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Have you heard? Twitter is undergoing rapid changes right now, and is set to usher in plenty of new developments in 2021. While their monetization and advertising features are not as enhanced as other platforms as of yet, with the updates they have lined up for 2021, it seems that that is set to change soon.
Aside from the implementation of a new and enhanced Tweet Composer in Twitter Ads Manager, they also recently rolled out Fleets in late 2020 – Twitter’s version of stories. January 2021 saw them announce their acquisition of the email newsletter service, Revue. While integration of Revue and Twitter is still a work in progress, other new features are already confirmed to roll out within the year, such as Twitter Spaces and Super Tweets.
Earlier in April, Twitter also rebranded their paid advertising options. For clarity and conciseness, they condensed their paid ads into 5 broad categories: Promoted Ads, Follower Ads, Twitter Amplify, Twitter Takeover and Twitter Live.
The restructuring and streamlining of the ad process likely paves the way for further enhancements. With all these exciting new opportunities coming up, if you aren’t a part of the Twitter scene yet, it’s time to start!
Whether you’re a social media marketer unfamiliar with Twitter, an affiliate marketer seeking another source of traffic, or a publisher hoping to expand reach, we guide you through how to navigate and make the most of Twitter as a social media platform.
Here’s what we cover:
- The Twitter Algorithm
- Twitter Best Practices
The Twitter Algorithm
As with every social media platform, aside from the quality of your content, the algorithm determines if your posts gain traction or simply flop. Optimizing for the algorithm is crucial.
Twitter’s algorithm is largely similar to other social media channels. In around 2016 to 2017, there was a near synchronized change from prioritizing chronology to relevancy across multiple platforms – notably Facebook and Instagram. In this, these platforms have many shared factors to consider to stay at the top of their algorithms.
However, Twitter has unique considerations as well. Upon receiving negative user feedback on the change, they started providing various customization options. This flexibility throws more factors into play, when optimizing content for their platform.
Just like in our breakdown of Instagram’s algorithm factors, we separate Twitter’s into: 1) User end factors, 2) Brand end factors, 3) Tweet end factors. This distinction illustrates the factors beyond your influence (User associated factors), and those you can actually optimize for as a brand and business (Brand and Tweet associated factors).
1. User End Factors
- List Customization
Twitter Lists are a way you, as a user, can customize your Twitter timeline. It was launched in 2009, but it was only in 2019 that Lists became more accessible from the home screen. This feature lets you categorize accounts you are interested in into different lists, and with it you can swipe between different curated timelines. Here’s a recommendation on how businesses can utilize Lists for an optimized Twitter experience.
The likelihood of a user seeing your content thus depends on whether they have your business account included in one of their lists and how often they access it.
- Top/Latest Timeline Settings
Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter lets their users choose between organizing their timeline by Relevance of Chronology.
Given that the user follows your Twitter profile, on the default Home view, your content’s reach is dependent on the algorithm and could potentially be excluded based on the factors discussed later. In the Latest Tweets view however, your content’s reach simply depends on the time it was posted vs when the user logged in and started to look through their timeline.
However, if your content performs well, even if a user is not following your account, your tweet could potentially be featured in their Top Tweets timeline.
- Explore Settings
If the user does not follow your account, factors that may contribute to your content reaching them anyway lies in their explore settings and topics they follow. Explore settings include location-specific content, and trends based on location and accounts a user follows.
Additionally, Twitter regularly suggests the latest Trends and Topics for users to follow. This means that riding on the latest trends and topics could be a viable way for your content to get more traffic.
- Relevance to User Interests
This is the cornerstone of algorithms today. Depending on what the user tweets and engages with on the regular, your content’s probability of showing up on their timeline will be affected as well.
- Who They Follow
This is a no-brainer as well. If a user follows you, the more likely they are to see your content. This likelihood goes up if you engage with them regularly. Alternatively, even if a user does not follow you, if you are followed by and/or regularly engaged by accounts they do follow? Your content will show up on their timeline as well.
User activity – such as how often and how long they use Twitter, the length of time since last use, how many accounts they follow etc. – affects how likely you can reach them as well.
