Are you trying to build more user engagement for your small business on Twitter? Then you could learn a lot from a new study of how the top brands on Twitter interact with their followers. A Study of the Most Engaged Brands on Twitter, conducted by Evolve Capital and by Dr. Natalie Petouhoff at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, examined the Twitter traffic of the 100 most-followed brands around the world, as well as how they created and maintained relationships with followers. Here’s some of what they found:

  • “Lots of followers” doesn’t necessarily equal “lots of engagement.” The list of the top 100 most-followed brands differs quite a bit from the list of the 25 most-engaged brands.
  • “Posting a lot” doesn’t necessarily equal “lots of engagement,” either. The 25 brands with the greatest volume of tweets were not the same as the 25 most-engaged brands.
  • What does lead to lots of engagement? Posting consistently. The two brands with the most consistent volume of content, #1 Notebook of Love and #2 Disneywords, were also the two most-engaged brands.
  • Another factor in engagement is the type of content you tweet. Visuals rule the day here: more than three-fourths of the most-engaged brands’ content was photos. The second most popular type of content? Videos. Links and status updates made up a miniscule portion of their tweets.
  • The day that the most-engaged brands were most likely to tweet was Wednesday, and the time of day when they were most likely to tweet was 4 p.m.

What do these findings mean to you? Should you start tweeting Wednesdays at 4 p.m. religiously? Not necessarily. What works on Twitter varies depending on your industry. However, this report provides lots of data you can use to compare yourself to your competition. In fact, if you go to smo.infinigraph.com, you can look up competitors in your industry and run a report to see what they’re doing on Twitter.

Ask yourself:

  • What kinds of content are they tweeting, retweeting and sharing?
  • What kinds of responses are they getting?
  • How are they responding to followers’ tweets?
  • What are they doing that you’re not doing?

As with most things in life, it’s not the quantity but the quality that counts. A well-planned, well-executed Twitter strategy works better than throwing a ton of tweets out in a frantic effort to be heard above the noise.

Part of quality is consistency. Your followers need to know what to expect, and that they can rely on you. Have you ever followed a Twitterer who started out strong and then disappeared? It’s better to start small and build from there than to start with a volume of tweets that you can’t maintain.

Keep in mind, too, that what works on Twitter will change over time, so following your competition and learning from what they do is the best way to stay on top of trends—and to modify your strategy so you can continue to grow your customer engagement.

What can you learn from the most engaged brands on Twitter? How can you improve your social media strategy to more successfully engage your customers?