How to develop a large Twitter following

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Do you want more followers on Twitter?

This article describes a method I've been using successfully over the past five months, during which I've grown my followers from around 400 to over 1200, with a current growth rate of around 100 a week. It's simple, effective and although it does require some hard work it definitely pays off.

Before I start, though, let's consider why you might want more Twitter followers. It's a valid question, and the answer you give will determine whether a growth strategy for your Twitter presence is the best way to go.

I divide Twitter users into two basic categories:

  • Collectors
  • Accumulator

Collectors are people who try to grow their Twitter followers gradually, selecting only those people they find interesting, and trying to develop social connections with that community. In many cases, these people are using Twitter to communicate with their friends and other likeminded people.

Accumulators are those people who are aiming for numbers, on the grounds that along the way they'll come into contact with interesting people they would never otherwise have met. Of course, they are unlikely to engage with the majority of people they follow (and who follow back).But they subscribe to the view that having a large number of followers gives you a voice - and opportunities - that you can learn to use later. In some ways it's like trying to accumulate a large email list that you can market to.

For the record, I started as a collector, and now I'm an accumulator. I changed tack when I read an article that described Twitter as being like a networking event. It pointed out that going to a networking event and talking to your friends and people you already know is nice, but somewhat pointless. The goal of a networking event is to meet as many people as you can and figure out what you've got in common. That's the approach of an accumulator.

So which type are you? If you're a collector, then you're unlikely to want to adopt the techniques I'm about to outline. If you're an accumulator, though, read on!

Grow your Twitter Followers with this strategy

  1. First, get a Twitter account. I'm going to assume you've already done this.
  2. Also make sure you've finished setting up your Twitter account. That means:

    1. Filling out your profile
    2. Providing a photograph for your profile picture (first impressions count, and that photo of you will turn people on or off the idea of following you in an instant)
    3. Supplying your website URL (consider using a shortened URL for this - see later for how to do this)
    4. Choosing (or creating) an appropriate background for your profile (you'd be surprised how much this last part matters, too). At the very least, change the default you were given when you registered.
  3. Get a software application that lets you use Twitter without having to visit http://www.twitter.com. I use TweetDeck because it allows me to manage multiple Twitter accounts as well as my Facebook. Other folks like tools such as HootSuite, Tweetie and many others. It's not essential, but does make life easier.
  4. If you've got a smart phone, such as an iPod, get a software app for that as well.
  5. Register with a service such as http://www.socialoomph.com that will automatically follow anyone who follows you. This is useful for a couple of reasons:

    1. If you achieve a decent growth rate in your followers, manually following back everyone soon gets to be a drag.
    2. SocialOomph offers a range of other services including the ability to schedule tweets for posting in the future, statistics on your Twitter feed and the ability to automatically send direct messages (DMs) to your new followers.
  6. Register with a service such as Qwitter, which will email you occasionally with lists of people who have unfollowed you. Don't take it personally, but keep an eye on how many people are unfollowing you each week. If the numbers are large compared to your overall numbers it could be your content strategy could use some work.
  7. Register with a URL shortening service such as http://bit.ly so you can track how many clicks the links in your tweets generate. There are many such services so look around at what they offer in terms of click monitoring before choosing.

    1. When you only have 140 characters, you don't have room for long URLs.
    2. Most Twitter management software will shorten long URLs for you automatically.
    3. However, if you have an account with a URL shortener, you can configure your software to use your own shortening account.
    4. As noted earlier, this is particularly useful for the website URL in your Twitter profile, since it allows you to track the number of clicks you get to your website from your Twitter profile.
  8. Decide on your unfollow strategy.

    1. Until recently a lot of services offered the ability to automatically unfollow people who unfollowed you. Twitter has made it clear that this is against the rules, although you'll still find that people you unfollow magically unfollow you within hours so it's clear that these services do exist if you want to seek them out. Otherwise you'll have to manage your unfollows manually. You can use a service such as FriendorFollow to see which of your followers are and aren't following you.
    2. So why unfollow? Why not just follow everyone who follows you? Well, there are limits built into Twitter that are designed to keep your ratio of followers to unfollowers within certain limits. You'll probably hit the first limit once you're following 2000 people. If your own follower number is much out of line with this you won't be able to follow anyone new unless you unfollow someone first. This is a real drag, so it's best if you can manage the ratio of followers to following from day one, even though it will take you longer to grow your follower number. You can read more about account limits on Twitter's website.
    3. So, as well as unfollowing people whose tweets you don't find interesting, your unfollow strategy should also include cleaning out your followers regularly. This is where Qwitter comes in handy, since it advises you who has unfollowed you recently; this allows you to unfollow them too.
  9. Decide on your content strategy. Who are you going to be? What are you going to say?

    1. Remember that Twitter is a social network. Twitter feeds that consist mainly of automatic feeds from websites are kind of boring.
    2. Also dull are Twitter feeds where the author spends 90% of their time retweeting other people's tweets without also contributing their own content. Retweets are a way of showing respect, but not if that's all you do.
    3. Develop a personality so people know what to expect from your feed, and try to avoid acting out of character - you'll be surprised how quickly people pick up on a tweet that doesn't fit.
    4. Talk to people. Twitter calls this replying, but you can start a conversation easily with anyone by simply clicking the Reply link next to a tweet they've made. You don't even need to be following them. Just don't expect everyone to reply, but use any reply you get to engage further with them.
    5. Note that you can get a quick jump in your follower numbers if you can get a famous person to reply to you.
    6. Direct messages (DM) can be useful for a private aside to someone who follows you (you can't DM someone who isn't following you). You can also send a DM to all your new followers to say hi, welcome, or buy my stuff. As noted earlier, you can use a Twitter management tool to send these DMs automatically. Personally, I find these irritating at best, but it must work for someone. All I'd say is - think carefully before embarking on auto DMs as part of your Twitter content strategy. It's a good way to get unfollowed.
  10. Start following people

    1. Like it or not, unless you're someone famous like @stephenfry, being @you just won't be enough to get lots of people following you without some encouragement.
    2. That means that growing your followers means you'll need follow, follow, follow other people.
  11. Here's the follow strategy I recommend you use:

    1. Start by following people you either know or who are interesting.
    2. Look at who they're talking to, and follow those people.
    3. Also look at who they are following and start following them too. Chances are, if you find them interesting, you'll find the people they are following interesting too.
    4. As your follower list grows, use the Twitter Suggests feature to find more people to follow.
    5. Also, check out people's Twitter lists. You can follow a list, although this doesn't mean following everyone in that list. Or, you can follow the individuals within a list. For example, my follow strategy involves following every New Zealand twitterer I can find. Fortunately, many Kiwis keep lists of other Kiwis they follow which makes it easy for me.
  12. At this point, the number of people you follow will determine how fast your own follower list grows. Of course, not everyone you follow will follow you back, particularly if you don't have much interesting content in your feed. But remember - you need to speculate to accumulate.

Once you get going with step 11, you'll find that your follower list will start to grow. You'll need to persevere though. Be prepared to spend at least half an hour per day following dozens of people, tweeting links you find interesting, and having conversations with other people you're following.

That's it. Good luck with it, and let me know how you get on by leaving a comment below. And if you want to start by following me, you can find me at http://bit.ly/a2hwvc (or http://www.twitter.com/millionleaves if you like your URLs full-length and organic). See you there!

Comments

good post

Tx! I've been wondering how to grow my following. How do I subscribe to your blog?

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