TIME Internet

59 Free Twitter Tools and Apps to Fit Any Need

Twitter Says 23 Million of Its Users Are Not Actually Bots
A user scrolls through a Twitter feed. Bloomberg via Getty Images

Twitter is a fascinating adventure of relationships, entertainment, education, and fun. Now imagine layering on a few dozen powerups.

That’s how it feels sometimes when you find just the right Twitter tool. And there’s a tool for practically every desire or whim.

Tools for productivity, for efficiency, for research, and so much more. With such a generous API, Twitter tools have become legion—and we social sharers are better off for it.

At Buffer, we tend to come across a fair share of social media tools. We’ve collected a great bunch to share with you! Here are all the tools we’ve found helpful and many more that we’re excited to try. If there’s a free Twitter tool out there, you’re likely to find a mention here in our list.

(If we missed any good free Twitter tools, let us know in the comments!)

The big list of 59 free Twitter tools for marketers

Navigate this list fast

Looking for something in particular? Try clicking one of these categories:

Analytics | Chats | Discovery | Follow/Unfollow | Mentions & Monitoring |Scheduling | Timing | Trending Topics | Twitter Clients | Other

Twitter Tools for Analytics

1. My Top Tweet: Your Top 10 list of tweets

Find anyone’s Top 10 tweets, ordered by engagement.

2. Wildfire: Follower growth analysis

Compare your follower growth to your competitors’s follower growth. Simple, helpful, enlightening.

3. SocialBro: Analytics, optimization, and more

A nearly all-in-one platform for all things Twitter. The free plan comes with analytics, best time to tweet, follow/unfollow tools, and community segmentation.

4. Riffle: Data visualizations for any Twitter user

This browser plugin reveals vast insights into any Twitter user you choose. Discover statistics, popular hashtags, most shared links, connected profiles, and much more.

5. Twitonomy: Detailed analytics on users and tweets

A dashboard of analytics for whichever Twitter user you choose (even yours). Analyzes profiles, tweets, engagement, and more.

6. Klout: Twitter scores

Track your influencer score (on a scale of 1-100) and use the Klout dashboard to create and schedule new tweets.

7. SumAll: Email reports for Twitter stats

Sync your Twitter to SumAll, and start seeing daily or weekly emails on how your followers are growing, your mentions, and your engagement.

8. SocialRank: Follower analysis to find your most awesome fans

Receive a sorted list of your best followers, most influential followers, and most engaged followers. Useful to track the important people to engage with on Twitter.

9. Twtrland: A Twitter resume

Plug in your Twitter account to see a snapshot of who you follow, which demographics you fit, who’s in your close network, and more.

10. Bluenod: Community visualization

Type in a user or hashtag and see a detailed map or visualization about the community around the user or the people using the hashtag.

Twitter Tools for Chats

11. Beatstrap: Team liveblogging

Cover live news, sports, and events through Twitter, via hashtags, and collaborate with your team on the coverage. Completed “Beats” come with an embed code.

12. TweetChat: Twitter chat management

Log in to follow a specific hashtag, hang out in a room that collects the hashtagged tweets for you, and reply as you like (with the hashtag added automatically to your tweet).

13. Chat Salad: A calendar of Twitter chats

See upcoming Twitter chats and when they’re scheduled, as well as the hashtags they use (so you can follow along).

14. Twubs: Twitter chat homepages

Register a hashtag for your chat and collect/view the tweets from one location.

15. Nurph: Chat planning and organizing

Nurph channels let you plan and organize your chat, complete with follow-up stats and replays.

16. TwChat: Real-time chat rooms for Twitter chats

Submit your hashtag. Enter your chat room. Have fun!

Twitter Tools for Discovering Fresh Content and Fun Users

17. BuzzSumo: Find influencers, topic-by-topic

Type in a keyword to see which voices get the most shares on Twitter. Find influencers, sniff out headline ideas, and learn what works on Twitter and who’s working it.

18. Nuzzel: Discover what your friends are reading

As described by Twitter’s Joanna Geary, “find out what’s trending among the people the people you follow follow.” Make sense? Translation: Content discovery from friends and friend of friends.

19. Swayy: What your followers are interested in

See the content that your followers recommend plus the topics they most enjoy. View it all via the dashboard or from a daily email digest.

20. Twipho: Searchable Twitter feed of photos

Search by keyword or by location to find photos shared on Twitter.

21. Sonar Solo: Discover keyword-related content

Search any topic to see a visualization of the related topics, trends, and Twitter profiles connected to your search.

22. Topsy: A search engine for social

The most recent and most relevant tweets (and other social updates) based on a keyword search. Also shows keyword volume, sentiment score, and other analytics.

23. Digg Deeper: The best stories from your friends

An algorithmic display of the top articles and links that your Twitter followees have shared. Pair with News.me: a daily email newsletter of what your friends share on Twitter.

24. The Latest: A museum for the day’s best Twitter links

A real-time, constantly updated list of the most interesting links on Twitter, culled from the accounts of interesting people

Twitter Tools for Following & Unfollowing

25. ManageFlitter: Follow/unfollow in bulk

Segment your followers according to a number of factors: last tweet, follower count, location, language and whether or not they follow you back.

26. Tweepi: Tidy up who you follow

Cleanup inactive follows, flush those who don’t follow back, and reciprocate someone else’s follow—all done in bulk and with a few clicks of a checkbox.

27. Unfollowers: In-depth follow/unfollow

Get a complete breakdown of those you follow, and unfollow with ease.

28. DoesFollow: See who follows whom

Does A follow B? Does Bill Gates follow Skrillex? Does Guy Kawasaki follow Jay Baer?

Twitter Tools for Hashtags

29. Hashtagify.me: Complete analytics into any hashtag

Enter a hashtag to discover related tags, recent conversations, usage patterns, and influencers.

