Baiting Your Hook for Retweets

by | Nov 21, 2011 | Blog, Blog Archive, Multi-Channel Marketing | 0 comments

Any avid fisherman will tell you that to catch anything, you need the right bait.  Twitter is a lot like fishing:  to get noticed by the mass of fish swimming by in the Twitter stream, you need the right bait.  Step one is deciding what you want to catch.

Are you angling for retweets, clicks, or followers? If it’s followers you’re after, you need to dangle attractive bait over time, and you need to tailor your bait specifically to your audience by using the words and phrases that attract them.  Clicks, of course, depend on giving someone just enough information to make them want more.

Retweets are different.  Retweets are contagious ideas communicated through a single media (Twitter).  So the bait has to be good enough that someone will share it with their friends (followers) – often without doing more than glancing at it themselves.

So how do you help your ideas become epidemics? There isn’t a single formula that’s
guaranteed to work.   One of the most common strategies to get more retweets is to get more followers.  More followers will automatically result in more retweets, right?  It turns out that isn’t a very good predictor of retweeting.

Some of the most followed users on Twitter – celebrities and news industry pundits –
don’t get retweeted nearly as often as you’d expect given the size of their followers.  One reason may be that the followers know that they’re part of a special interest group who are interested in a single topic or celebrity – everyone they know who’s interested in that topic is already part of the group, and the other people who follow them on Twitter aren’t interested in that topic or celebrity, so there’s no reason to retweet.

Another common tactic for retweets is simply to ask people to retweet content.  It turns out that the phrase “Please retweet”, “Please RT” and “RT Please” are among the most retweetable phrases on Twitter.

Here are some statistics that Dan Zarrella reported back in 2009 in his paper “The
Science of Retweets”.

  • 18.96% of all tweets contain a link, but three times that many retweets – 56.69% include a link.
    The shorter the link, the more likely it is to be retweeted.  This means that,, and links are all more retweetable than TinyURL links.
  • Novelty – that is tweets that contain words that aren’t found often in tweets around the same time – is important in retweets.  In a random Tweet sample, Zarella found each word 89.19 other times – while in his retweet sample, each word was found 16.37 times.
  • 97.55% of retweets contain some form of punctuation, and use longer words and better grammar than tweets that aren’t retweeted.

In 2009, Zarella found that Friday and Monday were the days when the most retweets happened, and that the most retweetable times were between 3 p.m. and midnight.  That may be changing now, as more and more working adults are spending an increasing amount of time on social networks before work (between 6 and 9 a.m.) and on weekends (especially on Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings), as they “catch up on their homework” before heading back to the office.  So test your own audience by dropping your retweet bait at different times.

Twitter retweets are the most common kind of contagious content that gets shared via social media, but it’s not the only viral content that multi-channel marketers can use to deliver a message to a larger audience.  For more tips and techniques on creating contagious content that helps you expand your audience, download the presentation from our recent webinar on creating viral content.

Graphic credit:  David Berkowitz made this graphic available on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.