6 Research-Backed Ways to Get More Followers on Twitter, Facebook, G+, and More

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Follower count is often considered one of the vainest of vanity metrics. I can relate. I’ve had my fair share of ego tied to that golden number on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn—pointing out my follower growth to a friend one day and archiving emails just as fast as I could when growth doesn’t come.

Still, despite the vanity, there is value in follower count. While it seems like a smug number to chase, followers have a proportional impact on how far and wide your message spreads and the volume of how you convert.

I think the best bit of advice on followers I’ve read is from our co-founder Leo:

Quality is key. Quantity can’t be forgotten.

Follower count is one of the metrics we keep a close eye on with our social media reports and audits. There is a lot of great advice on how to grow your followers on social media (much of which I’ll relay below), and at Buffer we’ve always been interested in the research behind the advice. How, specifically, can you increase your followers? Which actionable tactics can you take today to grow your follower numbers? 

I went looking for data—and I think I found a few good answers.

Get more followers, clicks, and engagement by sharing to social media sites at the right times! Schedule your first post today!

get more followers

10 tried-and-true bits of advice on follower growth

Before we get into the research-backed methods for growing your followers, I wanted to start off with some best practices for follower growth. You’re likely to come across these ideas when you’re searching for social media tips or reading up on how someone got the followers they did.

Here are the Big 10: 

  1. Post great content
  2. Write a professional bio
  3. Use hashtags
  4. Place a widget on your blog
  5. Engage with others
  6. Make sure your content is shareable
  7. Reshare other people’s content
  8. Reach out to influencers
  9. Stay active
  10. Follow other users

 

Get More Followers

There’s lots of really good advice here on what works and what doesn’t in terms of adding followers. These strategies are really good for consistent growth of your followers, and most of the advice you’ll read—How I Went From Zero to 380,000 Followers and Twitter Tips From a Marketer with 200K Followers—will be variations on many of these bullet points.

You may have noticed that there is no single, simple hack to get more followers. I’m afraid there’s no switch to flip to get the followers flowing. I’ve seen firsthand that the above tactics do work for building your follower count, so long as you can remain patient, determined, and consistent.

But while there’s no magic bullet for getting more followers, there is at least a good deal of research that can take you down the right path and ensure that your efforts are not in vain. Looking for a surefire way to gain more followers? There’s a good blueprint in this data.

Informers vs. Meformers: The key to getting 2x more followers

Are you an informer or a meformer?

Researchers at Rutgers University found that only 20 percent of us are informers on social media, while the other 80 percent are meformers. What exactly is a meformer?

  • Meformers — Users who post social media updates mostly relating to themselves
  • Informers — Users who post updates that are mostly information-sharing

The Rutgers team ended up creating the term “meformer” after analyzing data from a sampling of Twitter accounts. Their analysis, based on patterns of usage along with tweet and follower data, found a clear divide between those who share information and those who share about themselves.

And how does this relate to followers?

Informers had more than two times the followers of meformers.

It would seem that sharing information on social media is better for your follower count than sharing about yourself.

How can you tell which cluster you fall into—informer or meformer? The research study included an interesting breakdown of the classification of tweets. Researchers rated a sample of tweets and assigned a category to each. Overall, there were nine major categories that were used for classification. Do you recognize some of your tweets in the following examples?

9 Types of Updates

 

According to the study, 53 percent of the tweets from informers fell into the Information Sharing category, whereas 48 percent of the meformers’ tweets were Me Now.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.37.49 AM

Takeaway

Aim to boost your information sharing on social media so that you more closely align with the informer cluster rather than the meformer cluster.

Be an authority: 100+ more followers for gurus, authors, and experts

Roy Povarchik has an interesting idea about follower growth. It’s called Twitter Greatness, and it goes something like this:

The real quick way to get a bunch of people following you: Be Barack Obama. Or Katy Perry. Or Joel Gasciogne.

What do folks like these have in common? Fame, yes. But they are also creators and doers and leaders. The act of creating is what sets them apart. Povarchik went so far as to create a helpful pyramid to display the heirarchy of greatness on Twitter. You can apply this pyramid to most other social networks, too, with a few tweaks (e.g., reporting is greater on Twitter than other networks).

Twitter Greatness pyramid

Do you see yourself somewhere on this pyramid?

Of course, this interesting idea of greatness is made all the more powerful with some stats to back it up. Hubspot data scientist Dan Zarella researched the effect of authority in a Twitter bio. Have you heard variations on the theme of “don’t call yourself a guru”? Zarella found this to be false. Self-professed gurus have an average of 100 more followers than a typical Twitter user.

