does mentioning influencers on twitter work

Does Mentioning Influencers On Twitter Work? [Case Study]

February 19, 2015
Josh Light

Are you looking to drive more sales, or get coverage from the press? One of the best ways to do this is through relationship building on social networks. It’s free and requires very little time.

In this article we test out one tactic of accomplishing this on Twitter. Over a 3 month period we mentioned journalists after tweeting their article to see if they would follow us back or engage with our tweet. Keep reading to see how effective this tactic is for building relationships.

Where The Idea Came From

I’m a big fan of reading. One of the books that I’ve read several times is Selling Microsoft: Sales Secrets from Inside the World’s Most Successful Companies. In this book, the author describes how Microsoft would reach out to potential customers before setting up a sales meeting. Their goal was to get some number of impressions before they would even sit down with a potential client. An impression could be anything from an a piece of direct mail to a phone call.

Microsoft found that if they got enough impressions with a potential customer then the probability of that person buying their software increased dramatically.

Then And Now

Back in the day these impressions were relatively costly. For example, with direct mail you have to: buy a list of people you’re going to mail it to, design it, print it, and pay for postage.

Now we live in a digital age where obtaining an impression doesn’t cost that much.

This is where the influencer mention test comes in. One of our PR goals, at RedbirdMetrics, is to raise awareness about our product in the writing community with the hope that journalists will write about our tool (RedbirdQ). One tactic, which is what we’re analyzing in this blog post, is to mention writers when you share an article they’ve written on Twitter.

My hypothesis, before doing this test, was that writers would engage with my tweet or even follow my account because I’ve promoted their content on Twitter.

How I Did It?

Once I found an article worth sharing I would tweet it. In every tweet I would mention the writer. Mentioning someone on Twitter causes them to receive a notification. A typical tweet would look something like this:

contacting the press


In this example, I’m sharing an article about social media marketing solutions for startups. I mentioned Sara Angeles by including her Twitter handle (@sara_angeles). Sara receives a notification that I mentioned her. My hypothesis is that she’ll notice I’m promoting the article she has written, and will follow or engage with me because of sharing it.

Test Parameters

Over a 3 month period I mentioned 80 writers across 3 different Twitter accounts: RedbirdMetrics, RedbirdQ, and my personal account (JoshuaJLight). The writers can be broken down into 3 different categories:

mentioning influencers on twitter

  1. Mainstream Writers: These are journalist who write for big publications like: Tech Crunch, GigaOM, WSJ, etc.
  2. Niche Writers: These are people who write for niche publications. In this case, publications like: SEJ, Marketing Profs, Social Media Examiner, etc.
  3. Guest Writers: These are normal people who guest write for Forbes, Huffington Post, etc. They usually own a marketing company of some kind like a: SEO agency, Inbound marketing company, or social media management company.

I mentioned 25 Mainstream Writers, 19 Niche Writers, and 36 Guest Writers.


About 10% of the mentioned individuals followed me on Twitter, and 25% engaged with my tweet.

twitter influencers

Here’s the engagement rate for the different types of writers:

contacting influencers on twitter

  • Mainstream Writers: 8%
  • Niche Writers: 26%
  • Guest Writers: 47%

Tricks That Worked

Praise the Writer

Instead of just appending your tweet with a mention, take a moment to add some commentary before the mention. For example:

contacting writers on twitter

Using “Nice points @dantosz” instead of “@dantosz” results in a much higher engagement rate. This makes sense when you think about it because everyone likes to be complimented.

Schedule Your Tweets

contacting the press on twitter

I scheduled my tweets using RedbirdQ. This was helpful because it allowed me to automate the mentioning process.

Bonus: You can also use RedbirdQ to find other influencers to mention in a tweet. If you want to learn more then check out this article, “How RedbirdQ Helps Maximize Your Social Reach“.

Ideas on Where You Can Use This

There are lots of places you can apply this method. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Softening up a potential client before reaching out for the sale. Think Microsoft.
  • Building relationships with writers.
  • Building relationships with influencers.
  • Improving your relationship with existing clients. Think B2B.


Some key take-aways:

  • The best people to target to get impressions using this method is guest writers for major publications like Forbes, Huffington Post, or Entrepreneur. They are also more likely to follow you back.
  • Mainstream Writers rarely engage on Twitter. If someone identifies themselves as a journalist, then they’ll treat their Twitter account as a one-way street.
  • Mentioning writers on Twitter works, and is a great way to begin the relationship building process.
  • Use RedbirdQ to streamline this process. It’s free. Sign up here.

Have you ever used this tactic before? Have any questions? Feel free to comment below.

(Photo Credits: Flickr via Thom, Andrew Becraft, Jay Reed, Robert Scoble)