The Science of Retweets: 10 Steps to Going Viral on Twitter

The Science of Retweets: 10 Steps to Going Viral on Twitter


Twitter has over 215 million active users creating over 500 million Tweets per day. 

That’s a lot of people, a lot of tweets and a lot of noise. 

But what if you knew the secret to optimizing each tweet for virality, ensuring it reached more of your target demographic and had a higher chance of being retweeted for maximum exposure.

Well look no further. After writing a post on helping you turn your followers into paying customers on Twitter, I was inspired to help you crack the code so that you could get your business to go viral on Twitter.

Here’s a step-by-step guide for optimizing your tweets. 

#1. Use Images

Brand new data from Dan Zarella shows that tweets with images using, Twitter's native uploader, are 94 percent more likely to be retweeted. Guess which images aren’t so popular on Twitter when it comes to getting some retweet love? Tweets with links to images on Facebook and Instagram.

#2. Tweet at the Optimal Time

According to KISSmetrics, roughly 6 percent of all retweets occur around 5 PM, a typical time when most of us get off work, while the build up to that level of retweeting activity occurs around noon. Luckily, there’s no shortage of both free and paid tools out there to help you get the science of Twitter timing down to an art.

We personally use and love Buffer, whose integration with Followerwonk enables to drill even further into the behavioural patterns of your personal followers to see when they’re most active.

#3. All Hail,

In the battle for URL shortener supremacy, a new king has emerged, Especially when it comes to URL links that are retweeted according to Dan Zarella. Other notable services include and, but leads the way by far.  

#4. Use #Hashtags

There’s something about a hashtag that just makes you want to click or retweet a tweet leading to roughly 2x more engagement than tweets without them. In case you’re wondering just how many hashtags to use, turns out you’re best to keep them between the numbers 1 and 2, because as soon as you go over you can expect a drop of almost 4 percent.

#5. But, Use #Obvious Hashtags

The best things in life aren’t things, they’re also not complex. When it comes to using hashtags, you’re much better off using something simple, straightforward, and obvious than you are using something complicated.

Consider this for an example, when the producers of the American version of X-Factor were looking to differentiate it from it’s British original they decided to settle on a “short and unique” hashtag, #xfusa. Guess what happened, despite all the money spent on promoting the hashtag, fans ended up tweeting using the non-promoted #xfactor as much as five times more than #xfusa.

#6. Use These Words

Zarella also compiled a list of top words that drive engagement on the social platform. Turns out the majority of them are all centered around content that adds value with works like “free, how to, top, great, and help” among many others. So the next time you send out a tweet, think what’s in it for “them.”

#7. But, Not These Words

Want to know what people don’t want to hear about? Anything to do with what you classify as the mundane part of your day you would like to think other’s were concerned with, especially when it comes to when you’re playing a game, going somewhere, sleeping, are bored, listening to something, and tired while lol. Kapish?

#8. Say Please

Social media scientist Dan Zarella found that 40-50 percent of tweets with the phrases “Please ReTweet” and “Please RT” were likely to be retweeted than tweets that contained neither.

#9 Tweet Links

It turns out almost 70% of retweets contain a link.  This demonstrates that people are willing to retweet content that points to useful and entertaining information from around the web. 

And that's good news if you use Twitter as a content distribution network for your business. 

#10. Keep It Short, But Not Too Short

When it comes to the perfect tweet length, the folks at Track Social found that keeping your tweet around 100 characters, with engagement peaking at 110 characters and tapering off from there.


Bonus: Tweet Industry Specific, Not Company Specific

Want to know the secret behind the most influential brand on Twitter? Branden Hampton creator of @Notebook reveals how “Notebook of Love” garners 40 percent more engagement than any other brand according to a study conducted using the top 25 most engaged brands on the social platform. In an interview with Forbes, he said “the secret to success as a business on Twitter is conveying the industry’s message, not your business’. When your followers learn that you’re an industry expert, they’ll trust your business when they look for a product in that industry.”

He then goes on to give a vivid example of what that entails, “a jeweler, for example, shouldn’t tweet all day about their latest collections or newest diamonds. Instead, they should tweet checklists for brides, awesome proposal videos and tips on handling wedding stress. Their followers will see them as an expert, and are more likely to trust – and purchase from – them when they’re ready to take the plunge.”

There you go, 10 solid insights backed by stats on how to get your business to go viral on Twitter. Be sure to comment to share any tips or insights you personally use that we may have missed.

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