Am I known for milking posts? Or am I known for having new ideas pop into my delicious brain meat, which I then deign to share with my beloved readers? Maybe a bit of both. Maybe I have an ever-growing list of things to keep in mind to boost Twitter engagement and thus felt the need to create a sequel to my 2022 update (while also taking the opportunity to milk some posts).
Disclaimer: This is not a guide on how to go viral on Twitter. I have no idea how to go viral. I’ve never done it. Not once. This guide is just meant to help you find and build an audience of cool, chill people you vibe with who are more likely to engage with your posts and, by extension, your work, on a day to day basis.
Disclaimer Two: Any programs or websites I mention here are not because I am sponsored. I just like ’em. And I’ll take their money if they’re offering, ahem.
Disclaimer Three: Please keep in mind that your mileage may vary. There are so many factors that contribute to how much Twitter engagement you get, including the quality of your posts, when you post, your niche, and what’s currently trending, so it’s impossible to create a guide that can absolutely guarantee a boost in engagement across the board. These are meant to be strategies for getting more Twitter engagement that you can try out and experiment with until you determine what works best for you. Feel free to comment or reach out if you have any thoughts or questions!
Update, May 2023: This bird app is now owned by a massive idiot, so the algorithm has undergone some changes. Most of the points below still apply, but anything that may have changed, I am including a slight update at the end denoting the relevant changes.
Don’t Include the Link In The Initial Post
This sounds so counterintuitive and is honestly frustrating, but in my experience with the algorithm, having a link in the initial post reduces engagement drastically. It may even be that it’s not the algorithm’s fault; it’s just a simple fact of life that people scrolling through Twitter are not interested in clicking random links, and will tend to ignore posts with them.
The advice I’ve gotten often is that you should make the initial post your description or intro to the page, then post the actual link to the page in the comments. I agree that, when it comes to the algorithm, this does work.
Putting the link in the comments has a trade off in that it might not be the first thing people see. I’m not sure how the algorithm works when it comes to showing replies, but I’ve never felt right posting about my article, and then posting the link in the comments in the hopes that people will actively look for it instead of scrolling past.
Maybe there’s something psychological that makes us more inclined to click a link if we see what we’re getting into first, and then seek it out ourselves in the comments. I’m not sure how accurate that is, but I can at least confirm that in my own experience, I am more likely to click a link if I’m hooked by the initial post first, rather than if the post and link are posted together. But I don’t consider my ADHD brain meat the kind of brain meat that scrolls reasonably, so ultimately, I consider this a tip that will require you to experiment a bit before you determine which works better for you.
Update May 2023: This point still applies. You will experience a massive drop in engagement and views if you include a link in your initial Twitter post. My recommendation is to summarize what’s in the link in the first post, then include the actual link in a comment below it. That way you are not hurting the number of impressions you get in that first post, and people who are interested in your post will click the thread to get to the link, further boosting engagement.
Bonus points if you include an image or a GIF in that initial post. Those still seem to be pretty helpful in boosting impressions.
Include an Image in The Initial Post
Where links and tagging others in the initial post generally hurts the number of impressions you get, images generally help. Again, not sure if it’s an algorithm thing or a psychological thing (we may be more likely to stop scrolling and look at a post when an image is involved), but posts with images tend to get more eyeballs than those without.
Worth noting, though, that in my experience sometimes straight text posts (no link, no tag, no hashtag, no image) also do pretty well in terms of impressions. I chalk this up to our followers being most interested in our thoughts and experiences, which always feel most organic when there’s no fancy attempts at getting more attention (links, images, hashtags, calls to action).
Again, sounds counterintuitive. Experiment with your posts and see which ones your followers gravitate most towards. Maybe they like the images you post. Maybe they’re more interested in what you have to say. I usually prioritize images less on Twitter than I would on Instagram, so decide which posts benefit most from images and which benefit most purely from words.
Find a Balance in Posting Frequency
I will be the first to admit that I post way more than necessary. I dunno, man, I just like posting random thoughts and talking to the Twitter homies. There’s nothing wrong with using social media for what it’s (ostensibly) meant for: entertainment and connection.
However, if you’re super serious about numbers, I do not recommend posting too often. I can’t claim to know how the algorithm works, but I can at least say that, from personal experience, the more frequently you post in a single day, the less likely you are to get seen each time. What works for me on days I have a new post out is to post once about it every three hours or so, but retweet every hour and a half or so as well, if you’re looking to maximize engagement without diluting your posts.
Can post topics/links be “diluted” on Twitter?
But even if the algorithm doesn’t make your posts with the same topic less valuable over time, you don’t want your followers seeing the same thing over and over again. The goal is to get new followers and engagements, not to stick it in the same followers’ faces every ten minutes.
Find Out When Your Followers Are Online
I’ve written previously that tweets don’t last long. They’ll be front and center on (some of) your followers’ timelines for about fifteen minutes or so, at which point they’re quickly drowned out by newer posts.
That’s why it’s very important—for all social media platforms, but for Twitter in particular—that you know when your followers are more likely to be online, especially the ✨ fabulous ✨ ones who consistently respond to you, even if just to give your post some love.
A good place to start is Circleboom. If you go to User Analytics > Best Time to Tweet, it will generate a graph showing the (statistically) best times to tweet, taking into account respective time zones. I’ve found it pretty accurate so far. However, if you’d rather not use a program to determine the best times to post, you can always examine your engagements and take note of which posts get the most engagement, and when.
What are Twitter engagements, you ask?
Understand What Twitter Engagements Are
The picture above is probably familiar to most of us. But some of these numbers are more immediately transparent than others.
Like: they liked your post (nice job)! This doesn’t share the post (although Twitter does have a section that appears occasionally that shows recent likes of the people you’re following), but it’s saying, “Hey, this is a nice post, and I would like to give it some love.”
Retweet: shares the post. This will either be an, “I really, really, liked this post—so much so that I want to share it with my own followers because I believe it’s really valuable, important, and/or will make someone’s day a little brighter” kind of post, or an, “I like this person and am spreading this announcement about their work, which I believe in” kind of post. Either way, they vibed with this post so much that they’re willing to spread it!
Comment: they responded so viscerally to to your post that they responded to it. This can either be really good, or really bad. But either way, it gets your post seen more
Quote Tweet: kind of like a comment, but it’s intended more for their own followers than for you; often a clapback, expect some snark
Impressions: times your tweet has been seen. Meaning someone scrolls and comes across your post; this counts as an impression whether they engage with the post or not
Engagements: times an action has been taken on your tweet. This includes likes, detail expands, follows, profile visits, retweets, comments, media engagements (e.g. clicking to see an image closer). Basically any time someone does something with your tweet other than scroll past it
Detail expands: when a user clicks on your tweet thread to see more details and/or the comments
New followers: when someone clicks your tweet and follows you directly from it
Profile visits: when someone clicks your tweet, then clicks to view your profile
Link clicks: when someone clicks the link in your post if you have one
If that doesn’t quite give you the answers you’re looking for, I use Buffer to schedule my posts and they have a really useful guide that sums it up too.
Tweet Whatever Comes to Mind
Whether it’s a silly shower thought, how you’re feeling today, the status of your work-in-progress, or just something cool or silly that you’d like to share, share it!
I’ve said it in a previous post on building social media engagement, but I’ll say it again: making your account entirely marketing is not fun for anyone. It’s not fun for you as the creator posting stuff you worked really hard on, only for no one to ever look at it. And it’s not fun for users who don’t know you yet and have no reason to click the Amazon link to your book that you posted fifty million times with four hashtags.
It sucks, I know. Your work should speak for itself, and it’s frustrating that there’s pressure to draw a crowd on social media just to get the opportunity to prove it. But it also presents an opportunity to meet and engage with writers and readers, building relationships and a supportive following who will actually engage with your work regularly. Whether you’re on Twitter because you want to be or because you feel you need to be, try having fun with what you post, even if that just means screaming into the void.