Last month The Verge hit a major social media milestone: one million organic Twitter followers. It was the first Vox Media Twitter account to break this barrier and the perfect opportunity to speak with the woman behind @verge, Helen Havlak.
As The Verge's engagement editor, Havlak oversees social media, SEO, and analytics and is responsible for growing audiences both on and off platform. Here, she reveals elements of her social strategy, what she knows about her Twitter audience, and how her team has earned an organic increase in followers of almost 40% in less than a year.
"Our current strategy is exclusively organic follower growth," Havlak states simply. Keeping a Twitter audience engaged and growing, however, is an undertaking that is far from simple, and relies on a deep understanding of one's brand and audience. It also means jumping on new tools quickly. On Periscope, The Verge has already amassed 100K+ followers, broadcasting daily live video to Twitter from around the world. "Our reporters have followed the Apple Watch launch from Tokyo to Paris to London, flown drones, reported from a Game of Thrones red carpet, and shared one of the first looks at the new iPhone 6S," Havlak explains.
Beyond live event coverage and news, Havlak's Twitter strategy is informed by constant assessments of how The Verge's audience consumes content: where they live, who they are, and what they engage with. While the audience skews male and U.S.-based, the next two biggest audiences are in the UK and India — this, she says, is "why we think so much about overnight posting." Havlak's team tests alternate copy and images when repromoting a story to another timezone. "We calculated that overnight and weekends actually had some of our strongest average Twitter engagement."
Havlak spends a lot of her time tinkering with data to determine what type of content does best and keeps the feed from getting stale. She determined that tweets with photos received much higher engagement, "although that might change as full bleed article previews roll out," and collaborated with the product team on the launch of a photo tweeting function within Chorus, Vox Media's storytelling platform. She also adds, "we create a lot of amazing GIFs from our video content and experiment with other formats like multi-pic tweeting and native Twitter video. We prioritize engagement on platform over clickthrough to our website."
As a young publication just coming up on its fourth anniversary, The Verge's annual gain on Twitter, and its increasingly global audience, is particularly sweet. We'll check back with Helen Havlak on the next Twitter milestone — which at Vox Media, might mean surpassing Re/code's Twitter pro Kara Swisher.