Study: How the top 100 brands use Twitter

Do you know how much a photo or a link to an embedded video boosts engagement with your brand’s tweet? Check out these stats on Twitter’s power to engage users.

How you use Twitter and Facebook should differ. Tweets don’t last as long as a Facebook post, so Twitter requires more feeding to engage users.

A tweet might not sell directly but it increases your brand discovery and awareness. Then your sales post-mortem centers on whether the first click or the last click got the revenue.

It starts by being discovered. If they haven’t found you, you can’t engage, converse, or close a sale.

Simply Measured and Interbrand just released a study on how the top 100 brands use Twitter. It reveals eight insights on what works for them:

1. Brand adoption

Nearly every top brand has a Twitter account. Since the study started in 2012 that has not changed.

What has changed is how many followers they have, how they use them and how often. The biggest change: 70 percent of the top 100 brands have at least 100.000 followers, up from 48 percent since 2013.

This gives brands free distribution to followers, a major difference between Facebook and Twitter.

2. Posting frequency

Some companies post as frequently on Facebook as on Twitter. They shouldn’t. Twitter tolerates much more frequent posting than Facebook. Some studies show a tweet every 15 minutes gets higher engagement than a tweet every 30 minutes.

The study results showed that tweeting every fifteen minutes instead of thirty:

  • Increased traffic by 31 percent
  • Boosted engagement by 89 percent

Twitter should be seen as a stream, not an inbox.

It’s interesting that more brands tweet more frequently. Though nearly 50 percent tweet only one to five times a day, the number that posts 25-plus times a day has increased (but this is more about interacting with users).

3. Tweeting habits

Sometimes our habits reveal who we are. For brands the study revealed the following about tweeting habits:

  • Tweets grew 22 percent in the last year
  • @Replies to users went from 61 percent to 70 percent
  • 90 percent of brands replied to users at least once in Q3 2014

4. Engagement

Obviously, engagement on Twitter is up, partly because of the growing number of followers. It’s increased 27 percent.

The engagement numbers:

  • Engagement with brand tweets is up by 83 percent since 2013
  • Retweets of brand tweets is up 89 percent in the same period
  • 59 percent of users engage with brand favorites, up from 49 percent a year ago

The takeaway: Users are more willing in 2014 to endorse branded content.

5. The rise of visual tweets

Twitter has increased its image-sharing (tweets now display images) in the last 12 months. What’s interesting is the engagement that this creates:

  • Photos accompanied 45 percent of tweets, but accounted for 51 percent of engagement
  • Links appeared on 37 percent of tweets, but only drew 26 percent of @replies and retweets

The takeaway: Top brands exploit visuals on Twitter, post more photos, get more engagement.

6. The top link types

The study, which examined 136.834 tweets, discovered that 59,870 of those tweets (44 percent) included a link:

  • links were the most popular: 14,581 tweets, 14 percent of all links

The engagement results:

  • links had the highest engagement per tweet, at 1,522 @replies and retweets per tweet, but accounted for only 51 of sent links
  • links to embedded videos drew 329 brand posts and the second-highest engagement at 1,194 @replies and retweets per tweet

7. Hashtags are exploding

Hashtags, a very geeky activity 2-3 years ago, have exploded with their adoption by most social networks.

The hashtag numbers:

  • 95,825 tweets carried hashtags in Q3 2014, up significantly from Q4 2013, when 52,741 tweets held hashtags, an increase of nearly 82 percent in just 12 months!

Hashtags increase user engagement by 24 percent. But don’t overuse them. Rule of thumb is two to three.

8. The top industries using Twitter

Twitter has worked hard over the last year or two on integrating mass media with social media. That explains the rise of hashtags and twitter handles on TV shows and media companies.

Media brands have by far the largest industry user engagement on Twitter, double the next closest industry, retail.

The study also revealed that restaurants engaged better with users—by nearly 400 percent—than any other industry.

A version of this article first appeared on

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