Back in 2006 when Brian wrote the Viral Copy report, Twitter didn’t even exist. Now Twitter is a force that any serious web publisher needs to reckon with in order to gain maximum exposure for content.
Twitter is changing the way information spreads online. Links that would have been blogged a couple of years ago are now more often shared via the micro-blogging service instead, which fundamentally changes strategy when trying to get content to spread.
Publishers can complain and wistfully wish for the good old days of blog links and Google juice, or they can adapt to the new reality Twitter represents. Getting your content “ReTweeted” on Twitter (i.e. getting people to repeat what you’ve said, usually along with a link) can drive significant quality traffic to your site, which in turn can boost your subscriber numbers.
So, how does ReTweeting happen, anyway? Well, here are the 5 factors you need to take into account when trying to get your content to spread virally on Twitter.
1. Call to Action
ReTweeting is an action you wish your readers to take, and, like any other action, the best way to persuade people to do it is to ask them to. And when a user ReTweets your content, they’re very likely to also repost your call to action, lending it their credibility and influence.
My research has shown that the word “please” occurs in ReTweets far more often than it occurs in other Tweets. A quick look at the text of the most ReTweeted Tweets in my ReTweet mapper shows that the explicit “please ReTweet” is the most common call to action and occurs in a large number of ReTweeted messages. In the interest of brevity it typically comes in the form of “please RT;” again, when your message is ReTweeted by a new user, they are in effect asking their followers to ReTweet it for them.
Other common calls to action that frequently occur in the most ReTweeted Tweets include variations of the following:
- Check out…
- Follow this person
- Please vote
- Help me
- Questions, e.g. “What do you think of…”
My research into ReTweeting as well as other forms of viral content sharing indicates that there is a window of time during which sharing occurs more often. The first few days of the business week, Monday through Wednesday, typically see more ReTweeting than Thursday, Friday and the weekend.
Time of day also seems to be important; between 9am and 6pm EST the amount of ReTweets sees a sharp increase. So if you want your content to be ReTweeted it is advisable to post it during that window.
The data also showed that almost 70% of all ReTweets contain a link. This is good news for marketers in that it demonstrates that the mechanism of ReTweeting is an acceptable way to spread your off-Twitter content, and it tells us that a link is an important ingredient to ReTweetable Tweets.
4. Social Proof
Nearly every form of viral sharing that I’ve looked into includes some form of social proof. Humans have a natural tendency toward imitation, especially of those who they assume have more or better information than themselves. The likelihood of a tweet being ReTweeted increases dramatically each time it is ReTweeted.
So one tactic to increasing your ReTweetability could be to message or otherwise persuade other users to ReTweet your content for you, in order to stimulate further organic ReTweeting. This can be especially powerful if you can get well known users to share your content, as they’ll then be lending their authority and reach to your message as well as your calls to action.
Every “social media expert” tells you that you have to “add value” in social media, and while I’ve been guilty of this a few times myself, “value” is far too nebulous a word to be considered useful advice. In the context of ReTweets, value comes in a variety of formats, and by looking at the most ReTweeted tweets I’ve been able to deduce a few common, concrete examples:
- How Tos and Instructional Content
- News, especially breaking news
- Warnings (like the DM phishing scam)
- Freebies and Contests
What about you? Have you found any other factors and tactics that seem to get your message ReTweeted?