30. Rite tag: Hashtag recommender

Plug in a hashtag and see feedback on the tag’s reach and popularity as well as suggestions for some alternatives to try. Complete with pretty colors to see at-a-glance which hashtags are best.

31. Seen: Hashtag-based curation

Collect the media that was shared with a certain hashtag, then rank the results. Share your curation with friends and followers.

Twitter Tools for Mentions & Monitoring

32. Keyhole: LIke Google Alerts for Twitter

Ask Keyhole to notify you whenever a particular keyword, hashtag, or URL is mentioned. Helpful to track mentions of your own name or your company’s blog or campaign.

33. The One Million Tweetmap: Geolocated, real-time tweet monitoring

Track and follow keywords as they’re tweeted in real-time and at real places. Zoom in to a geotargeted area for super fine results.

34. Twilert: Real-time email alerts for keywords

Track keywords on Twitter and receive an email notification every time they’re mentioned. Great for keeping an eye on company names, new products, and branded hashtags.

35. Mention: Monitor your mentions

A listening tool for keeping up with all your mentions on Twitter. Tracks, analyzes, and displays any number of keywords via the Mention dashboard or via email digests.

36. MentionMapp: The web of you and those you mention

Get a visualization map of you and all the people you mention (and they people they mention).

37. Twazzup: Real-time keyword monitoring

Search and track any keyword, username, or hashtag. See a results page full of relevant tweets, user accounts, and influencers.

Twitter Tools for Scheduling Tweets

38. Buffer: Schedule your tweets (plus a whole lot more)

Simple social media management. Fill a queue of tweets, analyze their performance, and find new, hand-picked stories to share.

39. Tweet4me: Scheduled tweets via DM

Send a direct message to the Tweet4me account, use shorthand and prefixes to denote when to share, and let Tweet4me schedule and send the tweet for you.

Twitter Tools for Timing

40. Followerwonk: Search Twitter bios and analyze your followers

Every analysis imaginable for your Twitter feed, your profile, your followers, and your competitors.

41. Tweriod: Find the best times to tweet

Tweriod analyzes the tweets you send and your followers’s tweets to find the optimal time for engagement.

Twitter Tools for Trending Topics

42. Trends24: Detailed breakdowns of trending terms

See trending terms from the last—you guessed it—24 hours, broken out hour-by-hour and country-by-country. Enlightening for social media campaigns and geographic/timing research.

43. Trendsmap: Monitoring for local Twitter trends

A zoomable map that shows popular hashtags and terms from anywhere in the world with easy-click buttons to hone in on My City, My Region, and more.

44. iTrended: Did it trend?

Search the past 15 days to find whether certain keywords trended or not.

Top Twitter Clients

45. Tweetdeck: The king of Twitter clients

Via the app or the web, stay on top of your Twitter stream with Tweetdeck’s organization and tracking tools. Split your stream into segmented columns to stay engaged with what’s important.

46. YoruFukurou – Twitter client

A native Twitter client for Mac OS X. Dashboard views of incoming tweets, lists, and searches, split across multiple tabs. Comes highly recommended from Kottke.org.

47. Happy Friends: Mailbox-type reader

Pick the friends you want to hear from. Never miss their tweets. View all their activity via an inbox-style layout with nested updates.

Miscellaneous Twitter Tools

48. TW Birthday: Dig up the date someone joined Twitter (even if they won’t say)

For those who omit the “date joined” on their profile, there’s still a way to discover it. See how long your new favorite follow has been tweeting or when a new profile officially landed.

49. Bio is Changed: be alerted when someone changes their Twitter bio (good for job moves)

Rather self-descriptive, this tool updates you when someone changes their Twitter bio. Useful if you’d like to track job moves and major news or even to learn from how people craft unique Twitter bios.

50. Like Explorer: See shares per article

Type in a URL. See the share numbers. Simple.

51. Tweet Beat: List management

A powerful tool for managing your Twitter lists—adding, removing, discovering, and sharing.

52. and 53. IFTTT & Zapier: Automate your tweeting

Connect multiple apps in unique ways to your Twitter account. For example, post your Instagram pictures as native Twitter photos.

54. Be Present: Track how fast you respond on Twitter

Real-time reports on your response time, response rate, and performance based on industry benchmarks. Also, really pretty to look at.

55. SavePublishing: Tweetable snippets on any website

Install the bookmarklet, and you can reveal any tweetable sentences (140 characters or fewer) from any article.

56. Tweekly: Once-a-week email of tweets you care about

Tell Tweekly which Twitter account you want to hear from, Tweekly pulls all their tweets and emails you weekly.

57. GroupTweet: Collaborate with teammates on one account

Let your teammates and coworkers share to the same account automatically with zero password-sharing. GroupTweet can even append usernames on to the end of individual tweets.

58. Storify: Beautiful Twitter storytelling

Grab any number of tweets and media elements, and place them all into a Storify collection that you can embed and share anywhere.

59. Tweet Topic Explorer: A word cloud per user

Discover the most-used words of any user you choose (even you).

Additional resources:

What are your go-to Twitter tools?

Which tools are must-haves for you with your Twitter experience?

Which Twitter tools have you already used today?

My mornings always start with a read of News.me (the email version of Digg Deeper) and a dip into Buffer to check some stats. I spend most of my Twitter time replying to others directly from the native web app. In the evenings, I’ll grab some content suggestions from Buffer, Swayy, BuzzSumo, and a couple others and fill the Twitter queue for the next day.

I’d love to hear about your favorite Twitter tools in the comments!

