I love Twitter. And yet for the past five years, despite having an active account with plenty of clever things to say, I have had roughly the same number of active Twitter followers from the very beginning: zero. I don't want to sound ungrateful, but generally one expects social media to feel less isolated and more, heaven forbid, social.
Thankfully, I have data to help me understand why my Tweets have fallen on deaf ears. Whether it's an accident on Twitter's part or not, I've been receiving engagement analytics for each of my Tweets, and now that I've been collecting this data since December I thought I'd extrapolate some patterns that might be useful in rethinking how I use Twitter. You may also find something useful in my observations.
1. Compliment people and validate their feelings.
Every once in a while I'll @mention someone I follow to let them know that I like their work. I don't expect anything in return, I just want them to feel good for having improved my life in some way. These tweets tend to engage not only the people I'm mentioning, but also their followers. They're how I've gotten nearly all of my favstars. Not something I would have guessed when I posted these tweets (I was just being nice), but now that I'm looking at the charts, it makes sense. People like feeling good about themselves.
2. Don't be snarky in @mentions.
A little bit of salt goes a long way on Twitter, and it goes absolutely nowhere when those people aren't your friends. Don't try to be clever and snarky when @mentioning someone you follow. What might be considered as friendly banter in person with your close acquaintances easily comes across as mean and insensitive to strangers.
3. Talk about things that are relevant.
The engagement here isn't tremendous, but it's more than zero. Live tweeting gets a decent amount. Anticipation tweets are even better. Also, and it pains me to say this, but it's better to share your opinion on the matter than to share what information you actually know. Even though saying that goes against some of my strongest moral principles, the data doesn't lie. Speaking of which...
4. "Adding value" is a vague and useless concept. Aim for something else.
You've probably heard the adage that everything you post should be adding value to your followers. I like to the think that's true, but what does it really mean? What is "value"? I've tried injecting that "value" into my tweets by clarifying, qualifying, and expounding relevant news items, but the engagement has always been pitifully poor. I don't know how to fix that, but I do know how I want to be perceived online, and that means being both helpful and entertaining. It's possible that being one without the other, or focusing on one more than the other, is leading to my disappointing performance as a "value" adder. I'm guessing, here, but the solution may be to try tweeting about the same thing multiple times from completely different angles. Does that add "value"? I don't know. We'll see.
Anyway, those are my observations. The fact that they resemble a four step plan is completely coincidental. At some point in the future I'd like to follow up on this, because it's nice to see how people's ideas change after testing them in the real world.