The more their activity, the higher the probability of your content getting featured. If they don’t, high quality content with high engagement will get prioritized on their timeline. Similarly, after an extended period of time since their last access of Twitter, In Case You Missed It tweets that are relevant to them will show up on their timeline. If the user follows a lot of accounts, the more competition your post has, which means it’ll be less likely to show up for them.
2. Brand End Factors
- Account Activity
Just like with Instagram’s algorithm, the activity of a brand and business’s Twitter account matters to the algorithm as well. Twitter themselves have explicitly said “tweeting regularly and consistently will boost your visibility and grow engagement”.
- Response Time
How quickly your brand account responds to DMs, mentions, replies, retweets and other forms of engagement plays a part as well. Twitter has cited quick response times as one of their 2021 Twitter tips, and sproutsocial recommends responding within a timeframe of 2 to 3 hours.
3. Tweet End Factors
- Recency of post
How recently a tweet was published is one of the main ranking signals for the algorithm, not just for a Latest Tweets timeline, but for a Top Tweets timeline as well. This factor ties into user activity, which is why tweet schedules are so important. If your tweet is posted when your followers and target audiences are active, the more likely it will show up on their timeline.
Tweets also have a relevance score, based on the keywords in their content. This ties into the relevance to the user’s interests, as mentioned previously. Which means if you’re targeting an audience of specific interests, it’ll be prudent to apply SEO tactics into your tweets as well.
- Gained engagement
If your tweet proves engaging and receives retweets, clicks, likes, bookmarks at a good rate, Twitter will allocate it more reach. This is also why it’s vital to schedule your content when your followers and target audiences are most active, as mentioned previously.
- Rich media usage
The more varied the media of your tweet, the better ranked it will be. It will also be shown to users who historically have a preference for engaging with such media as well. Rich media include images, videos, gifs, cards, polls etc.
On Twitter, using hashtags remains important due to the nature of the platform. On Twitter where conversation happens quickly in short bursts (see: 280 character limit), the life cycle for content is a lot shorter. Using a hashtag categorizes your content, enabling users to search for your content, even at a later date. Without a hashtag, after a limited period, your content may no longer be searchable through Twitter’s search bar, lost in the void from reach for eternity.
It plays into SEO as well, and your content will go out to users with an interest in relevant associated hashtags.
Be sure not to spam, and just stick to 2-3 relevant hashtags.
- External Links
Jack Bandy, a Ph.D. candidate in the Computational Journalism Lab, recently ran a study and found that Twitter’s algorithm restricts the reach of tweets with external links. This is something Twitter has in common with Facebook as well. It makes sense, since these platforms would rather users stay active on their platforms for an extended period of time.
To be more specific, compared to chronological timelines that had 51% of tweets with external links, the relevance, algorithm-dependent timeline had only 18%. Exposure rate to native pictures increased from 19% to 30%.
In other words, prioritize internal content for maximum reach for your tweets. One option to consider would be adding a link only in the reply of the main tweet you want to gain traction.
- Type of Content
Jack Bandy also found that the algorithm favours different types of content. Twitter seems to maintain coverage of important political information, but reduces coverage of other categories of content in favour of suggesting more varied content to the user.
It also has a tendency to show left-leaning tweets to left-leaning accounts, and right-leaning tweets to right-leaning accounts, reducing user exposure to bipartisan content. This could potentially create an echo chamber effect, and lead to political polarization.
Twitter Best Practices
Of course, understanding the algorithm is one thing, putting the knowledge into practice is another. What better way to start, than with some new year resolutions suggested by Twitter themselves? Though it’s about 5 months too late for resolutions, these suggestions are still applicable and more importantly, actionable.
- Update your Twitter Profile
Keep your profile new and exciting for your followers, ensuring adherence to these key elements. Perhaps a new introduction is well in order or an update to your profile picture. Take advantage of pinned tweets, and pin a message that is important to your brand and business in your profile. It can be a shout-out, a tweet highlighting your current focus or an update.
For any social platform, keeping to a regular posting schedule will boost your presence and engagement rates. From a support perspective, it also helps you keep better track of the different types of experimental formats and themes. This in turn will help with data analysis, in narrowing down the content that resonates the most with your budding audience.
- Get Close
Actively utilise Twitter to interact with your community and gain valuable insights for future engagement plans. Polls are a great way to get opinions creatively while showing off your brand personality. Be it hyping up for a product launch, voting for fan favourites or highlighting industry level topics, polls can help garner that organic engagement and keep the conversation flowing.