 

This post originally appeared on Buffer

TIME psychology

The 10 Most Unexpected Ways to Be Happy, Backed By Science

177983273
Girl jumping into the sunshine Olivia Bell Photography—Getty Images/Flickr RF

A user's guide to having it all

1. Embrace opposing feelings, at the same time

Cheerful + Downcast = Happy

Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being

The above quote from psychologist Jonathan Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering sums up the idea that happiness can come from noticing and embracing a wide spectrum of emotions—good and bad.

Adler and his colleague Hal Hershfield performed a study on this so-called mixed emotional experience and how it relates to positive, psychological well-being. They monitored participants who went through 12 weekly therapy sessions and who filled out questionnaires before each.

The results: Feeling cheerful and dejected at the same time was a precursor to improved well-being in the following sessions.

For example, someone might say, “I feel sad because of the recent losses in my life, yet I am also happy and encouraged to be working through them for a positive outcome.” According to Adler:

Taking the good and the bad together may detoxify the bad experiences, allowing you to make meaning out of them in a way that supports psychological well-being.

And Hershfield followed up with a another study about mixed emotions and health. After studying participants over a 10-year span, he and his team found a direct correlation with accepting one’s mix of emotions (e.g., “taking the good with the bad”) and good physical health.

We’ve enjoyed sharing among our team about mindful meditation and reflection. This process was even highlighted in a 2012 study by psychologist Shannon Sauer-Zavala of Boston University who found that mindfulness helped participants overcome anxiety disorders by accepting their wide-range of feelings and working toward improvement.

2. Keep your happy friends close, geographically

The sweet spot: a happy mutual friend, living a mile away

The town of Framingham, Massachusetts, was the focus of a multi-generational study on happiness, known as the Framingham Heart Study. Beginning in 1948, the study has tracked three generations of Framingham residents and their offspring to discover trends in the way that happiness moves among a population. A few of their takeaways:

  • Individual happiness cascades through groups of people, like contagion.
  • The more happy people you add to your life, the greater positive effect it will have on you. (This is not true of sadness.)
  • Geographically close friends (and neighbors) have the greatest effect on happiness.

Below is the chart that summarizes this last point about geographic closeness. Basically, researchers broke down the happiness effect based on a participant’s relationship to others (the so-called “alters” in the chart) and their proximity to one another.

The breakdown:

  1. Nearby mutual friends (literally off the charts, the actual probability percentage is 148 percent)
  2. Next-door neighbor
  3. Nearby friend (a person whom the participant named as a friend but the “friend” did not reciprocate the label)
  4. Nearby alter-perceived friend (a person whom the participant did not name as a friend but who claimed to be friends with the participant)
  5. Nearby sibling
  6. Coresident spouse
  7. Distant sibling
  8. Non-coresident spouse
  9. Same block neighbor
  10. Distant friend

Proximity of nearby mutual friends, according to the study, included those who lived with one mile of each other. Others fall into the “distant friend” category.

Is it possible to have mutual friends that close by? I’d love to hear your experience. Personally, it reminds me of the happiness and fun of dorm life, big-city living, and vacationing with friends.

3. Learn something new, even if it’s stressful

Master a new skill—stress now, happiness later

If you are willing to push through a bit of added stress in the short-term, you can experience huge gains in happiness for the long-term.

Learn a new skill. Take on a bit more stress. And research says you’ll be happier on an hourly, daily, and long-term basis.

The gains from this investment in time and energy were documented in a 2009 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies. Participants who spent time with activities that increased their competency, met their need for autonomy, or helped them connect with others reported decreased happiness in the moment yet increased happiness on an hourly and daily basis.

The key, according to the study, is to choose the right new skill to master, challenge to undertake, or opportunity to get out of your comfort zone.

The greatest increases are experienced (with) any behavior that a person feels they have chosen, rather than ought to do, and that helps them further their interests and goals

Bigger-happiness-impact-Therapy-or-cash

4. Invest in good counseling

Therapy is 32 times more effective than cash

Can money buy happiness?

Not according to research by psychologist Chris Boyce. At least, not as well as a regularly-scheduled counseling session.

Boyce and his colleagues compared the data sets from thousands of reports on well-being and noted how well-being changed either due to therapy or due to sudden increases in income, like receiving a pay raise or winning the lottery. Basically, do we get more happiness for our buck by paying for therapy or by receiving cash in hand?

The results were incredibly lopsided.

Therapy was 32 times more effective than cash.

It would take a $40,000 raise to equal the benefit from $1,300 worth of therapy.

This study certainly highlights the value of counseling, and it also points to the general benefit of intangible experiences, relationships, and communication over possessions, things, and money. If you’re seeking happiness, never be afraid to question if you’re looking in the right places.

5. Press pause on the breathless pursuit of happiness

Chase happiness at a safe speed

Here’s a cool story about cats.

One day this old alley cat crossed paths with a younger cat who was frantically running around, trying to catch its own tail. The older cat watched carefully for awhile. When the young cat stopped for a breather, the older cat asked, “Would you mind telling me what you are doing?”

The young cat said, “Sure thing! I went to Cat Philosophy School and learned that happiness is in our tails. So I am going to keep chasing my tail and someday I will catch it and get a big bite of happiness.”

The older cat responded, “Well, I have never been to Cat Philosophy School, but I agree: Happiness is in our tails. However, I have found that when I just wander around enjoying life, it follows me everywhere I go.”

This idea of not chasing happiness was highlighted in a 2011 study by Yale psychologist June Gruber and colleagues who found that pursuing happiness may lead to increased expectations that, if gone unmet, would actually have the opposite effect of happiness.

So instead of chasing happiness to the extremes, we may be better off pursuing happiness calmly and rationally. Trying new happiness experiments is a great way to go, so long as you keep expectations in check.

