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How to be one hundred and eleven times more effective on Twitter
2013-02-21: I've been publicising the February Scarborough arts festival Coastival on Twitter, I've measured a lot, and here's what I learned.
First, though, let me say this. I know about science and statistical significance and this isn't either of those. There just aren't enough numbers. But the data is hinting at some very worthwhile things that may well result in you being very much more effective on Twitter. So although my exact-sounding figures are based on what I've measured, me stating exact percentages so boldly is intended partly to be motivating but also it's a little tongue-in-cheek poke at the 'facts' out there in social media land. Anyway, as you'll find, small numbers are what this is about .. so let's dive in.

Tweet more on good Twitter days, go easy on the others

Remember, context is everything. This data relates to an arts festival, so it's something nice to think about. Wednesday, then, turns out to have been the best day to Tweet by a large margin.
Why? Perhaps, balanced on the apex of a work-week, people start to see the light of the weekend.
Second-best? Friday and Saturday, when people are seriously thinking about their weekend.
So make your big, fun announcements on Wednesdays.
Tweeting on the best days makes you 74% more effective.

Tweet when your audience is there

There's a lot of nonsense talked about the best time to tweet. Someone advised me to tweet when people are commuting .. 7:30-8:30, 17:30-19:00. Sure, in London. This is Scarborough, no-one commutes or if they do they are driving. Beware generalisations (err, hang on .. except for that one).
I'm also learning Spanish, oh yes. The Spanish day is entirely different to the 'normal' UK day. They're up early and into work. There's a 3-4 hour break to wait for the sun to calm down, for lunch, watching the news and so on, then they're back to work for what's our evening, then after that it's out for tapas and in bars with friends until bed crash.
If you'll just come mentally back to the UK for a minute, there are mums with kids, muslims off to prayer, retired people, shiftworkers, retail workers .. hang on. There's no norm.
But there might be a norm for your audience. For Coastival, I felt (I've no data for this) wrong tweeting about the club night (until 3am with Marc Vedo and Boy George DJ) at 10am, that just didn't feel appropriate. But 10am got good responses for tweets about the traditional arts, exhibitions and open studios. That felt like artists got up in a relatively leisurely fashion or got up at 6am and stopped for coffee mid-morning. So even within my geography (and Scarborough isn't very ethnically diverse) and tweeting about one thing, my audience was divided.
Anyway, I got some peak response times. 6-7am was good. 7-10am fairly good. 8-11pm very good. 3-4pm fair (is this when mums got back from picking their kids up from school? Or is it the afternoon sugar dip at work?)
I used HootSuite to schedule my day's tweets at peak times, and I set up a spreadsheet to prompt me random times within those peaks. I'm developing software to take the strain of that more effectively.
Tweeting at the best times for you makes you 113% more effective.

Tweet about more about what people want to hear about

Coastival comprises lots of events, 64 in this case (twice as many next year). So if I tweet about Derek's event and then about Clive's event and twice as many people respond to the latter, then perhaps people are more keen on attending Clive's event. So I should tweet more about Clive and less about Derek.
I actually got my best responses trying to get people to move across platform. So tweeting "Are you on Pinterest, so are we, follow us here: " or "are you going to Boy George? Here's the Facebook event, click to say so: " seemed to work well.
After that in popularity came a lovely local art cafe, seemingly it had popular support, then the opening of a major new youth centre, and acoustic lounge is popular too.
What I did, fwiw, is used Twitter as a sort of voting system to tell me what to put on Facebook. So I tweeted maybe seven times a day or so, and what got the best response got Facebooked the next day.
Of course, I ended up with a massive spreadsheet of all the events and twitter responses and averages and a system for selecting who to tweet about next that took account of their relative popularities. Explaining that is for another article.
Anyway, listening to responses and being led by your audience: 3.93 times more effective than just carrying on regardless.

Do calls to action work?

Traditional marketing copy works partly on a call to action: "pick up the phone and call us now on 01234 567890". Social media, however, shuns anything that sounds salesy. So would "go here", "don't miss this", "book your ticket now" work on Twitter?
No, is the answer. Well, it made no difference in this case.
It turns out most of my tweets were passive: "Commercial photographer Clive will be exhibiting at x from 10am on 16 Feb for #coastival" would be a typical tweet. A marketing copywriter would go to town on it, but trying to goad (.. alright, 'motivate') people on social media doesn't seem to work. Or when I tried I wasn't very good at it.

