How the Founder of Buffer Tweets: The System and 5 Types of Tweets to Keep Your Followers Engaged

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Our CEO Joel recently changed the way he thinks about sharing on Twitter, and I really like his new approach. And if you just take a brief glance at his Twitter account, you’ll what an engaged following Joel was able to build over the past. Fortunately, I could just go ahead and ask him about the changes he made and the system he uses, which I thought of sharing with all of you today here.

And just a glance at the stats below, that we pulled in through the Buffer for Business analytics tool, show that it’s working out alright for him, as he garners regularly more than 1,000 clicks/day and dozens of retweets for his account, so there must be something to learn here:

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.18.35 AM

 (Photocredit: Buffer for Business analytics)

His Tweets regularly even outperform the ones posted on the @buffer Twitter account, which, at around 162,000 have roughly 6-7 times the following of Joel’s at 25,000 followers.

When I took a quick glance over his analytics, it’s incredibly interesting to see which system Joel applies to keep his Buffer full and post a steady stream of content:

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.19.14 AM

Ok, enough of the introductions, let’s dig in and see how Joel’s approaching his Twitter account and what we could learn from it

The 5 types of Tweets Joel posts

One of the biggest changes Joel made is simply in the way he thinks about the individual Tweets he posts. He identified five main types of Tweets that we all post:

  1. Links
  2. Images
  3. Quotes
  4. Retweets
  5. Questions or comments of your own

Here’s an example of each one. Now, let’s pay special attention to the formatting Joel uses here, as he’s very specific about each of them:

Link Tweets – Format for consistency

Joel always puts his links at the end of each Tweet, to add consistency. He sometimes uses the headline of the article, but often chooses a particular quote from inside the article instead (you can do this with Buffer, like so), like this one below:

Image Tweets – Show value without having to click through

Glancing at Joel’s image Tweets, the first lesson we can learn is that he tries to use images that offer value to his followers without needing to click-through. With Twitter’s new inline image previews, that can drive up to 150% more retweets, this seems to be a great way to encouragement engagement since your followers don’t need to leave their timeline to see your pictures.

Joel also tries to add a caption related to the image every time, rather than just adding a standard article headline, especially when sharing a blog post.

 

Quote Tweets – Quotation marks matter

When sharing quotes, Joel always uses quotation marks to make it clear he’s quoting someone else. He also adds attribution after each quote, and when possible, uses the author’s Twitter handle, like this:

 

Retweets – Pick people that match your style

Joel’s Retweets normally come from his carefully curated Twitter lists of people who focus on similar topics to himself, such as startup founders, Buffer team members and Buffer investors or advisors. Scheduling your retweets is also a particularly good technique as it allows you to engage with more people, without flooding your followers.

Joel’s found this to be a good way to build or strengthen relationships with others and to show appreciation for their content.

joel-retweet

Question Tweets – Lowest frequency, with great results

Keeping questions or conversation-starters simple is important for Twitter. Your followers need to be able to answer within 140 characters.

For Facebook, asking questions has often proven to increase engagement dramatically. Joel tries to be quite specific with his questions to make them easier to answer, such as this one below:

 

 

Now when Joel adds new Tweets to his Buffer queue, he thinks about the type of each one, and how we wants to use those types to add variety to his Twitter account. Joel’s found a good balance between these by working with a sharing ratio.

joel-fullbuffer

 

The system behind Joel’s Tweets: How to find your own sharing ratio

Currently, Joel works with a 4:1 sharing ratio. His “staple” type of Tweet is a link, like this one:

 

For every four of these (roughly), Joel adds something different: an image, a Retweet, a quote.

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.17.08 AM

Now, Joel posts 8 times in total per day, with the following schedule that has worked the best for him (these times are in PST):

Screen Shot 2014-01-08 at 8.19.56 AM

Here’s how to find your own sharing ratio:

1. Choose your “staple” Tweet

Depending on how you use your Twitter account and your personal preferences, your staple Tweet could be any of the five types. You might like to share pictures most of the time, or your own questions and comments to encourage discussion. Choose whatever works for you to be your staple Tweet type.

2. Set up your Buffer account for consistency

You can post your Tweets manually, of course, but Buffer’s pre-set queue makes it really easy. Joel’s queue is set to post once every three hours, so he tweets eight times per day. This means he’s consistently active on Twitter, without overwhelming his followers.

If you haven’t got one yet, you can sign up for a Buffer account here. You can also use Followerwonk to choose the best times to tweet based on when your followers are online.

3. Add variety

Again, your ratio may vary from Joel’s, but 4:1 is a good place to start. So for every four staple Tweets you send, add a different type. You can use Buffer’s shuffle updates feature or hit “send to top” to reorganise your queue.

You can easily see what types of Tweets you’ve added to Buffer with the icons in your queue and on the analytics page:

joel-icons

Joel’s 3 best tips for finding great content to share

I asked Joel to share some tips from his own process of finding and sharing great content consistently. Here are a few of the things he does:

1. Find great people to follow

Joel finds most of the blogs and Twitter accounts he follows from reading Hacker News and catching up on Twitter. Something he’s been doing more of lately is going to the source of each great post he reads and reading through the latest 3-4 posts on that blog. This helps him to discover new blogs and people to follow.

2. Keep RSS to a minimum

Joel manages his RSS feeds really carefully. He splits his feeds into just two categories: startups and life. Each blog that he subscribes to has to meet two criteria: consistently high-quality content, and a low frequency of publishing. This means that Joel can share almost everything he reads in Feedly, because it’s all high quality and interesting.

3. Use Twitter lists

Joel’s using Tweetbot which has a neat feature that lets you use a Twitter list as your timeline. This means he can have a carefully curated list of less than 100 people who all post interesting, high-quality content on Twitter as his timeline. He also has specific Twitter lists based on his interests, like a Buffer team list and a list of startup founders.

Joel also went ahead and wrote a full article just about how he goes finding content, I think there’re a few more gems in there for you.

It’s incredibly interesting to see how Joel’s system of Tweeting works and I’ll be sure to try an adaption for my own account. What about you? Do you have a certain way of posting Tweets regularly? Would love to hear about your approach to Tweeting in the comments below!

PS: We’ve recently launched the new Buffer for Business for a better way to handle your social media, with powerful new analytics, I hope it might be useful for you!

As a follow-up post to this one, you might also like “My 5 secrets to sharing great content 15 times a day” and “How Twitter’s new expanded images increase clicks, retweets and favorites [New data]

About the Author

Belle Beth Cooper

Belle is the first Content Crafter at Buffer and co-founder of Exist. She writes about social media, startups, lifehacking and science.

  • Belle Beth's Website →
  • mikelking

    One thing worth remembering is that CEO of relatively popular company’s generally get good results just because of who they are.

    If you want to validate this theory then you need a relatively unknown account and apply these tactics. Measure the results over time and see if they truly hold water.

    • LeoWid

      Hi Mike, thanks so much for stopping by and I completely agree! I think there’s a certain amount of goodwill that you get as the CEO, especially if you’re in the space that Buffer is in.

      I think it’ll be indeed interesting to see if we did more anonymous experiments with this system!

      • GIIPUCSC

        We’d like to volunteer for testing. First we’ll need to get us as close to Joel’s stats so we’ll need you to help us get 25k followers.

    • http://wyattchristman.com/ wyatt christman

      The beauty is how it provides a solid core to start regardless of who you are then with a bit of tweaking based on results you will have a refined setup. Of course that tweaking never ends but this is a really nice core to recommend.

  • Meg Kummerow

    Thanks for sharing Joel and Beth. While I agree with the first comment and think it would be good to look at the engagement rates before and after Joel made the change, it is definitely food for thought. Engagement is difficult across many SoMe platforms and by thinking more about the what, why and how we post we give ourselves a greater chance of obtaining meaningful conversations (buffer if for the when of course!). Thank you both.

    • mikelking

      agree an expose` of the before and after on the engagement would be useful…

  • kevinalex01

    Another EXCELLENT post BelleBeth. Great, actionable tips. Thanks!

  • Heather YamadaHosley

    A useful post chock full of information, as usual Belle! :) I already put into practice most of these guidelines, but will be even more aware of them now. Thanks for writing, Belle, and thanks for sharing stats, Joel!

  • http://www.nutspr.com/ corina manea

    Excellent post Belle Beth and really usefull. Thank you. I´ll get to work :).

  • http://www.profound-impact.com/ Julie Gray

    Great article. I am curious to know how much time Joel spends working this system each day/week.

  • http://www.ghostbloggermarie.com/ GhostbloggerMarie

    Since tweets have a very short lifespan. For this reason I’d like to tweet the same thing more than once at different times of the day. I really wish Buffer didn’t insist on making that decision for me by refusing to allow me to say the same thing more than once “/ Definitely agree on the variety – keeping it interesting all around :0) Warm Smiles

    • GIIPUCSC

      We do the same thing. Guy Kawasaki (1.39M followers) said there’s nothing wrong with tweeting the same things multiple times a day. TV and Radio shows play multiple times a day since people aren’t always available at the same times.

      We use BulkBuffer to upload all our daily 24 unique tweets into the 3 time slots we think people will be around during. That seems to work around the problem of repetition.

  • Holly Connor

    Very useful post, thank you!

  • http://bit.ly/LaqVGI RoundTable

    Great article. Thanks for the tips!

  • Karen Christian

    Great post Belle. Could you tell us how this formula would go for other social media platforms like Google Plus (my favourite), Facebook and LinkedIn. I understand every platform is different but I can see that Joel’s posting formula could work just as well for the others. How do you set up your Buffer schedules for the other platforms?

  • http://www.cloudstaff.com/ Thelma Case

    Thanks for sharing this great article. It is indeed helpful. Cheers!

  • Nicole Belanger

    Hats off to you as always, Belle! Thank you for a great post.

  • Steiner on Failure

    Belle Beth great post as always!

    I try to condense text by using headline style editing.

    For example, your linked tweet:

    How the Founder of Buffer Tweets: The System and 5 types of Tweets to Keep your Followers Engaged http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-5-types-of-tweets-to-keep-your-buffer-full-and-your-followers-engaged via @buffer

    My Retweet:

    How Buffer Founder Tweets: System and 5 types of Tweets to Keep Followers Engaged http://blog.bufferapp.com/the-5-types-of-tweets-to-keep-your-buffer-full-and-your-followers-engaged via @buffer #twitter #tweeting

    I think it’s more readable – and I managed to squeeze in two hashtags, sacrificing nothing.

    Would like to know your thoughts on this system.

    thanks!
    Erik