6 Science-Backed Strategies to Get More Followers on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and More

By Kevan Lee

Source: BufferSocial

10 tried-and-true bits of advice on follower growth

Before we get into the research-backed methods for growing your followers, I wanted to start off with a quick outline of some best practices for follower growth. You’re likely to come across these ideas when you’re searching for social media tips or reading up on how someone got the followers they did.

Here are the Big 10: 

  1. Post great content
  2. Write a professional bio
  3. Use hashtags
  4. Place a Facebook/Twitter/Instagram logo on your blog
  5. Engage with others on the social platforms
  6. Make sure your content is shareable
  7. Reshare other people’s content
  8. Reach out to influencers
  9. Stay active
  10. Follow other users

There’s lots of really good advice here on what works and what doesn’t in terms of adding followers. These strategies are really good for consistent growth of your followers, and most of the advice you’ll read—How I Went From Zero to 380,000 Followers and Twitter Tips From a Marketer with 200K Followers—will be variations on many of these bullet points.

You may have noticed that there is no single, simple hack to get more followers. I’m afraid there’s no switch to flip to get the followers flowing. I’ve seen firsthand that the above tactics do work for building your follower count, so long as you can remain patient, determined, and consistent.

But while there’s no magic bullet for getting more followers, there is at least a good deal of research that can take you down the right path and ensure that your efforts are not in vain. Looking for a surefire way to gain more followers? There’s a good blueprint in this data.

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1. Informers vs. Meformers

The key to getting 2x more followers: Share less about yourself

Are you an informer or a meformer?

Researchers at Rutgers University found that only 20 percent of us are informers on social media, while the other 80 percent are meformers. What exactly is a meformer?

  • Meformers — Users who post social media updates mostly relating to themselves
  • Informers — Users who post updates that are mostly information-sharing

The Rutgers team ended up creating the term “meformer” after analyzing data from a sampling of Twitter accounts. Their analysis, based on patterns of usage along with tweet and follower data, found a clear divide between those who share information and those who share about themselves.

And how does this relate to followers?

Informers had more than two times the followers of meformers.

It would seem that sharing information on social media is better for your follower count than sharing about yourself.

How can you tell which cluster you fall into—informer or meformer? The research study included an interesting breakdown of the classification of tweets. Researchers rated a sample of tweets and assigned a category to each. Overall, there were nine major categories that were used for classification. Do you recognize some of your tweets in the following examples?

9 Types of Updates
BufferSocial

According to the study, 53 percent of the tweets from informers fell into the Information Sharing category, whereas 48 percent of the meformers’ tweets were Me Now.

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 9.37.49 AM
BufferSocial

Takeaway

Aim to boost your information sharing on social media so that you more closely align with the informer cluster rather than the meformer cluster.

2. Call yourself an authority

Gurus, authors, and experts get a bump of 100+ more followers

Roy Povarchik has an interesting idea about follower growth. It’s called Twitter Greatness, and it goes something like this:

The real quick way to get a bunch of people following you: Be Barack Obama. Or Katy Perry. Or Joel Gascoigne.

What do folks like these have in common? Fame, yes. But they are also creators and doers and leaders. The act of creating is what sets them apart. Povarchik went so far as to create a helpful pyramid to display the hierarchy of greatness on Twitter. You can apply this pyramid to most other social networks, too, with a few tweaks (e.g., reporting is greater on Twitter than other networks).

Twitter Greatness pyramid
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Do you see yourself somewhere on this pyramid?

Of course, this interesting idea of greatness is made all the more powerful with some stats to back it up. Hubspot data scientist Dan Zarella researched the effect of authority in a Twitter bio. Have you heard variations on the theme of “don’t call yourself a guru”? Zarella found this to be false. Self-professed gurus have an average of 100 more followers than a typical Twitter user.

And it’s not just “guru.” Many different types of authoritative titles can help boost your follower count.

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 9.28.58 AM
BufferSocial

Takeaway

Create amazing things and be a leader in your industry. Then don’t forget to mention it in your bio. Terms like author, expert, founder, and official can be powerful assets to growing your followers.

3. Avoid bursts of updates

Social scheduling is the #1 fix to retain the followers you have

You could also approach the question of getting more followers from the other side: Part of having lots of followers is knowing how to keep them.

There was an interesting study by a group of Korean researchers into the how and why of unfollowing. They looked at 1.2 million Twitter accounts and analyzed 51 days’ worth of tweets and interactions. Through analysis and interviews, they found that the following factors came into play with unfollowing:

  • Leaving too many updates within a short time
  • Posting about uninteresting topics
  • Sharing the mundane details of one’s life

The interview portion of the research study revealed the concept of “Bursts”—too many updates all at once. More than half of unfollows come as a result of bursts. (Hey, that’s pretty much why we created Buffer! If you’re losing followers because of burst, let us help—try Buffer for free!)

There are other factors at play here, too, and many of them are areas that could ring true for marketers or brands. Do any of these types of tweets hit home for you?

Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.49.58 PM
BufferSocial

Takeaway

To get a lot of followers, minimize the number of those who unfollow you. Avoid bursts by sending your updates with a scheduler like Buffer. And keep in mind other types of updates to avoid—politics, mundane topics, lack of personality, etc.

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