How-to-Say-No

6. Say no to almost everything

Specifically, say “I don’t”

The difference between successful people and very successful people is that very successful people say “no” to almost everything. Warren Buffett

Overworked and overburdened is a recipe for unhappiness. So if you want to be happy, might be some quick wins by saying no!

So then, how should you say it?

Say I don’t.

Believe it or not, the phrase “I don’t” is up eight times more likely to work than saying “I can’t.” It’s more than doubly effective versus the simple “no.”

The Journal of Consumer Research ran a number of studies on this difference in terminology. One of the studies split participants into three groups:

Group 1 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals they should “just say no.” This group was the control group because they were given no specific strategy.

Group 2 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, they should implement the “can’t” strategy. For example, “I can’t miss my workout today.”

Group 3 was told that anytime they felt tempted to lapse on their goals, they should implement the “don’t” strategy. For example, “I don’t miss workouts.”

And the results:

  • Group 1 (the “just say no” group) had 3 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 2 (the “can’t” group) had 1 out of 10 members who persisted with her goal for the entire 10 days.
  • Group 3 (the “don’t” group) had an incredible 8 out of 10 members who persisted with their goals for the entire 10 days.

Results from this study make a pretty great blueprint on how to say no. I’d love to hear how this works for you if you decide to add this to your happiness toolbox.

7. Celebrate strengths, recognize weakness

Allow yourself permission to be yourself

You’ve perhaps heard the old maxim, “You can be anything you want to be.”Strengths Finder author Tom Rath has an amendment:

You can be a lot more of who you already are.

When we’re able to put most of our energy into developing our natural talents, extraordinary room for growth exists.

Psychologist Paul Pearsall calls this “openture” (his coined phrase for the opposite of “closure”). Pearsall’s desire is that people embrace imperfections and celebrate strengths.

Research has shown that wedging ourselves into places we don’t fit can lead to undesirable results. As an extreme example, a study from Joanne Wood of the Univeristy of Waterloo asked people with low self-esteem to say to themselves “I’m a lovable person,” and at the conclusion of the exercise, participants felt reaffirmed in their low self-esteem rather than empowered to change.

If happiness seems elusive because you feel a need to be someone you aren’t, then the words of Tom Rath should be comforting. Celebrate what you’re good at and appreciate that we all bring unique characteristics to the table.

8. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best

The Samurai approach to happiness

Samurai warriors had two essential elements to performing their best: They trained extremely hard and they prepared for the worst.

The latter element, so-called “negative visualization,” has its roots in Stoicism. Oliver Burkeman wrote a book about counterintuitive happiness, including sections on this idea of Stoic thought. In an interview with writer Eric Barker, Burkeman explained:

It’s what the Stoics call, “the premeditation” — that there’s actually a lot of peace of mind to be gained in thinking carefully and in detail and consciously about how badly things could go. In most situations you’re going to discover that your anxiety or your fears about those situations were exaggerated.

Another benefit of this visualization is that you feel more in control when you have planned for all outcomes. Navy SEALs undergo psychological training so that they feel in control at all times. And according to neuroscience, the brain can continue to function as normal so long as we maintain the illusion of control (via training and visualization).

9. Give up your favorite things

Just for a day or two, not forever (phew!)

Here’s a gem of an idea from Eric Barker, author of the Barking Up the Wrong Tree blog:

Denying yourself something makes you appreciate the things you take for granted.

The scientific elements at play here are self-control and willpower. Researchers who conducted an overview of 83 studies on self-control concluded thatwillpower wanes as the day goes on, yet you can train willpower just as you would a muscle. Exerting self-control leads to more self-control over time.

Harvard professor Michael Norton has a great way of thinking about this:

The idea is that the things that you really like a lot, stop. Stop it. So, if you love, every day, having the same coffee, don’t have it for a few days and, when you wait, and then you have it again, it’s going to be way more amazing than all of the ones that you would have had in the meantime.

The problem with that is, on any given day, it’s better to have a coffee than not, but if you wait three days and don’t have it, it’s going to be way better once you finally do. Interrupting our consumption is free. It actually saves you money and gets you more happiness out of the money spent. It’s like the best of all worlds, but we’re completely unable to do it, because we always want to watch the thing or eat the thing right now. It’s not “give it up forever.” It’s “give it up for short periods of time, and I promise you you’re going to love it even more when you come back to it.”

Think daily coffee, Netflix binging, iPhone games, etc. Find more happiness by practicing patience with the things you love.

10. Keep your daydreams grounded

Expect great things rather than fantasizing about great things

Is there such a thing as a grounded daydream?

Hopefully so. A German research project found that students who fantasized about the future met below average results in their real-life futures. The following occurred with those who fantasized:

  • Put in fewer job applications
  • Received fewer job offers
  • Earned lower salaries
  • Were more likely to struggle academically
  • Failed to ask their crush out on a date

Here’s the chart from the series of studies. The specific explanations can be found in the full report, but generally-speaking positive numbers are good and negative numbers are less so.

 

London School of Economics professor Heather Kappes says, “Wild fantasies dull the will to succeed.” This would appear to be true of the participants in the study.

So instead of wild daydreaming, perhaps it is better to remain grounded, hopeful, and eager to see happiness in one’s future. After all, once you get a vision and idea in mind, it’s difficult to extract it. Social psychologist Dan Wegner even came up with a psychological theory on the topic, dubbed theIronic Processes of Mental Control:

in order to insure that you aren’t thinking about an unwanted idea, you have to continually turn your mind to that very idea. How do you know that you aren’t thinking of a white bear driving a red Ferrari unless you think about whether you’re thinking it?

Maybe you can apply the same to happiness, albeit remaining firmly grounded while doing so.

Over to you

Which of these unexpected happiness hacks ring true to you?

Are there some you agree/disagree with?

