How I Used Behavioral Science to Turbo Charge My Twitter Account

There is no doubt that social media is a powerful force that has changed the way people communicate.  Yet, how can you leverage it to effectively promote yourself, your company and your message?  As the CEO of a sales training and consulting firm that specializes in applying behavioral science – the scientific study of how the human brain makes choices – to sales and business, I wondered what would happen if I applied behavioral science to social media.

I used myself as the first case study, since at the time, I wanted to gain a strong Twitter presence, but knew little about Twitter.  Though I’d signed up for an account a few years earlier, as of April 27, 2014 I had never posted a tweet and had a mere 85 followers. 

As I began this experiment, I made one rule:  I would never spend more than 15 minutes per day on Twitter.  This helped me develop science-based strategies that would produce the greatest results in the shortest amount of time.

What happened next amazed me.  By applying behavioral science I was able to turbo charge my Twitter presence and in just six months I had over 42,000 followers, which continued to grow to over 101,000 followers over the next year and a half.  What’s more, my interactions on twitter also resulted in numerous consulting engagements, media interviews and even helped me secure a large book publishing contract. 

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My Science-Based Recipe for Social Media Success

As I began posting on Twitter I used principles from what behavioral scientists refer to as Choice Architecture.  This is the concept that human beings make choices contextually.  By modifying the way a choice is presented, one can increase the likelihood that it will be embraced. 

I applied the principles of Choice Architecture in 2 main areas:

1.  Provide Valuable Content

I focused on using my tweets to inspire productive interactions with those whom I desired to connect with.  To explain how I did this, I’ll first need to share with you two powerful triggers of human behavior:

  • Reciprocity – a powerful social norm which affirms that you should repay others for what they have done for you. 
  • Social Exchange Theory – engrained within human relationships is a desire to maximize benefits and minimize costs.  When these costs begin to exceed the benefits, the relationship will be cut off or minimized.

The way I leveraged these scientific principles in my favor was by tweeting content that provided interesting and valuable insights, which would appeal to those whom I desired to attract and were aligned with my brand.  For me this meant sharing sales and business tips, quotes, articles, and research studies.  This significantly improved the probability that those who perceived what I tweeted as useful would reciprocate by interacting with me.

2.  Choose, Then Nudge

Having valuable content that evokes numerous principles from behavioral science will help you become popular, but it will not be enough to take your social media interactions to the next level.  To obtain those types of results you’ll need to create a context that will motivate others to connect with you.  Here’s what I did.

I decided early on that I did not just want followers; I wanted a lot of high quality followers, who could impact my business and be meaningful connections.  Rather than wait and see who would find me, I decided to choose those who I wanted to interact with and then nudge them in my direction. 

The way I did this was by utilizing the following 3 step process:

  1. Identify: Pinpoint numerous business leaders who were similar to me. 
  1. Analyze: Examine their most recent followers to identify those I would like to learn more about and interact with.  I focused on the most recent followers because they had demonstrated an interest in a message like mine, were currently active on Twitter and had just followed someone similar to me.  This made their decision to follow me an easy one because it was consistent with the pattern that they had already established and recently acted on. 
  1. Connect: Reach out to those who fulfilled the criteria of Step #2. 

I discovered that many of those I engaged would view my account and because I was providing content that they deemed valuable, they would follow me.  Strategically sharing content while choosing and nudging potential followers worked in harmony and naturally generated significant results. 

Here’s what I’ve realized:  anytime you can use the science that explains how people make choices you’ll take your ability to positively influence and serve others to the next level.  It doesn’t matter if it’s in your personal relationships, business interactions or even social media.