And it’s not just “guru.” Many different types of authoritative titles can help boost your follower count.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 9.28.58 AM

Takeaway

Create amazing things and be a leader in your industry. Then don’t forget to mention it in your bio. Terms like author, expert, founder, and official can be powerful assets to growing your followers.

Avoid bursts to keep the followers you have

You could also approach the question of getting more followers from the other side: Part of having lots of followers is knowing how to keep them.

There was an interesting study by a group of Korean researchers into the how and why of unfollowing. They looked at 1.2 million Twitter accounts and analyzed 51 days’ worth of tweets and interactions. Through analysis and interviews, they found that the following factors came into play with unfollowing:

  • Leaving too many updates within a short time
  • Posting about uninteresting topics
  • Sharing the mundane details of one’s life

The interview portion of the research study revealed the concept of “Bursts”—too many updates all at once. More than half of unfollows come as a result of bursts. (Hey, that’s pretty much why we created Buffer! If you’re losing followers because of burst, let us help—try Buffer for free!)

There are other factors at play here, too, and many of them are areas that could ring true for marketers or brands. Do any of these types of tweets hit home for you?

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.49.58 PM

Takeaway

To get a lot of followers, minimize the number of those who unfollow you. Avoid bursts by sending your updates with a scheduler like Buffer. And keep in mind other types of updates to avoid—politics, mundane topics, lack of personality, etc.

Give the people what they want: 52% of followers want special offers

If you are a brand looking for more followers on social media, it’ll help to know what your followers are after. Nielsen research conducted a study for Twitter UK back in March, revealing the top ten reasons why people follow brands.

  • 55% follow because they like the brand.
  • 52% follow for special offers or promotions.
  • 51% follow to stay up to date with news from the brand.

Among the top 10 reasons, one of the biggest themes was discounts. Reasons for following included special offers or promotions, freebies, and exclusive content. Interesting, the fact that a brand posts entertaining and useful content the seventh-most popular reason for following a brand. This would seem to indicate that there’s more to being followed than good content marketing.

why-follow-brands-twitter

Takeaway

Give things away. Twitter users love discounts and freebies, and they are likely to follow a brand to get some goods. If you can add value in this way—along with your content strategy and branding—you might see your followers grow.

The more you post, the more followers you’ll have

This one might fall under the title of  “common sense” for many of you, so it’s great to see that there’s data to back up the claim. Social media analytics company Beevolve analyzed 36 million Twitter profiles and 28 billion tweets to find the correlation between tweet frequency and twitter followers.

The results (as you might have guessed): Those who tweet more have the most followers.

Specifically:

  • A Twitter user who has sent 1 to 1,000 tweets has an average of 51 to 100 followers
  • Users who have tweeted more than 10,000 times are followed on average by 1,000 to 5000 users
  • It’s estimated that a person with more than 15,000 tweets has between 100,001 to 1 million followers.

Followers & Frequency

The big question with data like this is whether the correlation equals causation. In other words, why do people with a lot of tweets have a lot of followers? Could it really be true that tweeting 10,000 times next week will be a free pass to gaining 5,000 new followers?

I think it’s important to keep a few things in mind with this data:

Lots of tweets equals lots of activity. And the more active you are on social media (see the tried-and-true tips at the top of this article), the more likely you are to gain followers, make connections, and build relationships.

Lots of tweets equals lots of experience. As you tweet more, you get better at tweeting. This could play into your becoming a better Informer or simply iterating on tweeting formulas that work.

Lots of tweets equals longevity. It makes sense to think that that the longer you’re around on social media, the more time and opportunity you’ll have to grow your followers. Posting 10,000 updates would mean a years’ worth of 27 posts daily. You’d deserve all the followers you get at that awesome pace!

Takeaway

Post to social media often, as part of a consistent, dependable strategy. You’re bound to get better as you go, and people are going to notice and appreciate that you’re sticking around to stay connected.

(Note: One of my favorite nuggets from the Beevolve study was that the average Twitter user is an English-speaking, 28-year-old woman with about 208 followers. So if you happen to have more than 208 followers, you can feel good about being above average!)

Share positively: Happy updates correlate to more followers

The tone and voice you have on social media really does make a difference. Dan Zarrella’s research into followers—how factors like conversations, self-reference, and avatars affect follow count—touched on the topic of tone. He found that negative remarks are tied to lower follower counts.