I’d love to hear your thoughts here in the comments! We’re always eager to find out what works for you and to learn new experiences in living happily.

Image credits: BMJ, PMC

TIME Social Media

These Are Twitter’s Biggest Secrets

Twitter Releases Diversity Report
The exterior of the Twitter headquarters on February 5, 2014 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

What makes us follow, fave, share and—most importantly—keep coming back

Correction: Appended, August 14, 2014.

When I choose someone new to follow, when I compose a new tweet, when I share and favorite an update, I seldom think about the why. My following sessions would probably seem haphazard to an outsider, and my favoriting technique comes and goes from one strategy to another.

Even so, the way I use Twitter is far less random than I thought. There is science and psychology behind the way we all tweet.

Researchers have discovered trends in the way that we perform every major action on Twitter—favoriting, updating, sharing, and following. And there’s even an interesting bit of psychology behind what makes Twitter so attractive in the first place. Here’s a look at the psychology of Twitter: what makes us follow, favorite, share and keep coming back for more.

Why we love Twitter so much: Rats, levers and psychology

I’ve hit more than my fair share of Twitter wormholes—minutes that turn to hours as I find more and more tweets to read and share. Does that sound familiar to you, too?

I figured there was a psychological reason behind the draw of Twitter. After digging around, sure enough, I came across a perfect explanation of this phenomenon, courtesy of Dr. Marion Underwood, a clinical psychologist at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The type of reinforcement schedule that is the most reinforcing is what’s called an intermittent schedule.

So, you have a rat pushing a lever and he gets rewarded, but not in a predictable way. Many times, that animal pushes that lever and nothing comes, but every once in a while, it gets a great treat. So the rat keeps pressing and pressing and pressing even though there’s not much reinforcement coming because every once in a while, it’s just great.

This hit home for me. Twitter offers these intermittent rewards that keep us coming back. Maybe you’ll check Twitter once and have a notification that someone retweeted you. That’s enough to keep you coming back a handful more times, even if nothing new and rewarding has occurred. We keep pushing the lever, hoping for something great.

The concept makes complete sense for those who wind up checking Twitter multiple times each day (same goes for email, too).

And just as there is psychology behind why we love Twitter so much, there’s science and data behind the many different ways we interact with one another. Here are three of the most interesting studies I’ve come across.

Why we follow: The 15 factors that affect follower growth

What spurs us to follow someone on Twitter? Researchers at Georgia Tech and Michigan combined to study the factors involved in following.

Their study looked at more than 500 Twitter users and a half-million of their tweets and analyzed follower count over a 15-month period—one of the longest timeframes you’ll see in a Twitter study.

The research team worked from a basis of follower growth factors that were made up of variables from social science, linguistics, computer-mediated communication, and network theory. In other words, if there is any reason why someone would follow someone else on Twitter, this study accounted for it.

The factors they came up with boiled down to three categories: social behaviors, message content, and social network structure. Here are the individual factors for each, starting with social behaviors:

  • Tweet volume
  • Burstiness – tweets per hour
  • Interactions – replies, mentions, and favorites
  • Broadcast communication – the ratio of tweets with no @-mention
  • Trustworthiness of the profile – How well is the bio filled out? Is there a URL in the profile? Is there a location listed?

The individual factors for message content:

  • Positive/negative sentiment
  • Informational content – ratio of tweets containing either a URL, RT, MT, HT, or “via”
  • Meformer content – ratio of tweets containing self-referencing pronouns like “I,” “me,” “we,” and “us”
  • Topic focus
  • Retweets – how often your content gets retweeted
  • Hashtag usage
  • TReDIX – Tweet Reading Difficulty Index (based on the frequency of real English words longer than 6 letters)

The individual factors in social network structure:

  • Reciprocity – The number of people you follow who also follow you
  • Attention-status ratio – Total followers compared to total following
  • Network overlap – How similar are the people you follow to those a follower follows

Knowing what’s behind each of these factors, how would you rate them in terms of importance? Which factor helps gain the most followers?

The winner is network overlap.

 

Follower growth stats
Buffer

In the chart above, you’ll see that the effect on follower growth spills to both sides of the x-axis. So not only can you see that network overlap, retweetable content, and a good bio have positive effects on gaining followers, you might also notice that broadcast communication (e.g. tweets with no @-mention), negativity, and hashtags drive follower growth down.

Takeaway: The PsyBlog has a nice recap of the findings from this study, summarizing points of emphasis from the research data. If you want to grow your followers, try these tips:

  1. Avoid negative sentiments
  2. Inform, don’t meform
  3. Boost social proof
  4. Stay on topic
  5. Write well and avoid hashtag abuse
  6. Switch from broadcast to direct tweets

Why we share: A guide to penning the most shareable tweet

I’m sure we’d all love to know what makes for a perfect tweet. Cornell researchers were interested, too.

They conducted a study that examined more than 1.7 million tweet pairs, comparing the differences in language between the two tweets and assigning value based on which style of tweet gains more retweets. Their conclusion:

Helpful wording heuristics include adding more information, making one’slanguage aligned with both community norms and with one’s prior messages, and mimicking news headlines.

If you were looking for an exact formula of a perfect tweet, the researchers didn’t find one. They did, however, offer a large number of best practices to go along with their conclusion above.

  • It helps to ask people to share
  • Informativeness helps
  • Sound like your community
  • Imitate headlines
  • Refer to other people but not to your audience (“he” and “she” rather than “you”)
  • Generality helps (“a” and “an” rather than “the”)
  • The easier to read, the better

Perhaps best of all, the research team put together a tool based on their findings that can help you perfect your posts. Enter two similar tweets into the Retweeted More tool, and you’ll get an algorithmic answer about which is better.

