I love Twitter.

It’s one of my favorite places on the Internet, and one of the few sites I visit more than once per day. There’s so much to see and do that even when I’m not actively tweeting, it’s safe to say I’m reading, clicking links, and favoriting things to look at again later.

Up until a few months ago, however, you wouldn’t have known I cared for Twitter at all.

Before I joined WebpageFX, I didn’t have much of a “public” personality to speak of online, and instead preferred to hide behind the comfortable presence of the brand accounts I ran at the time. When I left that position, necessity required me to create my own Twitter handle, one that would be associated with my contributions to the marketing community.

I realized very quickly that having a barren wasteland of Twitter followers wasn’t going to help me look knowledgeable or trustworthy to any of the websites I wanted to write for. So I set out to find ways to grow both my Twitter account (@nicoleckohler) and WebpageFX’s (@webpagefx).

Nine months later, I’ve added hundreds of new followers to both accounts.

These are the three most fruitful, data-backed Twitter strategies I came up with to get more followers, compose better tweets, and ramp up engagement.

twitter strategies

1. Say “thank you.”

1 in 4 of those you thank will follow you back.

One thing I’ve tried to do since I started my account in January of 2014 is consistently thank people who share the content I’ve written.

Whether it’s someone who shares my stuff regularly or a one-off event that occurs when I get a special feature somewhere, showing my gratitude doesn’t just make me feel good – it makes them feel good, too.

But there’s more to it than that: gratitude also boosts your Twitter engagement exponentially.

To prove this, I did a little research using TweetDeck, my daily real-time tool of choice, as well as an export of my data from Twitter Analytics. I used Conditional Formatting in Excel to highlight tweets where I’d said “thanks,” “thank you,” or mentioned the word “sharing.”

Here’s what part of that list looked like after a little cleaning:


I then checked to see which of those tweets had been favorited. Following that, I cross-referenced these tweets with my Notifications column in TweetDeck to find replies and follows that occurred after I showed gratitude.

I found the following, based on my last 50 “thank you for sharing” tweets:

  • 26% (13/50) of the people I thanked favorite my tweet (recognized my thanks)
  • 30% (15/50) of the people I thanked replied to me
  • 26% (13/50) of the people I thanked followed me
  • 24% (12/50) of the people I thanked engaged with me in more than one way (both replied and followed me, both favorited and followed me, etc.)

Gratitude + New Followers

What does this data show? Basically, if you look for people who are sharing your content, and offer them a simple “thanks!” or express your gratitude, you have a better chance of them following you. In my case, it is about 1 in 4.

Saying “thank you” only takes a few minutes, as does setting up a custom column in TweetDeck (or the Twitter tool of your choice) to look for both branded and unbranded shares of your content. If you could gain 25% more followers just by expressing your gratitude, why wouldn’t you?

2. Find out what your followers prefer.

Test best practices on urls, @-mentions, images, and commentary.

Nearly every article I read on conversion rate optimization includes the phrase “every website is different.” Well then, consider this a mini-article on TCRO – Twitter conversion rate optimization – because I’m about to say it: “Every Twitter account is different.”

Your followers are unique. Each of them has a different set of preferences, and what annoys one might bring another great joy. But together, collectively, you’re likely to find a general set of trends that can help you determine what most of them want you to do.

How can you find these trends, you might ask? By testing, of course!

A few months ago, I read an article titled “Why link shorteners hurt the user experience and destroy the web.” At the time, I had just started using Bitly (an old favorite) to shorten both my links and the links I posted to the WebpageFX Twitter account. So, initially, I read this article and cringed. My immediate reaction was to stop using Bitly.

… but I didn’t. Some small part of me, instead of allowing my guilt over adding a second in lag to a page load request, insisted I test this first. Because… well, what if our followers actually preferred Bitly links?

As part of a month-long test, I posted the same tweet, shown below, twice, just with the links altered:



As you can see, the Tweets were posted at the same time in the same week, two days apart. I scheduled tweet A in Buffer and posted tweet B by hand in TweetDeck. The linked content was not new, nor was it a timely post.

