Results from Eva García Martín’s research show that users tweeting with hashtags have a significantly higher increase in the number of followers than users tweeting without hashtags.
The hashtag symbol, commonly used to tag posts into different categories, became mainstream through Twitter and is also one of Twitters key characteristics which was later adopted by other social networks. A lot of research related to Twitter has already been conducted and some related to the use of hashtags as well, but Eva wanted to add a new perspective, analyzing if users tweeting with hashtags increased their followers more than users tweeting without them. She analyzed this by isolating the hashtag usage from all other variables to ensure that the measured correlation between the use of hashtags and followers was not affected by any other variable.
Through an open API available for developers Eva gathered data from 502 891 Twitter users to conduct her analysis. Users were selected randomly following the same procedure, only differentiating between those tweeting with hashtags and those tweeting without. The experiment was designed to show that the increase of followers was only influenced by hashtags, by having a large and random Twitter population.
Results show that users tweeting with hashtags have a significantly higher increase in the number of followers than users tweeting without hashtags and also gave answers to some other interesting questions…
Are hashtag users more visible on Twitter?
Eva claims that users tweeting with hashtags are more visible on Twitter. She bases her claim on two facts. First, the fact that hashtag users are both gaining and losing more followers on average than those who tweet without. Second, the fact that they are tweeting more frequently, meaning hashtag users are more active than non-hashtag users. However there is no apparent relationship between tweeting at a high rate and having a high increase of followers.
What’s the lifespan of a tweet?
In the study information was updated every 12 minutes dividing each hour in five iterations. The highest increase of followers for both hashtag users and non-hashtag users occurs in the first iteration, during the first 12 minutes after a user has published a tweet. This supports Bray’s (2012) statement that a tweet is popular during the first 18 minutes after it has been published. After the fourth iteration there is almost no increase in followers. This complements the study by Lardinois (2009) suggesting that the lifespan of a tweet is one hour.
Is there such a thing as too many hashtags?
Eva studied the relationships between the increase and decrease of followers and the number of hashtags the users tweeted with. On average the study showed that higher the number of hashtags the lower the number of followers. In an online study it was suggested that using more than one or two hashtags will drop the user engagement by 17%. This claim was also presented in the work by Hutto et al (2013)
When analyzing the decrease of followers it is evident that tweeting with one hashtag has a higher decrease of followers than the baseline of not tweeting with any hashtags at all. However, the number of hashtags seems to have little impact on the decrease. The analysis indicates that users tweeting with a high number of hashtags tend to get less followed but they do not get unfollowed.
How this information can help me gain followers
The results show that users tweeting with hashtags have a significantly higher increase of followers compared to users tweeting without them. The highest increase of followers occur during the first 12-18 minutes after the tweet was published suggesting that the visibility of a tweet then significantly decreases and after an hour has almost no effect at all. So, if your tweet isn’t getting enough engagement during its life span, it is time to consider possible causes for this. Could you be using hashtags more efficiently for example? On average, the increase of followers drops the more hashtags you use. If you want to efficiently target your audience you should stop at two hashtags.