While messaging is critical, selling a product or service on Twitter requires much more than a carefully crafted tweet. Words alone aren’t enough to capture the attention of today’s overly-stimulated consumers. Adding a hashtag, photo, or video to a tweet undoubtedly makes it richer, and as Twitter proved in its latest study, can have a significant impact on reach.
Twitter has confirmed that overall, tweets with photos see a 35 percent boost in retweets, while tweets with videos receive a 28 percent increase. Additionally, tweets with quotes, numbers, and hashtags generate a 19 percent, 17 percent, and 16 percent increase in retweets, respectively.
These results, however, vary by industry. With help from data scientist Douglas Mason, Twitter analyzed millions of tweets sent by verified users in the U.S. in the areas of government, music, news, sports, and TV. Here’s a closer look at what was different in each area.
Twitter found that photos were more effective for verified users in government and politics than in any other area, with a significant boost in retweets — 62 percent higher in fact. For example, if government agency XYZ normally gets an average of 100 retweets per post, a photo would result in an average of 162 per tweet.
If you’re a government official, building an authentic relationship with your constituency is important. Photos often tell a story, trail a major event, or provide candid insight into your life or work. Take Obama’s tweet from November 2012 for instance. His “four more years” tweet with a photo of him and Michelle embracing generated more than 781,000 retweets — the highest number ever until Ellen DeGeneres’ star-studded Oscars selfie.
Additionally, hashtags were a major driver of reach in this this vertical, resulting in 30 percent more retweets. Digits and quotes also saw an increase over average engagement rates. Government officials often use hashtags to rally around a specific cause, while digits and quotes can provide substance and show that opinions are informed and based on facts.
It’s no surprise that videos were most effective for the music industry. On average, tweets with videos saw a 35 percent increase in retweets for verified users. For example, Katy Perry recently tweeted a music video for her new song “Dark Horse” that received more than 14,500 retweets. Photos came in second place with a 28 percent in retweets, while quotes and hashtags followed with 19 and 17 percent, respectively.
It’s worth mentioning these because musicians can garner a lot of engagement around sharing backstage photos or song lyrics. Including a hashtag in those tweets will make it easier for fans to find conversations around the music.
Photos are a big hit among the news industry, with quotes coming in a close second. On average, tweets with photos saw a 27 percent increase in retweets, while tweets with quotes had a 25 percent increase. It’s worth noting that tweets containing numbers, videos, and hashtags also led to a double-digit boost.
There’s a lot of opportunity among news professionals to go beyond text-only tweets. For example, the public turned to the @BostonGlobe for updates from the scene during the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings for accurate information. On April 15th, 2013, the news organization sent over 150 tweets, including photos, videos, and article links.
Another example can be seen from MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, who asked followers to participate in a conversation around her report on the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech. It was a fantastic way to pull in viewers and get them to engage around a particular topic.
Once again, photos prove to be the most valuable Twitter asset. Verified sports users most-retweeted tweets that contained photos had nearly 50 percent more retweets than normal. Tweets with hashtags and digits followed closely with 37 and 22 percent, respectively.
For marketers in the sports industry, think about how you can use images to give fans a unique experience. Behind-the-scenes photos can be highly effective, as evidenced by this tweet from the @Mariners. Images like this one can take sports fans to places they would never go otherwise.
For the TV industry, the tweets most likely to get retweeted included quotes, which garnered a 53 percent bump. That was followed by tweets including video, which saw a 48 percent increase in retweets. Photos came in a very close third at 46 percent. So what does this mean for marketers? Well for starters, it provides you with with more options for your text-based tweets.
For instance, you can quote a line from a show, something overheard on set, or something quote-worthy you or someone on the cast of a show said. To take it a step further, you can add that text on top of a photo for even higher engagement potential. This is something that ABC’s Scandal and AMC’s Mad Men has done very well.
And let’s not forget Ellen’s famous Oscars tweet. Part of the reason it did so well was because she asked for retweets. Sometimes you just have to ask for what you want. But more importantly, it shows a very candid moment — something few would actually get to witness live. Within 30 minutes of being tweeted it had already surpassed Obama’s “Four More Years” tweet in terms of retweets. Since then it has climbed to the number one position, with more than 3 million retweets and the title of the most retweeted tweet ever.
As Twitter pointed out, this research is focused on the engagement level of individual tweets with specific features, but it’s important to think of your Twitter strategy holistically. The information shared above can bring immediate rewards, but they’re far from the end of the story. Don’t preoccupy yourself with optimizing every single tweet, but rather focus on building a compelling way for your followers and fans to connect with you on the social network.
Jennifer Beese: Jennifer Beese has worked as a community manager and social media strategist. When she’s not writing, you can find her studying anatomy and physiology—she literally has a skeleton in her closet—or under the stars with her telescope.