(Ready for some practice? See how you fare against the algorithm by taking this25-question test–see if you can pick the tweets that got shared more.)

Takeaway: Take inspiration from headlines and from your past successful tweets (your Buffer analytics can help with this) to write a tweet that is optimized for sharing. Try out the Retweeted More tool to test different versions.

(If you’re curious what we’ve found works best for retweets, check out the recap from our Twitter webinar.)

Why we favorite: Reaction & function

A study published by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence sought to put our myriad favoriting methods into categories. They quizzed a group of more than 600 Twitter users by asking two questions:

  1. Explain why you tend to favorite tweets.
  2. Explain the reasons for your most recent favorited tweet.

They received more than 331 answers to these questions and placed each answer into one or more categories. Here’s the full taxonomy of categories they used to classify favorites.

AAAI
AAAI

 

 

What’s interesting about the way these 331 answers fell is that there came about two distinct use cases for favorites. The research found that people favorite a tweet for one of two reasons:

  • Reaction/response
  • Function/purpose

The psychology here is quite interesting. Reactions and responses occur directly due to the content of the tweet or the author of the tweet. We favorite what we like. We favorite our friends and family (and, if I’m being honest, celebrities). When we favorite for utility, we’re seeking to fulfill a goal or a purpose. We favorite to bookmark. We favorite to communicate.

(If you’ve ever favorited something you agree with, your favorite would fall into the function/purpose category. According to the study’s authors, favoriting as agreeing is intended for the author; liking for the person doing the favoriting.)

Takeaway: Classifying favorites is nothing new; we all seem to have a method of favoriting tweets. The research shows, at least, that our method isn’t necessarily unique to us. For every user who favorites their friends, there’s a user who’s favoriting for bookmarks.

Do these insights ring true to you?

Psychology shows us how Twitter can be so addicting: We crave a great experience each time we pull the Twitter lever, and it keeps us coming back for more.

Research and data reveal a bit into the way that we use Twitter. We follow based on our network, we retweet based on tried-and-true formulas, and we favorite for reaction or function.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly identified the university where Marion Underwood teaches. She is a member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Dallas.

TIME Careers & Workplace

How Apple, Google and the White House Hold More Productive Meetings (And You Can, Too)

Science-backed methods you can use

If you have ever wanted to pop an escape hatch or teleport to distant worlds just to get out of a meeting, take heart.

There are ways to hold a better meeting.

Forward-thinking companies have found creative ways to get their teams together, and their lessons and structure can be easily duplicated in meetings anywhere. These creative methods aren’t just clever for cleverness’s sake: Most of them are science-backed and all of them are grounded in successful experience.

With just a handful of hacks, meetings can be speedier, more productive, and more enjoyable for everyone involved. Here are 9 outside-the-box ideas—and the science and success behind them—that you can discuss … at your next meeting, I guess.

5 research-backed ways to hold a more productive meeting

1. Keep meetings to 15 minutes

What’s your record for longest meeting?

Can anyone beat my four-hour marathon? (I bet many of you can!)

When it comes to meeting pain points, length often tops the list. How is it that meetings tend to go on so long, sometimes (OK, many times) unnecessarily? Here’s an old project management adage that might explain it:

Work expands to the time you schedule for it.

For this reason, you may want to keep meetings to 15 minutes or shorter, whenever possible. Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer will schedule 10-minute meetings, out of necessity for her busy schedule. The team at Percolate sets 15 minutes as the default length for all meetings, adjusting up or down as needed. Percolate values the 15-minute default so highly, they framed it in their set of six meeting rules.

Why might it seem like 15 minutes is an ideal starting point for meeting length? For one, it’s easy to schedule in an Outlook calendar or Google calendar. Though the default in most calendar apps is 30 minutes, you can quite easily adjust down to 15-minute increments as that’s how most schedule grids are created.

For the science behind the 15-minute rule, you need look no further than a TED talk. Each TED talk is kept to 18 minutes or shorter, the same time as a coffee break and a helpful constraint for presenters to organize their thoughts. Scientifically, 18 minutes fits right in with the research on attention spans: 10 to 18 minutes is how long most people can pay attention before checking out.

The 18-minute max has physiological roots. Our bodies require a large amount of glucose, oxygen, and blood flow when the brain processes new information. Sooner or later, we feel physically fatigued.

 

2. Set a timer—yep, a real timer

Here’s a helpful follow-up to the 15-minute rule. How keep yourself accountable to a set meeting length? Why not set a timer.

That’s the way that 37 Signals recommends. The company that built Basecamp is quite rigid about meetings. Their first instinct is to avoid meetings altogether. When they’re unavoidable, though, 37 Signals defaults to a set of meeting rules;turning on a timer is Rule No. 1.

Set a 30 minute timer. When it rings, meeting’s over. Period.

The psychological effect of the timer can be traced to the creative burst brought forth by limitations and constraints and deadlines. Many amazing artists—like Austin Kleon and Damien Correll—use constraints to fuel their ideas and creations. The countdown of a timer might do the same for your meeting (and it will at least get you out of there in time for lunch).

3. Take the chairs away

The “stand-up meeting” has come to mean more than just a meeting where everyone stands up. It refers to a daily team meeting where team members receive status updates on the latest happenings. We have stand-up meetings at Buffer, and since we’re a distributed a team that connects online, our stand-ups don’t necessarily mean we all stand up (although some of us could be standing, I guess!).

Still, the name for the stand-up meeting did originate from standing. The thinking goes: The longer you stand, the more uncomfortable you’ll get. The more uncomfortable everyone gets, the quicker the meeting will go.

Benefits of standing up extend beyond expediency, too. Andrew Knight and Markus Baer of Washington University conducted a study on stand-up meetings versus sit-down meetings, rating the ability of participants to work together, share ideas, and produce quality work. They measured these different elements using surveys, observation, and physiological sensors.