Debbie Downer follower stats

Takeaway

Share happily. Take care to avoid coming across as sad, aggressive, angry, cynical, or morbid with your social media updates. Users notice. They’re more likely to follow a positive account than a Debbie Downer.

What strategies do you have for growing your followers?

We’ve touched on a lot of tips here for growing followers: Informers vs. Meformers, authority, bursts, freebies, frequency, and happiness. Hopefully one (or more) will be key to getting your follower count growing!

I’d love to hear from you about what has worked in the past for growing your follower base. Any tips you’d like to share? Any tactics you’re itching to try out? 

Image credits: Dan Zarrella, Beevolve, Twitter UK, Rutgers, Business 2 Community.

  • http://www.thinkgeeks4u.com Hiral Patel

    Nice Guide, its easy as 123

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Well said, Hiral! Glad you found these tips/studies to be helpful! :)

  • http://www.phidgets.com Phidgets Inc

    Thanks for this. I love the analysis of the advice, and it’s easy to see that this sort of thing has worked.

  • http://shawnimals.com/ Shawn Smith

    Really enjoying your posts! Thanks for sharing this kind of info.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks, Shawn! It’s so kind of you to say so. Glad you found it useful. :)

  • Miguel Ángel

    ¡Gracias por compartir contenido tan valioso! Saludos

  • terra100

    Awesome post! Lots of practical takeaways!

  • http://bopdesign.com/ Caroline Gilbert

    This is great!

    Has anyone found research around social media performance for a brand/company account vs. an individual account (company founder, CEO, other employees)?

    I see a lot of articles out there on “How to Get Your Employees On Social Media,” but I don’t see a lot of research/data proving its importance.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great question, Caroline! This would make a great blog post! I’ll start digging. :)

  • http://www.annaliesehenwood.com/ Annaliese

    These are great points, but I’m wondering: is there a way to distinguish
    between content “bursts” that lose followers and publishing frequently
    enough to increase them? They sound so dangerously similar. My guess is you have to find the right balance, right? Thanks for the great content, as always!

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Such a great question, Annaliese! I can see how it would be super helpful to know the line between “too much” and “just right.” We’ve done a little research on optimal post frequency before. Maybe this will help?

      http://blog.bufferapp.com/social-media-frequency-guide

  • Danielle

    Brilliant post! Great insights. I’m an informer for sure, but do need to learn to be a meformer a bit more. :-D

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Haha, I think I’m the same way, Danielle! :) There’s definitely a balance there, wouldn’t you say?

  • Agnes Dadura

    Perfectly, I would like to be a Transformer :)

  • http://www.bidnessetc.com/company/v/ Paul Steve

    Awesome write-up! Plenty of realistic takeaways!
    http://j.mp/1lW9IfT12

  • http://dannybrown.me/ Danny Brown

    The Twitter pyramid is meaningless, because it’s falling into the tired cliché of assigning value to something that can’t really be measured this way. Who’s to say those in the top half produce or promote/curate better content than those in the other half? Quality and value is in the eyes of the receiver, not a vision of what’s perceived valuable because of quantity and first to market.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Makes a lot of sense, Danny. Thanks for sharing this perspective. I can certainly see how those in the top half might not necessarily be the best accounts to follow and get by more on name and accomplishments. My takeaway from the chart is to be aware of the language you use in your bio and make the most of titles you could use to describe what you’ve done. That, and it never hurts to keep creating.

      I’m really glad you added this insight to the conversation. Would love to hear any other thoughts you might have. :)

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  • Jing Lam

    Great info for entrepreneurs!

  • http://www.glu7.com/ Larissa Hadley

    informative article for social media Experts and SMB owners I really admire the way of your writing Kevan
    http://www.glu7.com/

  • http://johnrmeese.com/ John R. Meese

    Kevan, this is a good post but it seems pretty much all the content is focused around Twitter. I feel there’s a disconnect between the content and the title, because Facebook and Google+ aren’t mentioned once beyond the first paragraph.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great point, John! I felt the same way as I was compiling the data, so I completely get where you’re coming from with this. Sorry to have misled in any way. My goal was to take the learnings from these studies and make them general enough so as to apply to any social network. Not all will work as 1:1 replacements. Hopefully some do. I’d love to hear which ones (if any) you think might have multi-network appeal!

  • webmaster403

    Content was excellent.

    I have so many people I follow on Google Plus, but unfortunately, few people tend to follow me around.
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  • Tyler Longman

    Or post cash in envelopes around San Francisco. Over 150,000 followers in a week!