Guess which one got the most clicks? The Bitly link. It received 20 versus the unshortened link’s 2.


“What?” you may be asking. “Why would there be such a big difference? Did tweet A get a lot more impressions?”

Actually, it’s exactly the opposite. Tweet B got more impressions:


I repeated this test several times, later spacing the links apart by a week instead of just two days, and the results were similar. Even when it wasn’t our content being shared, our followers preferred Bitly links to unshortened ones.

We even found, in further tests, that “branded” shorteners from other websites (like Facebook’s fb.me) had a lower click rate than Bitly!

Here are some other things I found through further testing on our account:

  • Tweets mentioning someone by @username earn 200% more engagement than those without a mention.
  • Tweets with an image don’t earn us much more engagement… but they are nice to look at!
  • Tweets where we offer some kind of commentary, opinion, or explain the content of the link receive slightly more engagement than title-only links… but I’m still testing this!

By using these findings, as well as the data I’m about to share with you below, I’ve been able to boost the growth on our Twitter account quite a bit. We’re earning more followers, certainly, but more importantly, we’re losing fewer followers. This is an indication to me that we’re finding the things that they like the most – shortened links, accredited users, and the occasional image.

Don’t believe everything you read at face value. Just like website CRO, Twitter CRO requires ongoing A/B testing to determine what suits your unique audience the best. Don’t miss out on a chance to grow your presence just because you’re scared of doing a test or two!

3. Time your tweets carefully.

Schedule your social media sharing and analyze your best times.

As you might have already guessed, I handle the content curation for the WebpageFX Twitter account. We share a lot of great content from other sites that we think will help our clients and readers – usually marketing tips or important news – as well as some team updates and positivity articles. But we also share our own content, like blog posts, articles, and marketing guides.

When we launch a new blog post or guide, we really want our followers to know about it. So my goal was to find the time where our Twitter followers were most likely to see the tweets with links to our content. I already knew what would make them click, but even posting a remarkably well-written tweet wouldn’t help us if it went out at the wrong time.

I gave this one a lot of thought before I started testing. I knew that many of our clients and followers were marketing managers – and before I came to WebpageFX, that’s what I was, too. I formed a hypothesis, based on my own experiences, that our followers would be most likely to view and click content shared at noon or near the end of the day – that is, during lunch or right before quitting time. I know noon was when I used to spend most of my time on Twitter because I just didn’t have breathing room otherwise!

Using Buffer, I began scheduling my curation around our content, rather than haphazardly throwing items into the queue. Whenever we had an important team update or new piece of content, I tried to place it between 12-1 PM or 4-5 PM (both EST, where a large majority of our clients are based). I did this for a month without looking at the results – long enough to almost forget about it, and long enough that I’d have enough data to go off of.

After a month, I used Twitter Analytics to dig into the data and look at the impressions and engagement metrics on our tweets. My hypothesis ended up being exactly right! Any tweet we posted around the lunch hour had the highest results, and the tweets that came later in the day were also typically high.

Here’s one example of a 12 PM tweet:


And here’s a late day tweet (note that this isn’t our post, but it was absolutely worth the read!):


I was very happy to see these results. Not only were we able to find the times where we could best reach our followers, we were able to accurately pinpoint when they were the most active on Twitter.

This means that we’ll know how best to reach them on social media for any future announcements that we consider important, like Google updates or big changes in the world of SEO, or when it’s most likely they’ll see shares of our best content.

I would encourage you to try the same thing. Think about when your followers are most likely to be active on social media, consuming content or clicking links.

Try scheduling items in Buffer and checking the data using Twitter Analytics after two to three weeks.

Can you pinpoint your highest engagement times? When are your followers most likely to see, and benefit from, your tweets?

One thing to keep in mind: While it’s highly unlikely that anyone will see everything you post, people can and do notice patterns.

If you constantly post only your content at the same time every day, you may run the risk of annoying your followers. Switch it up every now and then, and remember that you aren’t always the most important piece of news or content in any given day. I willingly put that ecommerce article in a ~5 PM slot because it was an excellent piece for our clients – and that might have helped nurture our following better than anything else I could have chosen to share that day.

