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Feb 14, 2011
This article is part of a series called Opinion.

What it takes to get your jobs retweeted

Tweeting jobs is an increasingly popular approach to broadcasting jobs. Ideally the jobs are retweeted, increasing exponentially the exposure one would get from the initial tweet. Tweeting is a social networking tool, so this can be a great way to tap the power of social media. Get enough people to retweet your jobs and you can reach a huge audience of prospective candidates. Well, maybe. Buy enough lottery tickets and you’ll win the lottery too.

First, some statistics to put Twitter use in perspective. While its popularity continues to increase, only about 8% of adult Americans use Twitter, That’s still a large number, about 16 million people, but Twitter users tend to be clustered into a few major categories: 18-29 in age, African-American and Latinos, and Urbanites. So it’s not the most representative group when it comes to filling jobs. Research by Sysomos — a maker of social media analysis tools — shows that 71% of all tweets produce no reaction. Twenty-three percent produce a reply and only 6% are retweeted. The implication being that the majority fall on deaf years (or blind eyes?). So a lot of those jobs being tweeted are likely not being noticed.

Retweets: Getting Attention

In social media circles retweets are the holy grail. A retweet means that the retweeter has read the original tweet and considers it worth passing on, so the likelihood of it being read is higher. And if even a small proportion of those who follow a company or a recruiter will retweet the jobs they received, a much larger number of people would see the jobs. So what does it take? Having a large number of followers is no guarantee of retweets, but using certain words can make it more likely that a job will be retweeted. Social media researcher Dan Zarella has a list of 20 words that when included in a tweet increase the likelihood of it being retweeted. The list includes “you,” “please,” “retweet” (please rt), “great,” and “check out.” I was underwhelmed too by this revelation, but apparently it works.

Hashtags are another way to get tweets retweeted. Hashtags organize tweets into groups, so people can follow them based on category. As an example, if you sent out a tweet for a job in sales and add #salesjobs to the tweet, it will show up in the feed for #salesjobs and everyone reading that particular feed will see it. Visit hashtags.org to see what categories are popular.

The timing of tweets is also a factor in their being retweeted. Dan Zarella has also found that tweets made during the morning hours are more likely to be retweeted than tweets made during later times.

The Illusion of Followers

The term “followers” is an interesting choice. It conveys a whole lot more power than “friends” or the more clinical (but the most accurate) “connections.” From the first time I heard about Twitter I thought this was the answer to the prayers of narcissists and stalkers everywhere, and the illusion has been perpetuated. The idea that one has “followers” can do wonders for a person’s self-esteem, especially for those with low self esteem to start with. Most of us know someone who’s very proud of the number of people they have following them. But a person has to be completely delusional or really full of themselves to believe they have enough interesting things to say on a regular, or even occasional, basis that any of their “followers” actually want to read. Having a large number of followers does not equate to influence over them, i.e., they don’t necessarily read or pay attention to tweets. This much was confirmed in a research study called “The Million Follower Fallacy” that analyzed data from some all active Twitter accounts.

There’s a very low correlation between the number of followers and the number of retweets. Many of those so-called followers do so out of politeness than any great desire to hear from the person they follow. One easy way to increase the number of your followers is to start following others in large numbers, many of whom will return the favor. But they aren’t just sitting around waiting for tweets, and most updates will be missed.

Tweets are very likely to get retweeted among followers’ networks when they meet certain criteria. Josh Gordon at Social Media Today has found that the most retweeted items are short (13 words, and 69 characters), use humor, and are personally connected. That suggests that tweets are best sent by recruiters and employees. Sending a tweet under an employer’s name is not likely to have much impact. And they should include something more than just a link to the job. And ask (beg) to have it retweeted.

This article is part of a series called Opinion.
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