What about 'fabulous'?

That didn't work either. The normal arts world's "this fabulous show .. " .. nah. Not if it's just an adjective anyway. Attributed, it might ("Awesome": Time Out). But no, my guess is it feels salesy again. In social media, the user is in control. Does she think it's fabulous? That's what matters. Maybe it feels too much like trying to tell people what to think in a space built so that people can communicate what they think.

Include a picture?

Yes, pictures worked, videos dragged. Specifically, adding a picture to a tweet improved response by 27%. Adding a video link dragged it down to 63%. But perhaps that's because they watched the video instead of 'acting' in a measurable way for my survey. So I think the actionable from here is .. try to include a relevant, good picture. (What I mean by relevant and good is, don't for heaven's sake go off to a picture library & come back with something cheesy (unless you're marketing cheese)).

Include quantities

OK, here's one I've not seen written about anywhere. I got much better responses if there was a quantity. "1,500 children will sing .. ", "Over 40 local artists .. ".
My guess is that this counts as social proof. We think "well, if that many people are involved, maybe I'm missing out".
My tweets that included a quantity got an 82% better response.

Free, 10% off, win

Blah blah this artist, yada yada that artist, this artist's this, that artist's that zzzzzzzzzz. What's in it for me? It's FREE? Well, why didn't you say?
Mention 'free' and you're in for a 71% lift in response.
'I get 10% off?' Make a value offer and enjoy an 81% lift in response.
'I can win a ticket?' The possibility of winning something .. that's a 60% lift.
Now you're talking.

Speaking of you ..

Marketing copywriters are big about you. They think if I mention you a lot, you'll pay more attention. I agree (you should too), but I've not found it in this case (but you might).
Perhaps it triggers the anti-selling reaction again, but even something as mild-mannered as "next time you're in town, pick up a Coastival planner from Tourist Information" .. it counts as a 'you' tweet, but made no difference. If anything 'you' tweets were slightly down. So, I say ignore the 'you' rule for now in your tweets.

What the benefits?

A core part of selling is to identify the benefits to the user. The way I was taught goes like this: the so what test:
"This frying pan has a teflon coating"
"So what?"
"So it's non-stick"
"So what?"
"So, when you fry your eggs in the morning, they won't break and you'll be able to enjoy runny yolks"
"Now you're talking, I'll have one for me and one for my mum as well"
'Value' is part of it. "Shall I go to Boy George for £15 plus drinks plus the time and see my friends but be back late and have my Sunday morning wrecked or shall I sit sadly on my sofa and watch telly but be fresh in the morning to go for a dawn run and still have that crisp £20 in my pocket?" It's a value decision.
Anyway, I'm digressing. I did accidentally attempt to hint at a benefit in some tweets (not many) and it possibly gained a 47% lift in response, so that's definitely worth exploring more. After all, shouting "Go To This" is a little rude, whereas "relax with a coffee .. " is that better? It's not a great example, but anyway, that would count as a benefit tweet. Here's another and I didn't write it: "COASTIVAL!! If you have young people 11 - 19 then The Street (William Street Coach Park) opens today 2-9, they will not be bored!!!". Your kids being entertained being the benefit.

Keep your tweets short

I've read a number of reports about tweet length and retweets. The idea is that if you want people to retweet your tweet, when they hit the retweet button it adds your Twitter handle and perhaps 'RT:' to the total tweet, potentially taking it over the 140 character limit. So, make your tweet more like 120 characters to allow for that plus maybe a brief comment from the retweeter.
I was going to say I hadn't noticed this effect, but actually it is there .. retweeting for me peaked around 124 characters giving 41% more retweets than a tweet of a full 140 characters. So yes, keep your tweets to max 124 characters to gain another 41% response.
All in all, as in everything Internet marketing, when you add all that up it's a tidy lift in your Twitter effectiveness. If you managed to combine tweeting on good days (1.74) at the best times (x 2.13) about what your audience wants ( x 3.93) with a good picture ( x 1.27), some quantity ( x 1.82) and an offer ( x 1.81), if you cover the benefit ( x 1.47) and do all that within 124 characters (x 1.24) then you're pretty amazing, but more importantly, you'll get 111 times the benefit from your efforts.
More realistically and joking aside, try to get as many of these lifting factors in as you can without harming the humanity of the tweet and you'll be doing a great job.
Good luck :-)

By John Allsopp
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