There are more tips and tools that Twitter has conveniently made accessible in their 2021 planner.
The digital planner provides a myriad of tips and advice straight from the Twitter Business Team. This includes monthly themes with individual portions to jot down reflections and even month specific tips
Take April’s tip for instance “Internal research has shown Tweets with GIFs gained 55% more engagement than without them… consider using GIFs not only as outbound Tweets, but as replies”. Factual credibility added with examples on how to use them, Twitter has even provided a bunch or resources at the back to reinforce your planner consisting of the likes of creative best practices and ideas.
Without a doubt, businesses have successfully invested in both organic and paid campaigns throughout their lifetimes. But why should businesses focus on organic content in 2021? According to Hootsuite, organic content is the best way to nurture a connection with your audiences at every stage of their journey. Knowingly, Twitter has once again provided best practices for organic content.
Some copywriting tips worth highlighting and more here.
- Avoid Writing Copy in all Caps.
Similar to normal text messages, this may come across as the sender being angry or shouting. This could be received negatively by your audience.
- Limit Hashtags to 2 per Tweet.
Limiting hashtags on a platform where hashtags are extremely popular may come across as counter intuitive. But it’s important bear in mind the context of the tweet. If the focus is to have audiences click on a link, each additional hashtag acts as a link to somewhere else, diverting traffic away from the core message.
- Keep it Short with a Clear Call to Action.
Tweets can go up to 280 characters from the previous 140, but aim to communicate only one specific message. Establishing a clear, singular call to action is important when space is so limited and content so plentiful on a timeline.
Creating quality creatives can make your brand stand out amongst the noise in people’s timelines, but what exactly should you take note of? Twitter’s Business team comes to the rescue yet again with image and video best practices.
- Original Content.
To create a memorable visual presence, create original images rather than downloading stock images. Original images are unique and can show your brand culture which can be fun to share. However, resources might be limited to create original images for every single post. In this instance,the next best option is to incorporate brand elements into stock images to give that unique brand differentiation.
- Limit Videos to 15 Seconds.
Keeping videos short tends to enhance memory retention. As mentioned by Twitter, it is found that a 15 second Twitter advertisement is just as effective as a 30 second TV commercial.
Many mobile users will likely have sound autoplay turned off on their social media pages as a preference for browsing their feeds. By including video captions, the video is now more accessible and is observed to be viewed for 28% longer than without.
Re: Connecting with Consumers
There are even more effective strategies out there in 2021. Here are some shared by the Digital Agency Network.
- The Use of Humour.
By and large, brands that use humour in their tweets are effectively retweeted and followed by a lot more people. This is especially so when humour is made a key part of a brand’s personality. People are always excited, anticipating the next big laugh. Notable brands that have successfully incorporated humour into their Twitter marketing include the fast food chain, Wendy’s, with their impeccable sarcastic responses; as well as Netflix, with their creative TV and film-based repertoire of memes.
- Make it Personal.
People want to be acknowledged. This goes for every type of social platform you’re on. People want to feel that they are interacting with someone who is willing to listen and work on the issue at hand.
With the way Twitter is optimized for quick messages and rapid responses, it is a preferred and highly efficient communication channel. Frequently, customers take to Twitter to engage and ask businesses questions publicly. Be sure to engage with @tags, mentions, and DMs to maximize your Twitter presence.
As mentioned earlier, hashtags are extremely popular on Twitter, with the chance of making certain topics or events go viral. Yet they can also be used in the wrong way. Hashtags should only be used to highlight something important. Otherwise there runs the risk of diverting traffic away. Moreover brand hashtags can be used to drive engagement, as part of a user generated content sharing amongst others.
Now, equipped with the insight on how the algorithm works along with their best practices, you’re ready to tackle the organic side of things on Twitter.
But of course, any marketer knows where the real traffic is at: paid advertising. In the next installment of our Twitter Marketing guide, we cover the monetization and marketing side of things. We explore Twitter’s distinct demographic and targetable audiences, their unique advertising capabilities, ways to harness the platform for affiliate marketing and upcoming features to look forward to, as an affiliate marketer.
Subscribe or follow us on the following platforms, and stay tuned for part 2!
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