4 more strategies to help grow your Twitter following

Here’s a snapshot of how my Twitter followers have grown since I started my account in January:


I would hazard a guess that around 30% of my followers know me personally (either in real life or by connecting with me via email or on a blog). The rest are people who have followed me after coming across me online in some capacity.

What did I do to grow my following, other than say “thank you” a lot? Here’s a short list with some of my advice:

  1. Follow interesting people. Lots of people (myself included) will check out new followers and follow them back if they look like they post interesting tweets.
  2. Don’t be afraid to engage. When I started out, I was terrified to tweet at others, worried what they’d think about me. Try to remember this: it’s just Twitter. If someone ignores you, or doesn’t engage back, it’s their loss! But if they do, you could gain a new follower out of it.
  3. Contribute to other websites. The two spikes you see in followers (on May 19th and around June 6th) are when I had a blog post go up on YouMoz, and then subsequently get promoted to the Moz Blog. It was a huge honor for me, and also resulted in an enormous amount of new followers.
  4. Don’t be a robot. One of my biggest pet peeves is people who post nothing but links. How much personality you want to inject into your own account is up to you – I never shy away from proclaiming my love for video games, even if it costs me a follower or two – but it’s never a bad idea to stand out from the crowd. At least tell us why you’re sharing those links!

Finally, don’t forget about your current followers, either.

Growth is only half the battle.

Remember to engage with the people who mention you, have conversations, and just generally be a decent human being. Loosen up and have fun! There’s no wrong way to use Twitter, but if all you want to do is get a bunch of followers, dump links into your Buffer queue, and make money… okay, so there might be one wrong way to use Twitter.

Over to you

Have you discovered any ways to grow and nurture your following on Twitter? Has the data behind your account revealed anything particularly interesting that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it in the comments! Thanks so much for reading!

Image sources: Icon Finder, Blurgrounds, Markus Spiske

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Written by Nicole Kohler

Nicole Kohler is the Web Content Strategist for WebpageFX, where she enjoys writing about the newest trends in marketing, SEO, and social media. She loves classic literature, penguins (not the Google kind), and everything yellow. Be sure to say hi to her on Twitter!

  • I wrote a growth hack to the “thank you” method over at http://growthadvisor.co/how-to-use-animated-gifs-to-improve-your-twitter-marketing-results/ . if you use animated Gifs in your thank you reply that boosts engagement rates thru the roof. #growthhack

    • Thanks for sharing this! I’m not a fan of automatic “thank you” tweets, personally, but I like the GIF idea 🙂 Very clever!

    • I read this on Medium a week or two back. I’ve been trying it since. It’s fun, quick and shows your thinking. And yes, people remember you. I’m not hosting the gif or deleting though (adds a bit of colour to the timeline:O). Ta, Dave ***hesitates then decides against adding a Giphy link***

  • Emma

    In your comparison of links, did you take into account that even though tweet B received more impressions, it might have received less clicks because the same content had already been tweeted recently? Just out of curiosity as to how your test was performed.

    • Hi Emma! Yes, I did consider that 🙂 Actually, if you take a peek above, I mentioned that we repeated the test again with the tweets spaced a week apart. In that case, the total impressions were close to the same amount, but again the Bitly link beat the non-Bitly link by a high amount (I believe it was something like 8 to 1). And in that case, the non-Bitly link came first!

      We also have seen this occur again with some tweets that were not repeated using Bitly (that is, content I shared quickly in TweetDeck without a shortener) — for some reason, our followers just do not like long links!

      Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Really fantastic post. Twitter is one social media area that I’m not great at. I try to learn it, but it tends to be so fast moving for me, that it’s difficult to dive in. I love your tips and definitely think I’m going to try testing some of them out, specifically the one about finding when the best time to post is. Thanks!!

    • Thanks Jillian! Twitter really does move FAST. I’ve had to accept that I’ll never see everything… which is hard for me. LOL.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I hope you get more comfortable on Twitter as time goes on 🙂 You have a lot of followers which is amazing!