The results: Standing up leads to greater excitement about the creative process and it allows for greater collaboration on ideas.

4. No laptops for note taking

Do you take notes during meetings? If so, hand-written notes are the way to go.

A study by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer looked at the note-taking habits of college students from Princeton and UCLA. Students watched a 15-minuted TED talk video, taking notes along the way. Researchers compared those who took notes by hand and those who took notes on a laptop and found that while the factual recall of knowledge was similar, the conceptual recall had a clear winner. Those who took notes by hand did significantly better on understanding concepts.

Beyond a better understanding of concepts, a no-laptop rule should help with focus and attention, which is why many companies have taken that route. Speaking of banned electronics …

5. Create a coat check for cell phones

In a fast, efficient meeting, there should be no time to check cell phones, and just in case, many companies take the added step of asking employees to leave their phones at the door. Even the White House is in on the act. In Cabinet meetings, attendees are asked to write their name on sticky notes, place them on their phones, and deposit their phones in a basket.

The reasons for creating a no-cell-phone zone might seem obvious (games and texts would figure to detract from focus), and there has been research, too, into the detriment of cell phones in meetings. The Marshall School of Business conducted a survey of over 500 professionals and found that cell phone use is almost always frowned upon by your coworkers:

  • 86% think it’s inappropriate to answer phone calls during meetings
  • 84% think it’s inappropriate to write texts or emails during meetings
  • 75% think it’s inappropriate to read texts or emails during meetings

4 meeting tips from Google, Apple, and others

1. Keep your meetings to 10 attendees or fewer

The 10-person rule at Google, as mentioned in Kristin Gill’s book Think Like Google, is based on a fast-moving, startup culture where work time is precious for each employee. The leaner the invite list, the more time it leaves for the uninvited to forge ahead with other work.

As Gill writes: “Attending meetings is not a badge of honor.”

2. Establish a D.R.I.

Steve Jobs and Apple found their most effective way to end a meeting was to assign responsibility for tasks and decisions. Every task is assigned a D.R.I.—Directly Responsible Individual. Doing so provides public accountability for an individual to ensure that the project or task got done, and it sends clear, organized instructions for the team to follow.

3. Pause for a two-minute silence break

Seems counterintuitive to plan silence into a meeting, doesn’t it? Alexander Kjerulf, author of Happy Hour Is 9 to 5, has found silence to be an ideal way to encourage deep thinking and ideas, right in the midst of a meeting.

The purpose of meetings is not to talk – the purpose of meetings is to arrive at ideas, solutions, plans and decisions.

Since few of us can think deeply while we’re talking, the two-minute silence break gives a chance to mull over a decision, issue, or stalemate.

4. In 5 words or fewer, what’s this meeting about?

American Express vice president Christopher Frank recommends a constraint on the way you think about meetings. At the start of every meeting, ask yourself:

“What exactly are we meeting about?”

Everyone at the meeting gets to answer the question. They can only use five words or fewer in their answer.

This will show you if everyone is on the same page or not and if your meeting topic is focused enough. Are the answers inconsistent or too long? Refocus the meeting and try again.

Over to you: What has been your most enjoyable meeting hack?

It’s clear that meetings can be productive, successful, painless ventures. Including one or two of these hacks in your next meeting might be exactly what’s needed to get more done or boost meeting morale.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .

TIME Careers & Workplace

The 3 Most Important Words You Should Learn Right Now

How To Ace A Job Interview: 7 Research-Backed Tips
Chris Ryan—Getty Images/Caiaimage

Hard to say—but very important

One thing I’ve learned at Buffer is that being open to not knowing things seems to be the best way to learn quickly and teach others at the same time. So many of our biggest hits on the blog have come from saying, “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

On many matters, we haven’t any authority.

Is this an OK way to get by?

We’ve found great success in not knowing, and there’s no reason why you can’t, too. While we can certainly see the value in establishing yourself as an authority in your industry, being the answer-man or answer-woman isn’t the be-all, end-all of your options.

You can survive and thrive by embracing “I don’t know.”

Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

The leading authorities on not knowing

An interesting phenomenon occurs when you’ve been not knowing things for as long as we have. You become an authority on not knowing.

That seems to be the case here at the Buffer blog. We’d like nothing more than to be known as a go-to source for social media content. When you think about social media, we’d love for you to think of us!

At the same time, we understand that we may not be authorities on everything social media—we may not have all the answers right away, near at hand.

And that seems to be alright.

Instead of being authorities on social media, we can be authorities on thorough research, fascinating statistics, and personal experience. In other words, there is more than one way to cement yourself in the minds of your followers beyond traditional authority. If we can earn a reputation as a go-to source for social media content by embracing what we don’t know, then the opportunity’s there for you to do the same.

If you aren’t able to claim authority in your chosen field, you can still seek after a subset of authority. You can be an authority on:

Find whatever it is you’re good at, and become the best you can be. Soon enough, your Facebook and your Twitter and your blog will be known for the quality, exceptional work you do, regardless of what it is that you don’t know.

The authority pyramid

So maybe authority means more than expertise, influence, and confidence. If we expand our definition, we can each find our own path to authority, however it may look.

Impostor syndrome: We all feel like we don’t have all the answers

I’ve had moments where I wasn’t sure I was cut out for my job. Have you had these moments, too?

We’re not alone. Psychologists call this impostor syndrome, and it applies to those of us who are unable to internalize accomplishments. Despite outward evidence that we’re great at what we do, we’re convinced that we’re frauds and undeserving of our place.

This level of “I Don’t Know” is more common than you might think. The term has been around since the 1970s, and researchers believe that up to 70 percent of people have felt the effects of impostor syndrome at some point.