  • Bevon Scarlett

    Thanks for sharing your info it was a good read but may I ask the source of your data and also the sample size of this study and also does the findings apply to US users only or is it a global theory.

  • http://www.infinityfollowers.com/twitter/index.html Team Infinity

    You should check out the Infinity Followers for Twitter app! It is easy to use to follow more people and to get thousands of people to follow you. Plus it’s free!

    http://www.infinityfollowers.com/twitter/index.html

  • Elizabeth Lund

    Thanks! Needed this one!! Great info

  • http://www.thehappycreations.co.uk/ The Happy Creations

    Thanks for the post Kevan:)

  • http://thomcrowe.com Thom Crowe

    As always, great article Kevan and the whole Buffer team!

  • HSP

    What a great article, but you can’t create quality tweets on Twitter. Twitter is a combination of being popular on other social networks, matter of time of publication, combining text-images-media, website share with your username included and #.

    I have a 40k fan page but i still see so less traffic coming from it. Now with the new Fan page layout the analytics displays 0-views.

    However, i see a remarkable grow on Google+ and Twitter as traffic source.
    I am going to study this article and see where i can apply it on my strategy.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great point about Google+ and Twitter traffic! It’s definitely a sentiment we hear more and more. Thanks for sharing!

  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ Davina K. Brewer

    This does seem pretty Twitter-focused, and in that light ‘more’ isn’t always better. The strategy behind pursing ‘more’ is that you’ll reach more of the people you want to, need to; and more of the people who reach and ‘influence’ those people. And Danny’s right, could be anyone. Is the target.. are they the average user, who’s only posting about themselves and only following brands for the deals? is your target a biz prospect, treating SM like a chore b/c they gotta be seen, so they autobot tweets of noise all day and never looks at the stream?

    Quality, informing and entertaining vs. self-promotion, personality are a given. I think brand’s strategy should focus as much as what they can bring to SM for their key audiences, as well as for themselves. Which I think takes more than ‘optimal time of day’ and target ratios of how often you tweet. Balance yes, but give then current climate of the platforms, how over and frankly underwhelmed everyone is by most SM content.. less (better quality) is more. FWIW.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Thanks so much for adding to the conversation here, Davina! I love this perspective. Target audience is a great consideration to make when you’re deciding whether to push resources toward gaining more followers. Thanks for the reminder. :)

  • http://www.SurvivingTheAmericanDream.org Bill Joyce

    There seems to be a category of Social Media Professionals that are very active and share and follow one another. That behavior is hard to use to guide social efforts for other fields. I’m a real estate Broker in California and I want to talk to regular people that live in the Sacramento area. Most ordinary people (homeowners) have varying levels of interest in a constant stream of how to buy and sell a home information.

    • http://about.me/socialjeremy Jeremy Brown

      Hey Bill, if you need help using social to reach people in Sac, give me a shout: jeremybrown1535@gmail.com.

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      That’s an excellent distinction to make, Bill. It’s really useful to hear how Twitter demographics affect you and your efforts. I’ll keep my eyes out for some different types of social studies that could be helpful. Cheers! :)

  • Guest

    Great detailed post thanks!

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  • Guest

    Great detailed post thanks, some good pointers and statistics, the high percentage of users who follow for offers is interesting.

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  • Guest

    Great detailed post thanks, some good pointers and statistics, the high percentage of users who follow for offers is interesting.

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  • http://touch.st/ Touch.

    Great detailed post thanks, some good pointers and statistics, the high percentage of users who follow for offers is interesting.

    MadeByTouch.

  • http://thetravellinglindfields.blogspot.com.au/ thetravellinglindfields

    If nothing else, you can almost guarantee that anyone who reads this article will share it – lol. Some great tips – thanks.

  • Next Chapter

    Kevan, , thanks for this article. It will be a significant help for people who are starting, or trying to grow, their business by understanding what has more chance of working to build their followers and their brand. Thanks again, we will use this at Next Chapter to help share the knowledge.

  • Amit Sharma

    This is a great compilation of advice for posting on Twitter. However, when you combine all the advice, it is unclear what is beneficial for a particular Twitter user.
    E.g. 52% love to get freebies, but 44% also want to know about new products as per the Nielsen study.

    Second is the problem of mixing up correlation and causation. Users could have more followers because they tweet more, or they could be tweeting more because of their increasing audience. Due to the way most studies collect Twitter data, there is a natural bias towards sampling those with more followers.

