Twitter Influence: a Case Study

Please retweetWhat does it take to generate a strong Twitter influence? I could create a list of things that would amount to what it takes to become successful in Twitter and, as a whole, social media. A general list would contain items such as adding followers, following them back, engaging them in conversation without selling to them, and so forth. I have come across many of these social media “primers” and most of them are a summary of each others’ articles with slightly different perspectives. Overall, the primers summarize what has worked on Twitter and social media.

My case study on Twitter Influence takes a different approach. I will discuss two prominent, highly followed, highly listed and highly influential users on Twitter: @TweetSmarter and @tonystevens4. While each of them applies the basic principles of social media and social networking, they have distinct ways of doing so. I will present my findings from what I have learned by following them for quite some time as well as example tweets that justify my findings.

@TweetSmarter

I would describe TweetSmarter as a reliable source of information for topics ranging from Twitter, social media, and tech news, among other topics. The manner in which they are a source of information is intriguing, to say the least, but also painstaking and selective, thereby contributing to their trustworthiness. They are also responsive to people who have questions and concerns about Twitter.

What they do

  • They scour social media and tech websites as well as tweets linking to noteworthy articles.
  • If they find an article from a website, they produce a shortcut link through j.mp, which is run by bit.ly, and tweet the article to their followers.
  • If they find an article from a tweet, they click through the original shortcut link for it, produce a shortcut link for the original URL of the article via j.mp, and retweet the article to their followers. Almost all of the time, they remove the user or users of the original (re)tweet so that the headline and link stand out. This move also helps them retain their position as an information source despite the authorship of the articles.

On an aside, creating their own shortcut links for all of their tweets allows them to track them all. Data is king, especially for Twitter analytics.

Why this is significant

TweetSmarter does not tweet links haphazardly. They make sure that each article is reflective of the type and quality of information they set out to provide their followers. In a sense, they do retweet articles, but gradually and selectively. Following TweetSmarter would create much added value to your knowledge about Twitter and social media.

Here is a sample of the tweets they post:

As you can see, their tweets use the shortcut link, j.mp, and are geared especially towards social media, but not exclusively. They post occasional tweets about other topics, and the following tweet illustrates two exceptions at once: the subject matter is decidedly not about social media (but it is a worthy cause), and they retain @zaibatsu, the source of the tweet:

Hundreds of thousands of their followers, including myself, are fully aware of the added value that TweetSmarter provides to our knowledge about social media and are quick to retweet their tweets, seemingly as soon as they send it out. Users like TweetSmarter that do not have to beg their followers to retweet a tweet (e.g. PLS RT) exert a very strong Twitter Influence.

@tonystevens4

I would describe Tony as a Twitter Power User. He makes it abundantly clear in his bio his purpose for being on Twitter and the subject matters that his Tweets will likely cover. I find Tony to be a rare gem because of this. Other users may have similar content in their bio, but if you go through their tweets, they probably do not discuss anything close to their own bio. Moreover, the bios of these people may reflect what they do in real life but isn’t a topic they readily discuss. In any event, Tony’s tweets are wide-ranging and reflect his interests: Twitter; social media, tech news, photography, and (properly cited) quotes, among others.

What he does

Tony takes a very social approach towards exerting a widespread Twitter Influence. He tweets and retweets content based on his interests, but is very particular about how he does it. For starters, he refuses to use the Retweet link on the Twitter website. However, he is also conscious of the information conveyed in his retweets and makes sure that the tweet takes its original form by moving the retweeting users to the end of the tweet. More importantly, he regularly acknowledges the people who have retweeted before him and turns a cluttered tweet like this:

RT @Flipbooks: RT @paul_steele: RT @IamPramit65: Gorgeous Panoramic Photographs – http://bit.ly/6KuyJD #Photography

into this:

65 Gorgeous Panoramic Photographs – http://bit.ly/6KuyJD #Photography rt @Flipbooks @paul_steele @IamPramit

Speaking of acknowledgment, Tony also recognizes his followers who retweet his tweets. I have retweeted many of the things he posted not to be on his good graces (although I am) but because his tweets add value to my Twitter and social media experience. Most of the Twitter and social media-related tweets in my bookmarks have come from Tony as well as TweetSmarter.

Tony has taken it upon himself to educate his followers about Twitter and, until recent changes to Twitter’s policy that banned recurring tweets, devoted Thursdays to posting “Twitter Tips”, a series of tweets that explain how to conduct yourself on Twitter as well as how to make the most of your Twitter experience. While he can no longer schedule tweets as before, Tony does promise to post his “Twitter Tips” throughout the week.

Why this is significant

While meeting other people on Twitter and engaging them in conversation, a daily activity for Tony, is the most overt way of making the most of social networking, Tony takes it a step further. He adjusts a retweet so that the multiple users who passed it around are duly and conveniently recognized. After all, one of those users was the first to send out the tweet. At the same time, he recognizes the people who retweet his tweets. Tony serves as a model for successful social networking engagement.

Here is a sample of the tweets he sends out. Notice the format of the first three tweets are as follows: ( title | link | rt (previous retweeters) ):

What lessons have I learned about creating a strong Twitter Influence by following TweetSmarter and tonystevens4?

  • Be a source of information.
  • Retweet sources of information.
  • Make the topics or subject matters you will likely tweet about very clear, and tweet consistently about them.
  • Engage your followers, and they will return the favor.
  • Recognize the followers who retweet your tweets.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Francis M. Unson
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10 Responses to “Twitter Influence: a Case Study”

  1. Darryl Izakowitz Says:

    Hi Francis,

    This is very well done. I have found a few tweaks that I need to change on my Twitter account because of your excellent post. I especially agree to try to be consistent with a theme or an interest in most tweets. If you have a business-oriented Twitter account (as I do), I think special care should be made toward the business’s image and brand.

    Thanks again!

    • Francis Unson Says:

      Darryl, I slaved over that blog for two days! I forgot how detail-oriented you have to be when writing case studies or anything regarding analysis. I am very pleased that you found it useful. =)

  2. Darryl Izakowitz Says:

    Of course I found it very useful. I think that you chose two great examples of how to properly use Twitter. Most so-called “gurus” out there have no idea what they’re doing…and worse, everyone just follows along and does what they say without “thinking” on their own before using any social media tool. These SM tools are often used by business people, and you just wouldn’t spend the time and effort on an area of your business without knowing “why” you want to use it and “how” it can benefit you…..would you?

    • Francis Unson Says:

      You are correct. People are caught up more in flashy social media tools than actual business needs. I believe that people forget the existing tools they have lying around somewhere, figuratively speaking, that could do the same job, and for free at that.

      How dangerous it is to follow the loudest “expert” without thinking instead of taking the time to weigh your options and make an informed decision.

      • Darryl Izakowitz Says:

        Exactly Francis.

        It seems that people have lost their abilities to think anymore. In business and in life, “keeping it simple” and “less is more” can go a long, long way.

  3. GailPeckRauner Says:

    Thank you for this informative article. I have been following Twitter Tips for awhile, and read your article because they tweeted hour link. In fact, I read their posts religiously. What I find so interesting is how Tony’s strength as a good citizen, always giving credit to authors and retweeters, thanking, and one of the things making him an influence is in stark contrast to Twitter Tips policy of erasing all historical info as to how they got the info. It sort of makes Twitter Tips the experts without giving due credit. I find it interesting that this hasn’t backfired for them. I always thought that they were the original source if their tweets, then replacing people’s links steals their opportunity to track analytics.

    So in many ways though they are both wholly influential, their approaches couldn’t be further from one another, and yet they are both influencers.The common link being that they both impart valuable information to their followers. I also think Twitter Tips success lies in their name, as they seem to be part of the mother website, do you know if they are independent from Twitter?

    Interestingly, I think Twitter Tips approach is part of their success. I love the succinct tweets, which gets right to the point of the post, and no additional clutter. Because though it is important to the people who originally posted, or retweeted, to get recognized the truth remains that most users don’t really care what the evolution of the flow info was.

    Thank you again for al thought provoking piece.

  4. modelsupplies Says:

    Great post! I love both @Twitter_Tips and @TonyStevens4 – Love that you pointed out the social aspect of group RTs and how they can be better in some cases than the original content tweet.

    Anita @ModelSupplies

    • Francis Unson Says:

      I don’t think there’s a day that goes by where I haven’t learned at least one new thing from each of them. Becoming a strong influence doesn’t happen overnight by a long shot. In fact, just the opposite. It is the enduring value they add to the Twitter experience over time that makes them users we look up to.

  5. Twitter_Tips Says:

    Actually we don’t remove usernames from tweets (except for author names). We attribute the source when the source is a tweet. It’s just that we source most of our links NOT from other tweets.

    You can read about our system here: http://bit.ly/7CW0D (scroll down for info about how we source information to be tweeted).

    The problem with sourcing info from tweets is you never know what is current, what is one or sometimes even two years old. Search engines give dates (usually) tweets do not. And we want 95%+ of our tweets to be on current articles.

    Here’s an example Google search I use that wasn’t possible when the link above was current: http://j.mp/b9KL9O It only shows articles from the last 24 hours.

    Also, thanks to http://chirrps.com/cat/tech/?q=twitter&t=24 we are now able to source more links directly from tweets, and so by getting our tweets from the tweets of others, have been able to do more RT/Via attributions.

    • Francis Unson Says:

      Thank you very much for your input, which I will include in a future update. Keep fighting the good Twitter fight! You have many people that look up to you, including myself. πŸ™‚

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