A study recently conducted by Carnegie Mellon University and Microsoft sheds some really interesting light on the factors that contribute to a user’s perceived credibility on Twitter. As imaginable, in a network filled with spammy marketers and bots, credibility is perhaps your best bet for generating influence and building an audience.
Here are the most important takeaways from the study.
1. Always be grammatically correct
Anyone who’s been on Twitter for a while will tell you that this is a no-brainer. No one knows how exactly it happened, if it was part of a secret pact that was made among all the language sticklers of the world, but you won’t go too far on Twitter if you’re the sort who doesn’t mind replacing the occasional ‘because’ with ‘cuz’. Any deviation from language other than as prescribed in Lynn Truss’ Eats, Shoots & Leaves and no one wants to be your friend any more.
2. Understand how retweeting works
The real power of Twitter lies in its viral potential. If your content is novel enough, intriguing enough, or generally worthy enough — you can count on people to spreading it around for you. Unfortunately, the whole thing is easier said than done because no one quite knows the whole story of what makes people hit the retweet button. Dan Zarrella’s research on the science of retweeting is a good place to start if you’re really serious about it.
3. Develop expertise in a subject
People are more likely to be influenced by someone who projects an image of expertise about a certain topic or industry as compared to a jack-of-all-trades type of tweeter. That’s basic human nature, we just tend to trust information that comes straight from the horse’s mouth. There are people who specialize in specific fields of arts, business and sciences on the network, they are the same people who are recognized as influential on Twitter about their topic.
4. Have a presence elsewhere
Participants in the study displayed more affinity towards tweets that came from someone they had already heard about before. Which would explain that Justin Bieber has a higher follower count than you do. Though, you can’t or even may not want to turn into Bieber in an effort to seem more credible, you need to work on making it easier for people to recall you. Having a blog or website will help, so will writing guests posts for publications online.
5. Stay focused on your topic
Make sure that all your tweets are not random meanderings about your daily life, which in most cases is of no consequence to no one. This doesn’t mean that you turn into a link bot, but you need to have a focus around key topics. If you’re passionate about design, make sure to mention it in your bio and share interesting things related to design that you come across. Give people a reason to follow you and follow through on that reason.
6. Use a personal photo
This is a mistake that a lot of newbies make. They forget to change their default Twitter image. No one trusts a talking egg, believe me. Other related mistakes could be using the image of your favorite superhero, an image from your childhood or a group photograph. Why this is a problem is that it makes difficult for people to identify with you, if your tweet shows up in someone’s timeline and they don’t know about you — chances are high they will mentally shut off even before reaching your profile.
7. Interact with other people
No one likes following a snob who doesn’t talk back to anyone. Most people on the network are there because they love to share and communicate. If they wanted to watch an endless stream of content that doesn’t interact with them, my guess is they would rather switch to TV. If you frequently reply to people on Twitter, you’re projecting a more personable, and hence credible image. Also, it’s proof that you’re not a very smart algorithm.
8. Tweet frequently
Being forgotten is way too easy on Twitter. And though tweeting every five minutes isn’t something that’s going to get you any admirers, tweeting once a week is perhaps worse than not tweeting at all. It’s better to have no profile than have a profile on which the last tweet is dated a month ago. No one follows inactive Tweeters. According to research conducted by Hubspot, 22 tweets per day is the sweet spot. If you think that’s a bit much, even 4 a day is a start.
9. Use links and hashtags
Not to overdo this one, but including links and hashtags where required seems to make the tweeter appear more credible. Of course, too many hashtags and you’re probably one step away from being unfollowed. But do use them where they’re required. It also helps to shorten the URL with a custom URL shortner like bit.ly. Many tweeting clients like Tweetdeck automatically do this for you.
10. Follow interesting people
Seeing how Twitter has turned into a sort of a popularity content with services like Favstar.fm, it’s not difficult to come across that one user who doesn’t follow anyone. According to the research, this may negatively impact your perceived credibility — this could probably be because you seem standoffish and snobby. So find the people who tweet about things that interest you, follow them and don’t forget to share what they have to say.
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About Vishveshwar Jatain
VJ is the associate editor of wireframe. He loves writing, cooking, technology, life hacks, weird people, strange things, and his alone time. When not creating a ruckus about the rampant misuse of apostrophes, he can be found writing stories about startups, entrepreneurship and social web.