Stories about others get retweeted more

Influencers’ tweets that tell stories about others receive 33% more retweets. Facts about oneself (-15%) and angry outbursts (-22%) are shared less

More engagement is more reach, for free (or better, at no cost). Here is how you, or the influencers you work with, can increase it.

Thank you Jason Pallant, one of the co-authors of this research, for collaborating with me on this summary.

For an audio deep-dive into the latest research in retail, I recommend the podcast he co-hosts: SHOPOLOGY


Stories - best if about others - are more likely to be shared on Twitter

Impacted metrics: Engagement | Organic reach
Channels: Social media | Word-of-mouth | Influencer marketing

Tip type: Existing research (July 2019)
Previous tip: Show your product’s ‘viewed’ or ‘purchased’ numbers (All tips here)

Recommendation

Influencers are retweeted most when they tell stories about others.

Short angry outbursts (except for personal trainers) and facts about oneself are the least retweeted on average.


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Effects

  • How much an influencer is retweeted (i.e. shared) is impacted by the tweet’s focus (oneself vs others), emotional tone (positive vs negative), and style (storytelling vs facts)

  • On average, these perform well:

    • 33% better: Stories focused on others (e.g. “Sometimes the people around you won't understand your journey. It's okay.”, “All these US politicians saying “this is not who we are” bullshit. Stop it with your denials.”). [25% of tweets]

    • 5% better: Stories about oneself (e.g. “I am not “boycotting” anything. I choose to not patronize chefs who tacitly support deporting half the people they've ever worked with.”). [14.7% of tweets]

  • On average, these perform badly:

    • 15% worse: Facts about oneself (e.g. “Yes. I'm a sleep whore. I cannot get enough sleep”). [28.6% of tweets]

    • 12% worse: Facts focused on others (e.g. “Tip alert! Cooking with vegetable oil means you don't have to wait for butter to soften…”). [26.7% of tweets]

    • 22% worse: Short, angry outbursts (e.g. “Horrible!”). [5.1% of tweets]

  • These can vary across types of influencers because people follow them for different reasons:

    • Angry outbursts can be effective for personal trainers but not others

    • Celebrity chefs can use stories about themselves effectively

    • Facts shared by fashion bloggers can be effective

(Note: All examples taken from actual tweets analyzed in the study)

Why it works

  • Stories are a fundamental way in which we like to communicate and make sense of experiences.

  • Occasional angry outbursts from personal trainers may work because we see them encouragement to get fit, which is why we follow them. You could even interpret Nike’s slogan “Just do it!” as an angry outburst.

Limitations

  • The research focused on 3 types of influencers and celebrities with large followings (385k - 7m): celebrity chefs, fashion bloggers, and personal trainers. The results likely hold for smaller and other types of influencers, but that’s untested.

  • The data is based on tweets up to November 2017, when Twitter only allowed up to 140 characters. This length limit may make it harder to generalize this to other social media platforms. However, longer form content may allow for better storytelling, leading to a stronger effect.

  • Only text was analyzed. Images, videos or links were excluded.

  • The study only used retweets to measure engagement. We don’t know if changes in likes or comments were similar or different.

Companies using this

Steps to implement

  • Work with influencers that use storytelling to talk about others and themselves, especially when mentioning your products.

  • Test applying similar techniques to your personal and company accounts. Instead of sharing facts about yourself (or worse, angry outbursts), share stories about others (e.g. who inspired you, who you don’t agree with, your customers’ successes).

  • You may also be better off working with ‘friend-like’ influencers rather than ‘opinion-leaders’ (see tip: ‘Friend’ influencers drive more sales than ‘opinion-leaders’).


Study type

Market observation (cluster analysis of 20,993 tweets by celebrity chefs [e.g. Gordon Ramsey], fashion bloggers, and personal trainers [e.g. Bob Harper]). English-speaking.

Source

Aleti, T., Pallant, J. I., Tuan, A., & van Laer, T. (July 2019). Tweeting with the stars: Automated text analysis of the effect of celebrity social media communications on consumer word of mouth. Journal of interactive marketing, 48, 17-32.

[Link to paper]

Affiliations

RMIT University, Swinburne University of Technology, University of Bologna, and University of Sydney. Australia and Italy

Remember: This research could be disproven in the future (although this is rare). It also may not be generalizable to your situation. If it’s a risky change, always test it on a small scale before rolling it out widely.


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