Putting yourself out there on Twitter can be scary. In an environment where brevity rules, candor is a close cousin. At the same time, offer your frank opinion and if you have any kind of a following at all someone is sure to disagree.
Yet it turns out confidence on the micro-blogging platform is a key ingredient in garnering more followers.
That's according to two economic doctoral candidates at Washington State University who used software to filter more than 1 billion tweets looking for brazen predictions regarding the 2012 baseball playoffs and the 2013 Super Bowl.
Jadrian Wooten and Ben Smith collected tweets that included team names as well as words such as "vanquish," "destroy," "annihilate" and other confident expressions related to the idea of one team beating another. The duo analyzed the tweets of amateurs and professional sports pundits and found both groups weren't particularly accurate in their predictions--they were only right less than half the time. Where the pundits differed, however, was in their level of confidence and the more of it they had, the more people were likely to follow them.
Wooten and Smith did the math and found that the accuracy of a prediction only served to spur a 3.4 percent increase in Twitter followers for pundits, and a 7.3 percent increase in followers for amateurs. But the most confident pros could see a nearly 17 percent increase in followers just by tweeting self-assured quips. An amateur would see even better returns, a nearly 20 percent rise in followers just by tweeting boldly.
The reason? People don't like uncertainty.
"They don't like the idea of a Nate Silver sort of person standing up there and saying, 'I'm only 90 percent sure,'" Smith says.
Wooten likens certainty and Twitter affinity to how people might use a roulette wheel. "If you have somebody just placing bets, that person is kind of boring. But if you have someone going, 'Oh, yeah! It's red!' and they are confident, that's the person that you are interested in," he says.
My Inc. colleague John Brandon has done quite a bit of playing around with growing his Twitter following and found that interacting with followers "like crazy" and showing your personality are other things you can do get people to follow you. He also recommends using Sprout Social because it lets you post one tweet to multiple accounts at once and then track your success in how many people retweet what you say.
Another helpful tool I use is ManageFlitter. It shows you the people you're following who aren't following you back and lets you click to unfollow them.