How to Ask for Help On Twitter (Please Read This!)

Please-Help-call-to-actionIt’s well known that if you ask people to retweet something on Twitter they’re more likely to do so than if you don’t ask. But exactly how much more likely has never been quantified before.

Step forward Hubspot’s Dan Zarella, author of The Science of Marketing, and a huge dataset from social update scheduler Buffer.

Dan analysed common calls to action featured in over 2.7million tweets to gauge what impact they have on recipients. While I should urge a little caution given the slightly skewed nature of the data (Buffer users tends to be more sophisticated social media players than the average) the findings are still pretty impressive.

As I’ve shown before, sometimes the littlest changes can have the biggest impact. So, here are the Top Seven Best Performing Calls To Action from Dan’s study:

1. Please Help – this simple, human plea generates more than 160% more retweets than the average tweet. Evidence, if it were ever needed, that social media is all about people helping other people.

2. Please Retweet – the old favourite solicits around 130% more retweets than average, still a great performer.

3. Please RT – interestingly for a shorthand world limited to just 140 characters, abbreviating Retweet to RT leads to 30% drop in retweets received! But ‘Please RT’ will still bring in around 90% more RTs than the average tweet so remains popular amongst the Twitter elite.

4. Please – OK, so this word may not always relate to an overt call to action but your mum was right: a little politeness goes a long way bringing home more than 70% more retweets than average.

5 Retweet – if you’re too cool to be polite, this one word still helps elicit over 50% more retweets than average.

6. Spread – we’re in the long grass now, but tweets featuring the word ‘spread’ still manage to attract over 30% more tweets than average

7. Visit – last on our hit list, the word ‘visit’ brings a tiny retweet uplift of around 15% over the average tweet. Not to be sniffed at perhaps, but a long way from the 160% boost at the top of our list.

So now you know which phrases are most likely to encourage your followers to retweet your content. But when and how often should you use these calls to action?

Clearly, if you beg for a retweet every time you post, your followers are likely to lose interest before very long. Instead I recommend you save your pleas for those times when you really need some help, maybe once or twice a week at most, depending on your activity levels. There are no hard and fast rules, but ask yourself what it must feel like to be on the receiving end of your tweets. If your Sent Tweets starts to look a bit like a charity fundraiser, you might be overdoing it. A little moderation will greatly increase your impact when the time comes to ask for those retweets.

And it almost goes without saying, it’s far better to focus on providing high quality content that your followers will spontaneously want to pass on than to force feed them rubbish they feel obliged to pass on to satisfy your constant requests for their help. Great content always generates the greatest response, even when you don’t ask for it.