Want to get more retweets? We've found the key: Start tweeting about sports.
In a recent study I conducted on the social activity of Argyle's customer base, 21 of our 50 most retweeted accounts were sports-focused. For comparison, no other category had more than three accounts in the top 50. The most retweeted post in Argyle history was from an LA Lakers community site: "Steve Nash, Kobe Bryant, Ron Ron, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. That's not a bad starting five." (Hard to disagree.)
Why do accounts that post about sports get such high retweet rates? Should we really all just start tweeting about sports, or are there deeper factors at work?
Before diving into that, let me just take a moment to satisfy the budding statisticians in the audience. I'm defining the "retweet rate" of a given post as the number of retweets it got divided by the number of followers that the account has. So, if an account with 10,000 followers posts something clever and gets 100 retweets, that's a retweet rate of 100 / 10,000, or 1%.
The retweet rate for an account, then, is just the average of the retweet rates of all of its posts. And based on the data we've collected, a "typical" account has a retweet rate of .1%. So for every 1,000 followers the account has, a post receives, on average, about one retweet.
Back to the original question: what's with all these sports-related retweets? To get to the bottom of this question, we have to understand why people retweet.
Why do people retweet a post?
Many community managers make the incorrect assumption that people retweet content because they like said content. This is false. People click links that they think will be interesting. They favorite posts that they find particularly notable. But they retweet content they think will resonate with their followers.
A retweet is like retelling someone else's joke. Sure, you found the joke funny when you heard it the first time. But you're retelling it to someone new because you think they will find it funny.
When someone retweets you, they are telling their followers "Hey! You might like this!" And that begs the question: Who are your followers' followers? And do they care about your content?
Consider Your Followers' Followers
Sometimes there's a natural overlap between your followers and your followers' followers. For instance, if you really love Breaking Bad and you follow @BreakingBad_AMC, it's likely that a healthy number of your followers also watch the show. Therefore, content posted by the community managers running @BreakingBad_AMC have a very receptive group of followers' followers.
Now consider that you're the community manager for a company that makes accounting software. Your customers all have one thing in common--they're all accountants. But who follows accountants? (Yes, you're allowed to chuckle at that.) The answer is actually really simple: all kinds of people follow accountants. Their wives, kids, neighbors, friends, coworkers and golf buddies.
Get where I'm going with this? Most of their followers aren't accountants. So if you're the aforementioned accounting software's community manager, tweeting a torrid stream of accounting-related content simply won't get retweeted. You may be incredibly successful at generating clicks and favorites, but retweets will be few and far between.
Use the tried-and-true cocktail party analogy. If you were at a cocktail party and you met an accountant, the last thing he would want to talk about would be work. He'd be worried that your eyes would glaze over and you'd immediately look for a way out of the conversation. In social media, the unfollow button is incredibly close at hand at all times, so that accountant is much more likely to start a conversation about Breaking Bad, both in real life and on Twitter.
(@BreakingBad_AMC isn't an Argyle customer, so I can't run an easy report on their all-time retweet rate. But after eyeballing some of their most recent posts they're getting a retweet rate five to ten times higher than an "average" account. Hardly surprising.)
So what do I do if I sell B2B accounting software?
Many community managers will be in a similar predicament as the aforementioned accounting software community manager. So what do you do if your followers' followers don't care about your content? Some suggestions:
- Identify commonalities in your followers' followers. Many of Argyle's followers' followers are 25-40 years old, putting them solidly in the group of people who remember the 90s fondly. On a recent Friday, we created a campaign around the hashtag #90sSentence asking people what their favorite 90s-themed sentence was. These posts got a ton of retweets.
- Participate in targeted hashtag conversations. The goal of a retweet is to amplify your message, but it's not the only way to achieve this. If you regularly participate in a targeted community formed around a hashtag, your message will be seen by exactly the people you care about. Amplification achieved.
- Optimize for different metrics. While retweets are a powerful tool for some brands, it's totally valid for you to optimize your efforts for metrics such as mentions, favorites and clicks while discarding retweets as an important KPI. There's nothing wrong with admitting you're not the LA Lakers.
How many retweets does your brand get? Are you more like Breaking Bad or accounting software?
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