How Many People Actually Read What You Say on Twitter?

It seems to me that most Twitter users (especially the spammers) think that all of their followers see every tweet they post. I even heard a famous Twitter power user give an example of how many people you can reach if you have 500 followers and each of those followers has 500 followers and how when you post a tweet 500 people see it and then they retweet it and 500 more see it and so and and so on until your message has been viewed by millions of Twitter users. Wrong!

Think about this logically for a minute, especially if you’re a spammer, because I hate to see someone wasting their time. If you are one of those people that uses Twitter as a way to keep up with what your friends are having for breakfast or finding out when to meet at Starbucks and each of the friends you follow only follows a handful of people as well, then yes, I’m pretty sure that all of them will, at some point, see your tweet. Obviously they won’t see it as soon as you tweet it though so using Twitter as a way to send a last minute invite to a party isn’t effective,  that’s what cell phones are for. My point is that if your Twitter group is small enough, everything you write will probably be read by the people you want to read it. But what if you follow lots of people who are also following lots of people?

This is where I think most of you have the wrong impression, especially the spammers or the people that think Twitter is going to help them get their message out to the entire world. The truth is that if you are followed by lots of people — unless all of them only follow a few themselves — a very small percentage of those people will see any one of your given tweets. The only way they are going to see it is if they happen to be glancing at the Twitter stream at the exact moment that you tweet or if you send them an @reply or a direct message. The same thing goes for retweets. The vast majority of retweets will never be seen.

One of the main reasons people won’t see your tweet is that unless they’re a complete Tweetaholic, they aren’t following the Twitter stream most of the time. So, if they’re outside having fun or working or sleeping or eating or taking a shower or watching TV or doing anything else that real people do besides stare at the Twitter stream, by the time they do log on, your tweet is long gone from the stream.

The time of day also makes a big difference in how many people will see your tweet. The busiest time of day on Twitter is from late morning until late afternoon. There are also days that are busier than others. So, if you post your tweet at 3:00 am on Sunday morning, it’s much less likely that it will be seen than if you post it at 11:30 am on Tuesday.

Another thing to consider is that many of you are hung up on how many followers you have so you follow as many as you can, hoping they’ll follow you back. Sure, you’ll pick up followers that way but most of them will auto follow and don’t actually give a darn what you have to say.

I have almost 3,000 followers and follow about 2,500 and my stream sees somewhere between 25 to 50 tweets a minute. Even if I’m actively reading the stream it’s impossible to read them all but there are very few times a day where I actually sit and stare at the stream and try to read all of the tweets. For the most part, I really only pay close attention to @replies or DMs because those are people that are actually talking to me directly and I definitely want to read what they have to say. The rest? Not likely that I’ll see more than a few of their daily tweets.

So, let’s go back to the power user (who will remain nameless) and his 500 x 500 x 500 and so on to infinity example and look at it more logically. And just to be fair, let’s assume that what you’re tweeting about is actually something interesting and you post it at a time of day when most of your followers won’t be sleeping or otherwise engaged.

When you post a tweet I would say that realistically no more than 10% of your followers, and probably far less, will actually see it. For those of you that are bad at math, that’s 50 people if you have 500 followers. Hey, I’m trying to keep this simple here. Okay, so now 50 people just saw your earth shattering message and 10% of them take the time to retweet it. That’s 5 and a few of their followers will see it and possibly retweet it but by now it’s shelf life has just about run out. So now, instead of 500 people each telling 500 more people and those 500 each telling 500 more and so on until the entire world has read your tweet, in reality less than 100 Twitter users saw it.

Now obviously we all know that some news travels like wildfire on Twitter, as evidenced by the two recent plane crashes, but the truth is that most of us won’t be tweeting anything quite as interesting any time soon. Even in those cases the truth is that although thousands of people found out about the incidents on Twitter, the vast majority heard about it on the news.

In conclusion, let me offer a couple tips to help you reach more twits.

1. Post your tweet during the day and at a time when most of your followers will be online, and realize that if you post at 8:00 am east coast time, most of the rest of the U.S. won’t see it because they won’t be awake yet. If you don’t live in the U.S. post at a time when you know that most of your followers will be online.

2. Post something of interest to lots of people. If it’s not really that interesting, user your writing skills to make it sound like it is.

3. If it’s really interesting, put “please RT” at the end, but don’t abuse that because after awhile it’s gets annoying and despite what you might think, most of what you have to say is really not that interesting and if it is, you won’t need to ask people to retweet it, they’ll just do it.

4. The only way to be sure that someone sees your tweet is to use the @reply or send them a direct message. Even then there’s no guarantee because I assure you that people like @ChrisBrogan, @GuyKwasaki and @Garyvee get so many @replies and DMs a day that they can’t or don’t read them all.

It isn’t my intent to discourage anyone with this post, unless you’re a spammer, because Twitter is a wonderful tool for social networkers and whether you use it to keep up with your friends or to market your business it can be fun and highly rewarding. Just don’t imagine that the entire Twitterverse is abuzz about what you had for breakfast this morning.