Which branded tweets get most retweets?

Researchers at Western Sydney University in Australia – Alena Soboleva, Suzan Burton, Girijasankar Mallik and Aila Khan – have analysed the characteristics of branded tweets that get the most retweets. They collected tweets posted by the leading brands in the automotive, the luxury and the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industries, and adjusted for factors such as the number of followers or whether the brand had used promoted tweets.


Once those factors had been taken into consideration, the researchers found that luxury brands were the most retweeted, followed by the automotive ones and, with considerable less retweets, the FMCG brands. The authors suggested that this result was, in part, because luxury and automotive products are high involvement, while FMCG are low involvement. But there were also differences in terms of the type of tweets posted by brands in each industry which, as discussed below, also played a role on whether the messages got retweeted or not.


Asking for a retweet was the best predictor of retweets in the FMCG industry, and a very strong predictor for the other two. In turn, embedding a photo on the message was the single best predictor of retweets for the automotive and luxury industries, and a strong predictor for FMCG brands. That is, marketers that want their Twitter campaigns to be amplified should embed photos and ask for retweets.


Using hashtags helped to generate retweets, but the effect varied with the number of hashtags used. Moreover, this effect was non-linear. That is, hashtags help amplify the reach of twitter campaigns, though marketers will need to experiment with different numbers of hashtags per message, keeping in mind that, sometimes, less is more.


Including an URL link on the Twitter post resulted in less retweets. This could be because Twitter users may be unable, or may lack the motivation, to check the link, and they do not want to retweet something that they can not see (unlike, say, a photo or a simple text based tweet). Hence, marketers should avoid using links if what they are looking for is to amplify their message’s reach (though, adding URLs to tweets can be a great way of providing customer service and, thus, is advisable in those circumstances).


That is, asking for retweets, embedding photos, using hashtags and adding links had consistently positive or negative effects across the three industries studied.






Ask for retweet Positive Positive Positive
Embed photo Positive Positive Positive
Use hashtag Positive (non linear) Positive (non linear) Positive (non linear)
Add URL Negative Negative Negative


In contrast, a number of other features had different different effects for each industry. The effect of @ mentions varies not just by industry, but also as a result of where in the message it occurs. In turn, saying ‘please’ does not necessarily add value vs. simply asking for a retweet (and uses additional characters). Also, the effect of embedding videos is very different from that of embedding images – this might be because, like URLs, Twitter users are unwilling to retweet something that they are unsure about (e.g., they did not watch the video themselves); but could also be related to the type of video.





Add @mention at start of message Positive Negative Neutral
Use @mention in middle of message Negative Neutral Negative
Saying ‘please’ Positive Negative Neutral
Embed video Negative Positive Neutral


If you want to know more about this research, the title of the paper is “‘Retweet for a Chance to…’: an analysis of what triggers consumers to engage in seeded eWOM on Twitter”. At the time of writing this blog post, the paper is available, in open access, here.


Do the findings of this research resonate with your experience as a Twitter user?

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