to create quality content and use the Twitter platform as it intends you to. No surprises there really, Twitter rewards you for using it as it wants.
Have you got any tips and tricks to ensure your tweets get the impressions and engagement they deserve? Feel free to comment!
Want to know more about Social Media Algorithms? We've also written a blog on Facebook Algorithm updates. Check it out!