If you’re interested in finding out if you have any characteristics of impostor syndrome, you can take the Clance Impostor Scale survey and see where you land. For each statement in the survey, you mark how true it is of you. For example,

  1. I tend to remember the incidents in which I have not done my best more than those times I have done my best.
  2. I often compare my ability to those around me and think they may be more intelligent than I am.
  3. At times, I feel my success has been due to some kind of luck.

Part and parcel of impostor syndrome is the feeling of not knowing—the lack of expertise that we’ve been talking about so far. Via the Crew blog, here is a simple illustration that shows how impostor syndrome feels:

Impostor Syndrome chart

In the same Crew blog post, Andrea Ayres explains what the manifestations of impostor syndromemight look like, how people may compensate for feeling like a fraud. Do either of these sound familiar to you, whether you’ve done them yourself or witnessed them from colleagues?

Overdoing: When people prepare to an almost obsessive level, putting in much more effort than is realistically needed in order to ensure they don’t fail

Underdoing: People will under prepare or put off doing something until the last minute so they can blame any possible failures on a lack of readiness, as opposed to their actual ability. If you don’t really try you can’t really fail, right?

Of course, neither of these outcomes is preferable. Overdoing will lead to pressure and burnout; underdoing will lead to poor quality and performance.

With the prevalence of impostor syndrome being as great as it is, there must be a better way to survive and thrive while feeling like you don’t have all the answers. Here’s one way that we’ve found.

Giving yourself permission to not know it all

I believe part of the reason for the pressures of impostor syndrome is that there is a stigma around not knowing something. If you feel like an impostor because you don’t have all the answers, it’s because somewhere along the line you learned that it’s best to have all the answers all the time.

Not only is this impossible, it might not even be the best way to go about it.

I’m fortunate to work at a place that embraces the “I don’t know.” Buffer’s values highlight the fact that it’s okay to not have all the answers. We phrase this in terms of curiosity, improvement, listening, and humility.

Here are some choice phrases pulled from our Buffer culture slide deck:

You take the approach that everything is a hypothesis and you could be wrong

You approach new ideas thinking, “What can we do right now?”

You are suggestive rather than instructive, replacing phrases such as “certainly” and “undoubtedly” with “perhaps,” “I think,” and “my intuition right now”

You seek first to understand, then to be understood

Does your company share this belief? I’d be interested to hear which perspective your work takes on the matter of authority and knowledge.

It certainly helps to have an employer so openly embrace the idea of not knowing. And at the same time, there is power in the individual assertion that you don’t have to know it all. Even if your company isn’t outspoken on the matter, you can change your personal philosophy and give yourself a break from chasing authority. You may find this new mindset refreshing, among the many other benefits of embracing the power of “I don’t know.”

3 incredible effects of embracing what you don’t know

“I don’t know” and trust

Jason Freedman of 42 Floors shared a story about a competitive hiring process where one of the key deciding factors for the candidate was Freedman’s openness about not knowing an answer. When Freedman said, “I don’t know,” the candidate was sold. Here’s the reason why:

When people say I don’t know, it lends credibility to everything else that they’ve said.

Think about someone who always seems to have an answer for everything. You’ve maybe wondered along the way if he or she really could know all this stuff, right? But when you admit to not knowing, you give power to the things you do know. People learn to trust your responses to questions and to know they can get an honest answer from you at all times.

“I don’t know” and innovation

Stay hungry, stay foolish

This quote from entrepreneur Sahar Hashemi plays off the idea of embracing the power of “I don’t know” as it relates to curiosity—a key to innovation. Hashemi believes that being clueless and curious is essential to entrepreneurship. Without it, you no longer dream, tinker, and ask “why not.” In this way, knowing too much can actually be a detriment.

“I don’t know” and creativity

Would you hire someone with little experience in your industry? Common sense might say no; however, some would argue that inexperience might be just the thing a company needs.

Nils Sköld writes about this idea on Medium, telling how a lack of knowledge can actually be an ideal way to spur creativity and think outside the norms of an industry. Have you experienced anything similar to this?

My theory is this: when you know everything about an industry, you don’t know whats good for it. What an industry needs is people who have no idea on how it operates. People that don’t know that there are any rules. While it is good to break rules and to push boundaries, it’s much better to just never know that any rules exists.

Our key to not knowing: “We don’t know the answer. Let’s find out!”

In our experience, there’s a bit more to the matter of not knowing than simply embracing our lack of knowledge.

We’d be sunk if we stopped at “I don’t know.” That’s why we follow up by finding out.

Much of our blog content comes from experience. We hunt for answers to our questions (and your questions!) and we report back with what we find.

What we lack in authority on social media, we make up for by seeking input from our audience in chats and conversations and by approaching our social updates with a curious, open attitude.

Embracing “I don’t know” is an opportunity to discover. We’ve found that having an attitude of improvement, experimentation, and curiosity makes it such that there’s no need to worry about not knowing this or that.

If we don’t know, we’ll find out.

Over to you: In what ways has not knowing benefited you?

Having authority in your industry is great, but it isn’t the be-all, end-all for growth. You can enjoy authority in many number of different ways from being the expert of experts to being the expert of your unique perspective.

We’ve embraced the power of “I don’t know,” and we’ve seen the benefits for trust, innovation, creativity, discovery, and so much more.

If you liked this post, you might also like The Beginner’s Guide to Putting the Internet to Work for You: How to Easily Save 60 Minutes Every Day and The Big List of IFTTT Recipes: 34 Hacks for Hardcore Social Media Productivity.

Kevan is a content crafter at Buffer, the super simple social media management tool. His social media and productivity tips have appeared in Fast Company and Lifehacker, and he’s always on the lookout for a good headline pun. Connect with him on Twitter .

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser