Lessons From 15 of Our Best-Performing Tweets

A few months ago, we started using a different metric to measure the performance of Tweets from the @Hootsuite handle: engagement rate. In Twitter Analytics, this represents the number of engagements divided by the total number of impressions. For example, if you had 5 people engage with your Tweet by either clicking the link or expanding the media contained within it, and 500 people in total noticing your Tweet on their feeds, your engagement rate will be 1 percent. Since the total reach of the @Hootsuite Twitter account is quite wide, our best-performing Tweets usually get over 2 percent engagement.

Once our key performance indicator changed, so did our idea of what makes a good Tweet. So this time, instead of drawing lessons from best Tweets as determined by a third-party app, we’ve decided to share what we learned from Tweets with the highest engagement rate. If some Tweets look familiar, we have indeed discussed a few of them in another post; but as we looked at the engagement rates more and more often, we started noticing trends for composing Tweets that we thought were worth revisiting.

Here’s what we learned from 15 of our best-performing Tweets

1. Be relatable and show character

We wrote about the launch of the video live-streaming app Meerkat after its glorious reception at SXSWi. Since the app was fairly new, the only photos in circulation—aside from the dreaded vertical-video screenshots—were Meerkat’s white-and-yellow logo. But it can be difficult for a Tweet to stand out among the rest when it uses the same image as all the other media outlets. Instead, we illustrated the Tweet promoting the blog post with a popular meme of Timon from The Lion King. (Get it? Because he’s a meerkat.)

We did it mostly for the sake of our own entertainment, so when we saw the engagement rates on the first few Tweets, our jaws dropped. Over the next few months, whenever we sent out Tweets that contained memes, they all performed fantastically. The example above has received over 5 percent engagement rate, and it has been consistently high for Tweets promoting Meerkat-related content.

Intrigued by our initial success, we decided to see if the meme trend would generalize to Tweets promoting other kinds of content. After all, memes are public domain content that’s easy to generate. We’ve used both Success Kid and First World Problems memes to tweet about available job openings at Hootsuite. Similar to Meerkat Tweets, the engagement rate on those Tweets skyrocketed.

We even used a One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor to illustrate a fairly technical blog post about landing pages, which accounted for many pageviews on the blog.

You might wonder why my advice in this section isn’t just to use more memes. When it comes to Internet culture and social media trend-jacking, brands have to tread carefully; a failed attempt to use an inside joke can result in some pretty awkward interactions. However, when you find something genuinely funny—like using a character from a Disney favourite to talk about a hot new app—chances are, someone in your audience will have a laugh, too. We were careful to use memes selectively, and only for Tweets and blog content with the right topics and tone. Make sure that whatever terms or pop culture references you use, you do so tastefully.

2. Don’t be afraid to experiment

One of our best-performing Tweets is a screenshot from a video that explains the reasoning behind the new UI design for the Hootsuite dashboard. And, well, it’s a bit… cheeky.

This particular Tweet scored 3.4 percent engagement rate, but social messaging related to this video has consistently performed well. Now, we wouldn’t gratuitously include explicit content in our Tweets, and we don’t recommend you do it, either—if you want your social media channels to sound professional. In this case, the curse words emphasized the message we were trying to convey: there was a clear need for change, and while it was communicated quite strongly, we thought it presented a good opportunity to talk about the importance of negative feedback. So don’t be afraid to break the rules every once in a while, as long as you understand why those rules exist in the first place.

3. Be upfront with what your content has to offer

Most of the social media content on our @Hootsuite account points to this blog. So it makes sense that we measure the success of some of those Tweets based on clickthrough rates. Sometimes, though, it pays off to showcase the biggest asset of the blog post directly in the Tweet, like so:

Social media posts containing this infographic never fail to receive an engagement rate higher than 2.5 percent. One reason why it works is that the infographic doesn’t show up in its entirety on the users’ feeds—that would be quite inconvenient—so intrigued users have to click on the image to expand it. This increases the engagement rate. It also provides value as a standalone piece of content: users can share the infographic on its own without reading the blog post, and it still provides some valuable information about hashtags. But you don’t have to give away all the juicy parts of your blog post in a Tweet. Instead, give a sneak peek of the blog’s main focus by illustrating it with a graph:

This flowchart illustrates the process of finding the content best suited for your audience. It summarizes the content of the post in an accessible way, and makes the focal point of the blog clear before the user begins reading the advice contained within it. Similarly, both Tweets below showed off the main media asset in the blog post—which earned both of them engagement rates over 2.5 percent.

These examples support the idea that you don’t need click-bait headlines to encourage people to read and share your content. Being upfront with your brand’s value add can be equally effective—if not more so. If you can include a brief summary of your advice, whether this is done in written or pictorial form, you will provide more reasons for your audience to share the content. Finally, your followers will probably appreciate your efforts to save them some time.

4. Keep up with the trends

Our best-performing Tweets, as well as our most-read blog posts, often have one thing in common: they talk about Instagram.

Instagram is the fastest-growing mobile-first social network, so it’s not surprising that social media marketers are curious to learn more about it. Since Instagram content performs so well, it encourages us to include more tactical advice on the network in our future posts. Tweets promoting the new posts get higher engagement rates, and the positive reinforcement circle continues. What’s more is that, even if the scope of the blog post itself isn’t limited to just Instagram, but the Tweet uses a screenshot from an Instagram picture, we still observe high engagement:

The lesson here (besides the fact that you should probably tweet about Instagram every once in a while) is to pay attention to your audience. Twitter Analytics offers a unique opportunity to see how the user engages with your Tweet—how many of them favorited, retweeted, or clicked on the link—and this can help you draw conclusions about their interests.

5. Share your experiences—even if they are negative

Since social media is a relatively new, constantly field, much of our collective knowledge about what works and what doesn’t work comes through trial and error. As with any new medium, there’s a lot of individual variability, so what works for one user may not be the best practice for another. This is why, if something doesn’t work for us and we want to advise against similar practices, we always make a point of explaining the reasons behind it.

Instagram automation for the sake of gaining new followers is a common temptation, so our Tweet warning users against the process attracted some attention. We’re often told that buying followers or gaming the system in order to gain a bigger following, but there are few explanations of how bad the consequences can be.

6. Add some intrigue with unusual images and offbeat quotes

In the last roundup of the best-performing @Hootsuite Tweets, we talked about the importance of having a sense of humour. Our latest performance results show that, in addition to being funny, it also helps to add a bit of intrigue. For example, who knew that you could apply Maslow’s widely taught theory about the hierarchy of needs to social media? In this Tweet, instead of using the image directly related to the title of the post, we use a user-generated picture of a hierarchy of needs in the Internet age. In addition to being relatable for many social media professionals, this Tweet also creates intrigue for the content associated with it.

Don’t you want to know why there’s a picture of a purple cow in this Tweet? If the answer is ‘yes,’ many of our followers agree—these Tweets promoting a blog post about spicing up “boring” content always get a higher-than-usual engagement rate to match its unusual illustration.

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