The Twitter Theory of Everything

Not everyone cares about how Engagement works on Twitter, but for those who do, this is meant to be a complete guide

I will also address why I think that some are seeing a drop in engagement and how it may not be "the algorithm."

Before we dive in, I think we need to first define some terms and explain the various types of accounts and how they operate.

ENGAGEMENT is a term that encompasses Likes, Comments, Retweets, and Quote Tweets. It is the quantifiable amount of activity on your tweets.

CELEBs: This is pretty obvious, but for the sake of this thread I will better define it as people who have a vast audience that expands far beyond any one niche. They are followed by fans and haters alike.

They TEND to follow fewer people and tweet/retweet less often.

INFLUENCERS: These people have large audiences, between 100k and 1M followers. They GENERALLY have a more niche appeal, usually sticking to one or more genres, such as politics, humor, analysis, investigative, etc.

They TEND to follow more than celebs, and tweet/RT more

MID-Level: Their audience is between 5k and 100k. You could argue that some of these accounts could be influencers in very specific circles, but in this thread I will not be referring to them as such.

They TEND to be prolific tweeters/retweeters and follow many people.

Low-Level: This is by far the largest and most diverse category. These are accounts with less than 5k followers. Some lurk, others tweet a bunch, some rarely open the app, some only comment, others only retweet.

No offense intended, and this says nothing about your value.

Currently there are 2 news feeds

"For You" Feed
This is a curated feed, it shows you popular tweets from people you follow, it suggests tweets you might like based on past interactions

"Following" Feed
This is the "as it happens" feed. Tweets are displayed chronologically

Up until recently, there was only one default feed, and it was a combination of the two. Mostly chronological, but with some popular tweets from people you follow sprinkled in.

I think this change is the biggest factor in the low engagement we have seen lately

Here is why

The first and most important factor in engagement is visibility. People have to physically see the tweet in the app. This why shadowbanning was/is so effective, you can't share what you can't see.

The second is "on brand" content, and it is nearly as important as the first

Tweets must be SEEN and the content must match what your audience WANTS TO SEE. I can tweet all day about baseball and 18th century table etiquette but no one will engage, because that isn't why they follow me. This thread may not do well for the same reason.

So, how do tweets get seen? When a celeb retweets something, it is not they, themselves who do the "work" of spreading the content.

When you boil all this down to its most basic elements, tweets go viral because of Low/Mid Level accounts. They are the base of the system.

They retweet, comment, and like the most, they are the number one driver of engagement.

Celebs/Influencers are just prepackaged engagement, a confluence of Low/Mid Level accounts that are ready to devour anything that agrees with their palate.

They are the real allstars.

So if "on brand" content is having engagement problems, visibility is the likely culprit. It COULD be a case of shadowbanning, OR it could be a problem with visibility to Low/Mid Level accounts, the workhorse of twitter.

What causes low visibility outside of shadowbans?

The Chronological feed.

In order to be seen, users have to see the tweet. They need to have the app open near the time that the tweet is sent.

If the right people see and share the tweet, everything goes normally, the wave of RTs propagates through the twitterverse.

It is not uncommon for Low/Mid Range account to follow 500, 1000, and 2000 people. BUT it is also not uncommon to find accounts that follow 10,000 and 20,000 people.

The chronological feed for such a person is updating at a speed that no one could keep up with.

It is commonplace that tweets from celeb/influencers are not seen as they happen. They are instead, refreshed into the chronological feed by influencers.

When your feed is moving at 100 new tweets a minute, you MISS more tweets than you see.

So, in the chronological feed, if a tweet is not immediately picked up by a string of influencers, it gets lost in the shuffle.

In order for the Low/Mid Level accounts to see a tweet from a celeb/influencer it must be repeatedly shared by people THEY FOLLOW.

Curated feeds give an advantage to Celebs/Influencers, and chronological feeds give an advantage to Low/Mid level accounts.

Celebs will likely NOT see much of a dip in engagement, because they each have an army of influencers(who follow few) that can see their content.
Influencers however, will see a larger dent in engagement because they have been relying on the low/mid level accounts, which now cannot see their content as often.

So what is to be done?

I'm not sure ANYTHING can or should be done.

Influencers will have to adapt to the new landscape.

They may need to work harder to get their content seen, and they may need to DM it to a few people to get the ball rolling. Maybe they need to tag people more consistently.

There is ONE surefire way out of this though.

Influencers need to make a concerted effort to SHARE posts from other Influencers.

Low/Mid Level accounts do this well. Influencers are notorious for reading but not sharing.

The tide raises all boats.

What will not help is whining about engagement.


There ARE other factors in the mix as well.

All of the accounts(like myself) coming back to Twitter in the last few months, could have a diluting effect on those who remained in our absence.

Fewer influencers means more influence and the inverse is also true.

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Here's a solid thread on understanding some algorithm ideas