    Third is that these studies almost always do not control for the context of a particular twitter user. E.g. finding that tweets with a hashtag get retweeted more says nothing about the relative difference in content between tweets with and without a hashtag. It does not necessarily imply that adding a hashtag to *your* tweet (at the expense of extra information or a rephrasing) will increase its popularity.

    The most accurate piece of advice, is perhaps also the most vague: “quality is key, quantity can’t be forgotten” (your first quote)

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Great points, Amit! I think you’re spot on with all of these. Thanks for the added perspective. Generally-speaking, I think my takeaway from reviewing these studies is that there are several interest aspects of follower growth that might be worth trying. Like you said, following each and every might lead to some contradictions; I’d probably try to test a few out that feel like a good fit for my audience and then iterate from there. Thanks again for the comment!

  • http://delessentials.com Charlotte V Nash

    Kevan Lee Awesome post great articles and info. Kevan thanks so much the info will help me greatly with my attaining more followers.

    Content crafter

  • Claire

    Can you make these awesome articles printer friendly????

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      So sorry to trouble you with this, Claire! I’ll make a note of the printer-friendly problems on the blog. Definitely want to get that fixed up for you. :)

  • Noel

    This is a really helpful post Kevan especially for new bloggers like myself. Had a lot of takeaways with this one. Thanks!

  • Victoria Ipri

    Very engaging article, Kevan. Great food for thought in the comments as well. I’m with Annaliese…somewhat confusing, but not beyond figuring out. Why is it that LinkedIn is never (rarely) included in these types of studies? There are certainly tons of Home page status updates posted, and now the new Publishing Platform, along with group discussions, Company and Showcase page updates…is it because they limit access to the analytics?

  • http://brilliant-insane.com/ Mark Barnes

    One of the best Twitter posts I’ve ever read. Thanks for this powerful research and insightful commentary.

  • DrewRL

    This lines up with my experience – the Twitter account I primarily run right now (@FierceGentleman) is the Official twitter of a men’s social movement. The content is 99% uplifting and inspirational and I use Buffer and Twuffer almost exclusively to schedule good content.

    I’ve tweeted just over 900 times and have about 330 followers. I notice my follower count climbs rapidly (often up to 10 new followers per day) as I increase tweets per day, up to about 6 tweets / day.

  • http://www.youthmakingchange.blogspot.com/ Jen Ehidiamen

    Thanks for this insightful piece! I am definitely going to be sharing the link with my colleagues at work. Keep it up!

  • Jack McDoughe

    In other words, a scientific study on how to strategically add your pointless opinions and status updates to the rest of the mindless chattering minions on Twitter and other social snotworks. It’s like telling people what color shoes, socks and underwear to wear to someone’s birthday party so that they can be the most popular person in the room. Then again, I am often guilty of forgetting how desperately some people need social media validation to escape from the soulcrushing banality and boredom of their daily existence. I suggest all of you just paint hashtags on your foreheads. How’s that for “personal branding strategy”?

    Put down those smartphones, go out and get real lives, and stop being such social media attention whores.

    • http://www.shawnandrews.net Shawn Andrews

      Somebody has some anger issues…

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  • priyansha_ranaut

    Very informative article Kevan. Thanks for sharing.. There was definitely some value addition! :)

  • OwnStLucia

    Great article, excellent insight and reminders of what grows a twitter following faster and more successfully. I think the key is to listen, engage and learn. Listening allows you to know your followers interests and what type of content they respond to and engage with better. Engagement helps you to listen and learn and to enable trends create 2 way communication and open avenues for more sharing. Learning allows you to respond quickly to the noticeable trends in social media and in your niche and to be flexible and responsible so that you tweak and adapt your strategy to better connect with your followers and potential followers.

  • Frans Mahieu

    Excellent post Kevan. I would like to see something as thorough for Facebook. Anyone knows
    a good blog post on that?

  • EL

    Thanks! I am an app developer. For me it is also important to better understand if the effort is worth it. How will I be able to convert those followers to installs… I saw this course about Twitter for mobile app marketers in http://www.appgo2market.com, but Where I can see data about conversion rates, when you promote your tweets to your followers, for free.

  • http://jasoncortel.com/ Jason Cortel

    This was a good article with a multitude of suggestions. What are your thoughts on Twitter’s following to follower ratio? Do you think it contributes to the despised purchasing of fake followers?

    • http://blog.bufferapp.com Kevan

      Ah, good one Jason! I’d imagine that the following/follower ratio plays into people’s desire to purchase followers. It’s quite the vanity metric! Do you have a leaning one way or another on this?