    • Another idea is to gather people into lists. so when you know what topics your followers want to hear about, you can create a few lists of folks who talk about each topics, and easily grab things to retweet from each list!

  • Hey Nicole, thanks for this awesome post – love a bit of science I do!

    Really interesting about the shortened links versus the standard links. I guess years ago it was easier to spam with Bitly links and now it’s not so people trust them more?

    The midday/noon posting I totally agree with and I always try to get the nooners with my blog posts although I’ve just adjusted some of my schedules in Buffer closer to 12pm.

    Do you find that you get good traffic in the morning if you share a blog then? I always have done and I was interested if you do too?

    Great post.

    • Thanks so much Todd! Gosh, I don’t even know if I can explain the Bitly thing. One of my theories was that maybe people were more likely to click if they had no idea where they were heading — like, maybe our followers like being surprised? LOL.

      Usually our Twitter engagement in the morning is somewhat low. We tend to heat up as the day goes on. We’re playing right now with blog publishing (and blog email!) times to see if later times catch more people. I’ll have to let you know if there are any big changes!

  • Hi Nicole, Loved loved loved this post. I’m not as analytical as you are, but you proved my gut instincts are right. I use bit.ly, I post a lot around lunchtime and later in the eve (same on FB), and I alway try to thank everyone who engages with my content. Hooray! Great work. Betsy

    • Hi Betsy, thanks for your comment! 🙂 I have to confess that I used to make most of my decisions based on gut feelings, but since switching over to work in my current position, I’ve been diving into data a lot more. It’s always so interesting to see how our feelings on things can sometimes be so right (or wrong!) compared to real data.

      I think the most important thing that should be stressed is to test and see what works best for your audience/followers! But thanking people is NEVER a bad decision. 😀

  • Awesome post, Nicole. Don’t you just love Twitter analytics? We often suggest it to users of our done-for-you social media service.

    • Thank you Jeniece! Yes, I’m so glad I have access to it now! 😀

  • EKM

    Yes, thank you is always nice … but too many tweets out there to waste it with a thank you. RT the person’s stuff when you find something worth sharing. That’s a better thank you.

    • I see your point, EKM — Twitter really does have a lot going on! I’ll respectfully disagree, though 🙂 I love the personal aspect of social media, myself, which is why I spend a few seconds saying thanks. Of course, I also RT content I enjoy, too!

      For me, personally, I just don’t like Twitter accounts full of RTs, links, and no commentary, thanks, or photos. But everyone uses Twitter differently, which I think is awesome!

      Thanks for your comment! Glad you took the time to read my post!

  • Hi Nicole, thanks for sharing! See you on Twitter!

  • Jacquelyne Marianno

    Great post Nicole! Love your tips especially about testing the timing of posts and whether or not to use link shorteners.

    Another way I’ve found to grow social presences – either personally or on behalf of your company – is to join in on popular Twitter chats. Not only is that a great way to find new information on a topic you’re interested in, but also to engage with others who have similar interests.

    • Thank you, Jacquelyne!

      Great tip about Twitter chats! I have to admit I’ve yet to participate in one, although I’ve watched a few fly by me (haha). Perhaps I’ll have to give one a try and report back on how that affects my follower count, eh?

      • Nicole, I echo what Jacquelyne said. A great first chat would be none other than #BufferChat on Wednesdays at 12 PM EST. 🙂 Today’s features guest @AnnHandley – will be fun.

        I’m newish to chats but now participate in several regularly and not only have I gotten some great contacts (I follow back and talk with them) but I’ve learned a great deal. Hope to see you around!

    • Twitter Chats, done well, are a small business secret weapon on Twitter. and #BufferChat at noon on Weds. is a great one. There a hundreds of others though, in all sorts of niches.

  • Thanks @Nicole for such a wonderful post. Great analysis on how to get more followers and engage them..
    Getting more followers on Twitter was a much hyped talk in my community recently and I had only 500 odd followers. Most of them were from my email and business.
    I am not a media guy, but I took that challenge to see if I can grow my followers in a week. After small research and reading blogs at @buffer, I got to clue and started implementing the best practices.

