Follow you, follow me

A recent longitudinal study may provide clues about why some have more Twitter followers than others. The study, entitled A Longitudinal Study of Follow Predictors on Twitter analysed the social behaviour and message content against follower growth for more than 500 Twitter users over a 15 month period. The research concludes that if you want to attract more followers, your content has to be good quality, and how you say it also matters.

Here's a breakdown of the three main findings: Firstly, message content significantly impacts audience growth. It was found that negative sentiments (comments and content) were less likely to attract more followers than positive sentiment (this result is probably a 'no brainer', but it's useful to see the statistics). The authors speculated that this was probably because Twitter exhibits weaker social ties than other social networks such as Facebook, and therefore many Twitter users are less likely to want to connect with relative strangers who transmit negativity.

Secondly, social behaviour choices can dramatically affect network growth.Who a user follows and the profile cues they make available (Twitter identity, personal details disclosed and avatar) could increase or decrease their social capital. If you stay an egg all your Twitter life, don't expect too many followers.

Thirdly, variables related to network structure are useful predictors of audience growth. Connecting ties must exist between users and their audience, so if you want others to follow you, you may need to follow a few back to keep their interest. However, this finding should not be privileged above the first two findings, the authors say.

One area the authors also briefly discuss, as an exception to the above findings, is the celebrity effect. Many people will follow their favourite celebrities regardless of the content that is presented. It seems that all it takes to gain a huge following is to be a popular film star, rock musician or author. For the rest of us, content, connection and presentation style are everything, it seems.

The study is worth reading if you have any interest in how Twitter works at a more dynamic, macro level.

Image by AJ Cann

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Follow you, follow me by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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