Even a small Twitter following can be good for small businesses.
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Building a following on Twitter can be a challenge for businesses, but new research may have unlocked the secret to gaining Twitter followers.
That research by Eric Gilbert, an assistant professor in the Georgia Institute of Technology's School of Interactive Computing, examined a half-million tweets over 15 months and came up with three specific steps to increase Twitter followers.
To build their follower count, businesses should first and foremost focus on sharing informational content. The researchers found that informational content attracted followers more than tweets focused on an individual. Additionally, the researchers say that since Twitter is based on weak or nonexistent ties with users people never may meet, Twitter users must be sure to make sure posts strike a happy tone and avoid sensitive topics. Lastly, the researchers found that tweets with several hashtags were unlikely to attract new followers.
"To our knowledge, this is the first longitudinal study of follow predictors on Twitter," Gilbert said. "For the first time, we were able to explore the relative effects of social behavior, message content and network structure and show which of these factors has more influence on the number of Twitter followers."
As a part of that research, Gilbert and his research team of Georgia Tech student C.J. Hutto and Sarita Yardi, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, looked at more than 500 Twitter users. The researchers were able to determine which users gained and lost followers based on based on the emotion and content of their tweets.
"Followers are Twitter's most basic currency, yet little is understood about how to grow such an audience," said Gilbert. "By examining multiple factors that affect tie formation and dissolution over time on Twitter, we’ve discovered information that could help technologists design and build tools that help users grow their audiences."
These findings take on a new level of significance as more and more businesses focus marketing efforts on social media. New research by Staples found that 61 percent of small business owners say they use at least one social media channel, with Facebook and LinkedIn topping the list. Overall, small business owners say they would rather have a large Facebook community with their brand than a celebrity endorsement or Super Bowl advertisement.
Business owners feel this way because 40 percent of companies say that social media has helped their business. However, there is room for improvement, many small business owners say. Fifty-three percent of small business owners admit they are novices when using social media.
The Staples research was based on the responses of 501 small business owners or key decision makers.