I received a direct message through Twitter yesterday from one of my clients who wanted to know how I had acquired over 2000 followers on Twitter. My answer is coming in the form of this post since 140 characters would never be enough to list the many, many ways I have gone about growing my Twitter following over the past year.
The first point I need to stress is that I do not believe in using any automated tools for finding people to follow. We all need to stop looking for the highest number of followers and concentrate more on the quality and responsiveness of our Twitter communities. I could probably have collected 10,000 or more followers over the past year but if they don’t share my interests and don’t pay attention to my tweets, what good are they? My goal is to find people with my interests who will respond to my tweets and care about what I have to say.
Since my blog JerseyBites.com is a Jersey centric publication, I narrowed my search for friends to New Jersey. In the beginning, I used tools like Twellow and Nearby Tweets to find people to follow. You can also search for new people to follow by interest category. At the same time I was searching for people to follow, I was also tweeting. An active timeline is imperative to building your following; as is, a completed profile which includes your One Line Bio and (if you have one) a link to your website, blog or LinkedIn page. If you want people to follow you back, give them some information about yourself. And, unlock your posts. If you are looking to gain followers, a locked timeline is a huge deterrent. If you only want to keep your Twitter account for friends and family, that’s one thing, but if you want to make new connections and network, unlock those updates.
Be an informative and entertaining member of the community. You do not have to keep up with every single post from every one of you followers, but you should be popping on throughout the day and responding to whoever is in your timeline at that particular moment. Let your followers know you read their posts. Retweet something that you think is particularly valuable. RT’s are huge friend makers on Twitter. Use a contact management system like Tweetdeck to organize your followers so you don’t miss important tweets from your most responsive followers. Offer valuable information to your followers. I not only post information about recipes and restaurants, I also post links to articles on how to use Twitter. Everyone on Twitter is trying to make the most of it and interested in learning how. If you find helpful information, pass it on. Use a tool like Hootsuite to track the click thrus. This is a great tool to gauge the interests of your followers. If you post a link to an article and it gets 30 click thrus, you know you’ve got followers who like that kind of information so keep them coming.
Follow influential people in your industry and reply to their tweets with informed opinions or questions. Look at their followers and follow those who seem to be active and good potential contacts. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone on Twitter that you would like to connect with. They are on Twitter to network. If you do not get a response, try again at a later date. I’ve had some great communications with some very high powered people whom I would never have had the opportunity to communicate with otherwise.
When it comes to gaining new followers, I am a big fan of Follow Friday. I pick up about 25 or more new followers every Friday through recommendations from my followers. This is because I have followers who feel I am a valuable community member and they feel confident in recommending me. Participate in Follow Fridays. Offer your followers as recommendations. More often than not, you will get a recommendation in return. Always thank those who recommend you with a return follow suggestion. Once you have a fairly large following and Follow Fridays become more difficult, use my favorite tool at The Twitter Tag Project.
With all of the spam floating around on Twitter today, you can’t sit back and wait for good followers to find you. Many of the followers who find you will not be quality contacts. They are generated by automated tools and you’ll find that the users are trying to either hammer a sale or collect followers. Do not feel the need to follow back. Reserve your timeline for “real” people. And remember to take your Twitter account offline. Put your Twitter handle in your email signature, on your business cards, in your newsletter and on your blog or website. I recommended to a client the other day to hang a sign in her store “Follow Us on Twitter.” Why not? You’ll see a huge sign at Blueclaws stadium directing fans to do the same thing. Think outside the box a bit, and I’m sure you will find other ways to attract quality followers who have a genuine interest in you and your services.
What are your tips for finding and keeping valuable followers? I’d love your input to help make this a truly valuable resource for everyone.