Twitter has evolved into one of the most popular, go-to tools when it comes to reaching broad audiences, whether you're promoting content, branding yourself as an expert in a field or networking with individuals who share similar interests.
One way to expand your reach on Twitter is to obtain more followers -- but it's not as simple hitting the follow button and hoping they follow you back.
The latest research from Dan Zarrella, author and Hubspot's "social media and viral marketing scientist," provides insight into what people look for in a Twitter profile before following someone, and how you can increase the chances they follow you back.
Follow these five tips from Zarrella to increase your reach and spread your content.
1. Let others know who you are.
When you first signed up for a Twitter account, you were asked to complete your profile. This includes filling out a bio of yourself, a link and a picture. Take a look at your profile and see whether any of these are missing, Zarrella advises. "Accounts that do take the time [to fill out a profile] have many more followers than those who don't," he says. So upload that picture, link to your blog or webpage and complete a bio so others know who they're about to follow.
[For more Twitter tips, tricks and analysis, check out CIO.com's Twitter Bible: Everything You Need to Know About Twitter.]
2. Lay off the narcissism.
Often, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter can be saturated with too much "me" talk -- what they did today, trivial complaining and more. But, according to Zarrella's research, if you're looking to beef up your Twitter followers, it's important to stop talking about yourself.
"Imagine meeting someone at a cocktail party who did nothing but talk about themselves all night long," Zarrella says. "Would you want to listen to them for very long?"
3. Diversify your tweets.
One interesting finding gleaned from Zarrella's research: Twitter users with more followers tend not to reply as often as those with fewer followers. So while you may feel compelled to respond every time someone sends you an @reply, it's not necessary, he says. Instead, balance your @replies with other content.
4. Identify yourself authoritatively.
State authoritatively in your bio what legitimizes you and why people should pay attention to you. If you've written a book, call yourself out as an author. Or, if you speak frequently, brand yourself a speaker.
"One of my favorite 'unicorns-and-rainbows' myths to pick on is the dog-eared 'don't call yourself a guru,'" Zarrella says. "I've heard said a bunch of different ways, and it's present anytime someone maligns the term 'social media expert' or suggests there is no such thing. It turns out, though, that when you pull the rainbow-colored wool from your eyes and look at the actual data, Twitter accounts that use the word 'guru' tend to have 100 more followers than the average Twitter account."
5. Don't be a Debbie Downer.
Not everyone has a good day every day, but resist the urge to vent your frustrations on Twitter, Zarrella says. Try to keep negative sentiments such as sadness, aggression and morbidity to a minimum.
"Nobody likes to follow a Debbie Downer, and accounts with lots of followers don't tend to make many negative remarks," Zarrella says. "If you want more followers, cheer up."
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and Web 2.0 for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at firstname.lastname@example.org