    …wow.. In mere 7 days I got 200+ followers.. 30 followers a day…and trust me I didn’t know do any thing exceptional.

    Engagement is the key.. Showing gratitude is second. Mutual appreciation while engagement works at the best.
    I’d like to add here that – avoid posting controversial or political annoying stuff that can be good for some and not for some. You may lose some followers within no time.. It is important to keep your readers engaged, and not to annoy them.

    For timing, @buffer and @hootsuite are best enough to take care of your post schedule.


  • Very useful post Nicole. Could you also throw some light on what tools you use and like the best to manage twitter interactions such as Hootsuite, Commun.it etc.? Or do you manually do everything on Twitter website? Thanks.

    • Thanks Hitesh!

      When I started to manage our social activity, I was using Hootsuite, but I tried a few other things and have now settled on using TweetDeck for 90% of our interactions. I check it typically every hour (and have custom columns added to find things not tagged by our handle, which is another important tip!). If I’m on the go then I’ll opt for the Twitter app on my phone.

      • Benjamin J Hartman

        Nicole, Can you elaborate on the custom columns? Are they hashtags in your collections? Or am I off base? Plus I love that noon and 5pm work, but what if your audience is working a second job? I was working nights and used to read buffer tweets at 2 and 5am ….might want to do a test at the 3-11 and 11-7 lunch times, just a thought!

        • Hi Benjamin, they’re actually not hashtags. The column I use the most is typically “webpagefx” without the @ symbol as in TweetDeck that picks up on shares of our links/content that isn’t a direct mention. That allows me to track down additional shares, scope them out, and engage with the person who shared our content if necessary (which, usually I try to at least say thanks, ask for feedback, etc). I also do the same with any popular blog posts — that is, I add part of the title to catch any shares.

          Knowing our audience as I do, a large majority of them are on one coast and have one job. 🙂 But we do share content throughout the day (not just at those times) and continue to test many other things I haven’t talked about publicly! I’m sure you’ve heard it before — A/B testing, always be testing! 🙂

  • Do you think the better engagement through bit.ly is because it’s like the Hoover of link shorteners? That’s a really interesting finding.

    • Hi David! I’m thinking about digging into it a bit more, because at this point I don’t have any solid theories to stand on. Time and time again I’ve seen that unshortened links or branded shortened links (ex. fb.me, blog-branded shortened links) just do not get anywhere near the same level of engagement. At the same time, I don’t want to make the @webpagefx followers into guinea pigs too much… 🙂

  • Great post and some good ideas. One additional note – Buffer’s queue algorithm, I believe, already scans your followers for when they are most active and suggests those times. For me, it suggests (all times are Easter Time, U.S.) 8:55 (right before work), 12:48 right before lunch), 4:55 (right before end of main workday) and 8 pm (I used to co-host a twitter chat in that time slot once a week, so that may be why this time slot). I also have a lot of small business followers and social media & marketer types of followers.

    So when I schedule additional posts in Buffer – I target a second time slot that is close to the four Buffer picked out as active follower times. 9:05 am – just after workday starts), 1:05 pm (just AFTER lunch) 5:05 pm (just after work) etc. I haven’t analyzed my tweets as you have, but when I have checked this, both time slots do very well.

    I also sometimes schedule items for Pacific Time U.S. – to catch those followers when they might be checking in around start of day, lunch and end of work day.

    But you are correct, if your followers are not biz peeps, but mom bloggers, or a different demographic, think of their schedules – don’t post just after the kids come home from school; do post when you think nap time might be happening, and do post after the kids are in bed. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes (or their hands on a keyboard of phone?)

  • Great article! Thank you for sharing. Those who are new to Twitter or who are looking to revamp their strategy for next year will be able to utilize the strategies you have laid out here.

    Thanks for a great post.

    • Thanks for your compliments, and you’re welcome! I hope my findings encourage others to dig into their own analytics and find out what their own followers enjoy and prefer 🙂

  • Bob Merberg

    Great tips, Nicole. I especially like the last four, which are mostly about engaging and doing it well. I think any individual’s approach, for a personal Twitter account, may depend on their goals. For me, after I hit 1,000 followers, I abandoned most techniques to gain followers. You were building your account from scratch, so of course you wanted followers (no one wants to just holler into an empty cave). But I prefer to just share when I feel I have something to share, engage when I have the impulse, etc. I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious, because I was very focused on followers for the first 1,000, and recognize that threshold might differ for everyone. Also, I know that, if the day ever comes when I’m actually promoting a product through my personal account, having as many (quality) followers as possible will be key. As for “Thank you’s,” I don’t care for them. They don’t mean anything to me when I receive them (I’m not necessarily retweeting something as a favor to the original tweeter — I’m doing it for me and my followers) and, maybe because of how I view retweets, I don’t usually thank people for retweeting me (unless it’s a post about me or linking to something I’ve written). But, in this regard of not liking Thank You’s, I can accept that my approach may come off as out of touch with common courtesy. I guess I’m thinking that if someones saying Thank You to gain followers, it’s not really courtesy. That’s just not how I see it. Anyhow, thank YOU for this thought provoking blog post. 🙂

    • Hi Bob! To be clear (and I thought this might come up), I don’t advocate thanking people for sharing your content JUST to gain followers. In fact, gaining followers shouldn’t even be the #1 goal of using Twitter. I advocate thanking people because it’s common courtesy, because they took the time to amplify your content to their audience, and because it shows you’re paying attention and willing to engage. Does it also happen to get you more followers? Yes! Is that the only reason why you should do it? No, not at all.

      I was actually having a conversation with someone else about the thank you tweets. Everyone has a different opinion on them. I personally love them, but by that I mean direct mentions — not the public ones that everyone can see. Just to be clear on that, too. 🙂

      Thanks for your comment.

  • Hotel Pordoi

    I read the article very well confirm your advice.

    Thanks hello

  • 90% o the time I end up clicking on bit.ly links simply because the URL of the site is not visible in them and its the only way to see what’s behind them. But I didn’t even realize that I was subconsciously avoiding other ones.

    I’d be curious to dig into why people seem to prefer the bit.ly links. I know I come to it from a ‘feeling’ judgement – which usually means my mind has picked up on a pattern that I’m not aware of.

    I think it largely boils down to the link shortener itself speaking volumes about how trendy and on-the-ball the content may be. I personally avoid the facebook shortened ones because I have had a bad experience with the content being shared on [insert-me-too-marketing-corporation] pages and poorly run [internet-newbie-trying-run-a-page] stuff.

    Lately I’ve also been avoiding most twitter feeds with oodles of ow.ly links for similar reasons. I think my habits are a side-effect of trying to avoid disappointing click-baitesque content and instead searching for stuff I find valuable.

    I also avoid places like paper.ly because it strikes me as attracting people who are emulating sites like the drudge-report and otherwise harkening to old-fashioned notions of how content should be consumed. – This is not implying that they are bad necessarily, just that I personally don’t find as much value in those types of things. (going back to your point about not being the intended audience)

    • Great points here, Nicholas! Thanks so much for sharing these thoughts!

    • Hey Nicholas, sorry that I just saw this comment! I so appreciate you sharing your own insights on this — super helpful! Thanks so much!

  • Robin S

    thanks. good,info.

  • Thanks for the great information! I was never sure of the Do’s and Don’ts so this really helps me out. My dilemma is finding a good time to post when my time zone is different than a possible wider audience time zone and I’m torn on where to begin.

  • Jeska Dzwigalski

    This is great info, thx for sharing.

  • Very simple and useful advice, thank you!

  • Ry Warner

    Great article Nicole!! ENGAGE and engage because you want to! If you’re truly grateful (by engaging in content that matters to you) it’ll show a lot

  • Thank you, very useful tips to increase twitter engagement .

  • Monisha The Lioness

    enjoyed your post, so simple and so direct