How The Twitter Algorithm Works & Optimizing For It

When it comes to marketing yourself in the digital space, business owners always seem to have something new to figure out – whether that’s a Google core update or a changing social media algorithm.

Anyone who’s ever tried to grow a following on social media knows how frustrating it can be to get your content seen. With millions of profiles and brands competing for relevance, audiences have more than their fair share of posts to take in at any time.

That’s certainly the case with Twitter, one of the largest social media platforms in the world by monthly active users, with about 463 million.

But, despite how hard it is, earning a large, devoted following on Twitter would be ideal for any business.

And it can be done. Look at the platform’s largest followings: PlayStation with 16.9 million,  Xbox with 13.5 million, and Starbucks with 11.4 million.

Everyone starts with zero, but all of those brands must have done something over the years to take advantage of Twitter’s algorithm and actually get their content seen by their ideal audiences.

You can do the same thing, but a blind approach probably won’t pan out for you; there’s too much competition for that.

Instead, why not take advantage of the real Twitter algorithm that determines what users see based on their interests and activity on the platform?

Understanding the algorithm will get you just part of the way, though. The other part will come down to your content strategy.

So, let’s dive deep into the Twitter algorithm and explain how you can optimize your social media approach for it.

What Is The Twitter Algorithm?

Digital platforms such as Google and social media apps are pretty amazing things.

They are self-governing, largely thanks to the algorithms their human creators have designed for them.

Twitter’s algorithm is not unlike the algorithms used by other social media giants such as Facebook and Instagram.

These platforms have to use algorithms to show content to their users because there’s no logical way to keep up with it all otherwise.

Let me explain.

In a simple system, you would see everything posted by the accounts you follow in reverse chronological order.

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So, ten accounts post ten tweets, and you’d get them all in order, with the most recent one at the top of your Twitter timeline.

But, as Twitter users tweet about 500 million times a day, the platform needed a way to sift through everything to present users with personalized timeline feeds that would keep them engaged.

Enter: the Twitter algorithm (one of several, actually).

As I just mentioned, the key here is personalizing users’ Twitter feeds to fit them and their interests.

The Twitter algorithm bases its curating of content on your activity on the platform.

As you interact on Twitter, you’ll like certain tweets, follow certain accounts, and retweet certain things you like. Twitter uses all of that to show you tweets it thinks you’ll want to see.

One important point to remember is that the content users see isn’t always from accounts they follow.

Twitter may also show tweets from accounts that are similar to accounts users follow. The algorithm determines what content it will show from those sources based on the accounts you follow and the kinds of tweets you often like.

To the user, how it all looks is like this: when users select the Home timeline, they’ll see content from Twitter’s algorithm, an “in case you missed it” section of recent tweets from accounts they follow, and then all the other “regular” tweets from accounts they follow.

Users can flip the algorithm’s switch to turn off Twitter’s assumptions about their interests and go into “Latest Tweets” mode to see a reverse-chronological list of all recent tweets from accounts they follow.

That’s a condensed version of how the Twitter algorithm works.

Now, if you’re trying to get your content noticed on the platform, how do you work within the algorithm? That’s what we’ll get into now.

Optimizing Your Content For The Twitter Algorithm

When you’re trying to optimize your Twitter content to be seen by the largest number of users whom you would consider ideal for your business, you have to work within the framework of the platform’s algorithm.

Twitter will look for certain things in your content to determine if it’s “worthy” of being placed higher in your audience’s feed.

These factors shouldn’t be surprising to you, as they are essentially par for the course on social media apps today, but it’s still worth laying them all out here.

Here are the things the algorithm will “keep in mind” as it decides where to place your content:

  • How long ago the tweet was created.
  • How relevant the tweet is to the topic at hand or your market niche compared to what others in that space are saying. (Like on Google, certain keywords will signal relevance to the algorithm. Do advanced searches on Twitter to see what content shows up for certain keywords.).
  • How engaged users are on the specific tweet and other tweets from your account.
  • Whether the tweet includes visual elements such as images, videos, gifs, or other media (all of which are generally more engaging than simply text).
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All of these things make sense, and you can tell what is being implied in each of them: The Twitter algorithm wants to show users tweets that are recent, relevant, already interesting to thousands of others, and likely to engage thousands more by containing visual media.

So, as you create content for your business’s Twitter account, keep these factors in mind, and act accordingly.

Before moving into the final section, let’s summarize the main points we’ve covered so far.

We’ve discussed why the Twitter algorithm was created and how it works. You know that the algorithm breaks up tweets into algorithmically chosen content, the “in case you missed it” section, and reverse-chronological tweets.

You also now know about the relevance and content-type factors the algorithm considers when determining which tweets to show to followers and others.

Here are my top tips for actively optimizing your Twitter content strategy to drive the most engagement from your target audience on the platform.

1. Whatever You Do, Do it Consistently

For whatever reason, some people struggle to be consistent on their social media accounts. They might post twice a day for four days and then drop off for about a week before returning.

That kind of post schedule won’t drive your engagement or win you the likes and followers you need to play the algorithm game.

That’s why it’s important to stay consistent in your content strategy.

Consistency does a lot for you. For one thing, it makes you look more professional and reliable, as businesses on top of their marketing usually post on schedules like clockwork.

The other benefit of consistency is that you have a greater chance of reaching everyone you want, since not everyone brings up Twitter at the same time every day. As a result, your tweets could be buried by the time a large portion of your audience logs onto Twitter.

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By sticking to a three-times-a-day schedule daily, you give yourself the best chance of reaching people no matter when they jump on Twitter.

Once you build up a following, people will know when to expect more content from you, and they may even wait for it to publish.

2. Strategically Retweet

There’s also nothing wrong with adding Retweets to your content strategy on Twitter.

Retweeting allows creators to share something from someone else with their followers. As long as what you Retweet is consistent with your regular messaging, this is a good method of continuing to reach your audience consistently.

Retweeting is also a way of riding the popularity of something else while still giving your followers something of value.

You can retweet content from someone else in your industry or Retweet an old tweet of your own that performed well.

Work retweets into your posting schedule to continue communicating to your audience while staying relevant with content.

3. Stay Interesting

If the main takeaway of this entire post for you has been to make your content interesting and engaging to get found within the algorithm, that would be enough for me.

However, it’s worth pointing out just what “interesting” Twitter content means.

I mentioned above that tweets with media tend to do better because they drive more engagement. Who wants to read a tweet when you can watch a funny GIF or look at an image with a brief caption?

When you post shareable, funny, or intellectually stimulating content, that encourages likes.

When you do that on a consistent schedule, that encourages follows.

Now, likes and follows don’t necessarily translate into more business for you, but they can help to build an authentic audience on social media and ultimately grow your brand awareness.

Know The Twitter Algorithm, But Don’t Obsess

We’ve covered a lot in this post, but there’s one more thing I want to say about the Twitter algorithm: Don’t obsess over it.

Like when you write SEO content, the good stuff will rise to the top.

Don’t devote every waking hour to figuring out how to game the algorithm and get your stuff seen.

Follow these tips, but focus primarily on generating helpful content for your audience and representing your brand.

This is the best way to grow a Twitter audience for real.

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