In the Mid-Year Social Journalism Report, Muck Rack CEO Greg Galant ranked the broadcast and print/online journalists with the most followers on Twitter. With more than 5 million followers, Anderson Cooper ranks far ahead of all other journalists. Several standout journalists boast over 2 million followers at press time: Rachel Maddow, Larry King, Chris Hardwick, Adam Schefter, and Bill Simmons.
We aren’t all aiming for millions of followers. But even if we start with an audience of dozens or hundreds of followers, we can look to the Twitter habits and strategies of these most-followed journalists for tips on gaining more followers and readers for our work.
Using the ForSight social media analytics platform, built by Crimson Hexagon (full disclosure: I work there), to monitor tweeting and engagement tactics and trends, distinct patterns of highly successful journalists on Twitter emerge. These patterns suggest that visibility through high-profile jobs like Anderson Cooper’s gig at CNN aren’t they only thing separating most followed journalists from the rest of the pack. For this study, I analyzed the activity around the Twitter handles of the five print/online journalists with the most followers as of June 2014 (Adam Schefter, Bill Simmons, Arianna Huffington,David Pogue, and Nicholas Kristof) from January 1, 2014 to July 4, 2014.
There are plenty of ways to gain followers aside from having a daily gig on a major television station, including getting widely retweeted, inspiring people to mention you when they share your work and participating in conversations that are important to your audience.
Here are five concrete lessons I took from my analysis of highly-followed journalists that you can incorporate into your approach to tweeting and using Twitter in your journalistic work to gain a larger audience and more influence:
1. Tweet Every Day. Regular engagement is the key. If you want to build your follower count, put out Tweets every day. Think of Twitter like a Giga Pet, those electronic toys back in the day that needed to be fed and watered. Each of the five exhibit peaks and valleys in sending Tweets, but send them they do – nearly every single day, weekends included.
2. Send a Flurry of Tweets About Events. Intensify your Twitter presence around events related to your beat or expertise. Each of the journalists’ owned media profiles on Twitter exhibited significant daily activity, as well as distinct spikes in sent Tweets and engagement, including mentions and Retweets, around events.
For example, Arianna Huffington’s Twitter handle saw its most engagement on a single day on Mother’s Day, a day when @ariannahuff Tweeted actively. With 360 million total possible impressions from Tweets and Retweets in one day, you can be sure @ariannahuff picked up new followers as a result of her Mother’s Day Tweets.
Bill Simmons saw a burst of engagement in late April of this year when he Tweeted 22 times about Donald Sterling, Adam Silver, and the NBA from April 26-29. During that time, an on-location Tweet from the Clippers game garnered 2,422 Retweets. Over four days, @BillSimmons added 6,000 new followers.