Just a couple of days ago the number of people following me on Twitter went past the 10,000 mark. It was a big milestone for me and I was excited to see it happen — not only because it demonstrates that my brand is growing, but also because it represents a great deal of work coming to fruition.
The fact is that I have poured a huge amount of effort into growing my Twitter following. I have conducted a lot of trial and error experiments, more often noting failure rather than success. However, in spite of that I have still been able to build a relatively healthy following in just twelve months. At the time of writing I have 10,255 followers and according to my records I had just 552 at the start of 2012 (so please forgive me for the slight inaccuracy of the post headline ;-)). I am currently attracting several hundred new followers every week.
I have spoken about my Twitter strategies on the blog here before, so this post acts as a complete round-up and addendum — covering the most important aspects of building a following, ignoring the less productive things you can do, and filling in any gaps I have missed to date.
Before We Begin
What you’re about to read is pretty simple and straightforward but it really is all you need to build a considerable following. With that in mind, always remember to keep it simple.
Twitter never needs to be complicated — that’s part of its beauty. If at any stage you are contemplating some kind of advanced strategy that has you confused at the mere thought of it, take the safe and regressive road back to simplicity. You’ll be surprised at the results.
Just one other thing — the following steps are intended to be taken in order. It may be tempting to skip straight to the “empire building” section but the effect of your efforts will be far reduced. You need to demonstrate that you have a lively Twitter account with lots of engagement before you start going for the big win.
Step 1: Have a Great Blog and Brand
To a extent the popularity of your Twitter profile is determined by the strength of your brand — that’s why Lady GaGa has nearly 34 million followers at the time of writing. As such, one of the most important steps to building your Twitter following is to make sure that you’re growing your brand away from Twitter.
I cannot stress the importance of this step enough — although it can be tempting to dismiss it on the basis that you think you have a strong brand, the matter warrants careful consideration. What sets you apart from the crowd? What compels people to actively choose to follow you over any other number of people vying for their attention? You need to have a compelling answer to those questions in order to grow a sizeable blog, and by extension, a big Twitter following.
In reality this should be a bit of a no-brainer as you are no doubt looking to establish your blog anyway — the fact that your hard work in building a brand has a positive effect on your social media outlets should be a more of a bonus than anything else.
Step 2: Share Awesome Links
The activity on Twitter is largely divided up into two groups:
- General chit chat: acquaintances, friends and colleagues exchanging brief messages, either socially or professionally.
- Link sharing and interaction: a Twitter user finds an interesting article/web page and shares it with his or her followers via a tweet who then may comment and/or share it themselves.
One of the absolute fundamentals of building a popular Twitter profile is to become known as someone who shares valuable and relevant content — i.e. links. If you share too much irrelevant content or simply not enough, people are either going to ignore your tweets (or unfollow you) or be blind to them.
As such you should get into the habit of regularly sharing content. Be selective and focus on quality rather than quantity. Don’t just tweet out links because you think you should — do it because whatever you are sharing is going to be of interest to your followers.
That is one of the main reasons I have over 50 blogs on my RSS reader (and far more when it’s time for another edition of the LWB 100) — I want my Twitter feed to be a valuable resource. I curate and share the best content I find so that my followers don’t have to go looking for it themselves.
The best tool there is (in my opinion) for sharing links on Twitter is Buffer. It is a tweet-scheduling app, which essentially means that you can write tweets now that will be published later. This is one of the tools that stops Twitter from becoming a huge time suck. I like to combine it with the Tweriod service so that my scheduled tweets go out at the optimum times.
Step 3: Interact
This is my favorite bit — communicating with your followers. You cannot undervalue the importance of interaction in terms of increasing brand awareness, not to mention the various indirect benefits that can result from you simply putting yourself out there.
When I was focusing really hard on growing my Twitter profile I had one simple rule when it came to interaction: always reply. If someone sent me a message I always replied. To this day I still reply to probably 80% of messages, only not replying to those that are just simple re-tweets, automatically generated, or sent out to multiple people at the same time. Seriously — try me.
I also recommend that you build up a list of people whose radars you want to get on. Be sure to check out your list’s timeline at least once per day and fire off any pearls of wisdom that you can conjure in response to the tweets that you read. Don’t just reply for the sake of replying — you want to create intrigue, not inspire boredom.
Being so active on Twitter may seem overwhelming but it really doesn’t have to be — I probably spend no more than a collective 15-20 minutes per day on Twitter. If you tackle your tweets in two or three blocks of time — rather than constantly throughout the day — it becomes far more manageable.
Step 4: Start Building Your Twitter Empire
By now you should have a solid brand, a good Twitter profile, and you should have been producing quality content and interacting with your existing follower base for at least a couple of days. In doing so you have laid the foundation for an effective targeted following campaign.
Now this topic deserves a post of itself which is fortunate because I have already written one: How to Get More Twitter Followers. That walks you through my process for taking what is the most important step to growing your Twitter following. I don’t think I would have half of the Twitter followers I have right now without having taken this step — it is integral.
If you choose not to take this step then you will probably find that your Twitter profile grows steadily and modestly. However, in order to accelerate your growth you really do need to use Tweet Adder — it was the main reason why I turned from getting a handful of new followers per day to tens and now occasionally hundreds.
Step 5: Boost Shares and Referral Traffic
The final piece of the puzzle is to use your burgeoning Twitter profile to drive traffic back to your blog. It can be all too easy to forget that doing so is the main purpose of the whole exercise (beyond expanding your network and nurturing relationships), so make sure that you keep your eye on the ball.
First of all, you need to make it easy for people to share your content. With that in mind I have two plugin recommendations:
Digg Digg installs a floating social media share bar on your site so that a visitor always has the option to share. You can see in action right now just to the right of this post — give it a spin and share this post if you’d like!
Meanwhile, Easy Tweet Embed is a plugin that I co-developed which enables you to insert pre-populated tweets within links on your post (like this). I have found that this can boost the number of times your posts are shared by a considerable amount (30% and up). Here’s a brief video showing you how it works:
Beyond that, you need to ensure that you are sharing each new post on your blog effectively. I recommend that you tweet out new posts three times, with each tweet around 7 hours apart. This ensures that your post hits most of the time zones and gets exposed to your followers all over the globe.
You can do this manually with Buffer but the easiest method I’ve found is to use WordTwit Pro — a new favorite WordPress plugin of mine. It’ll set you back a few bucks but is awesome for maximizing the exposure of new posts in Twitter.
Finally, you may want to get your hands on Evergreen Post Tweeter — a free plugin (again, developed by me) that will automatically tweet old posts on your blog according to a set schedule. If you do decide to do this please make sure that you are selective in what old posts you choose to tweet out — make sure that they are still relevant or it will affect your followers’ perception of the quality of your tweets. Furthermore, do not abuse the power of the plugin — I personally recommend that you tweet out no more than a couple of archived posts per day, and only then if you are quite active. The ratio of third party content to your content should be weighted heavily against you.
Rinse and Repeat
That’s it! My complete strategy for getting 10,000 Twitter followers in a year. I referred back to two articles from the LWB archives on a few occasions above so if you want the full picture I recommend that you read them in full too:
You should now be set to build yourself a thriving Twitter profile. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you are a Twitter user and have any tips of your own, please share them below!
Photo Credit: moonjazz