A long time ago, when my Twitter followers were at zero…
The other day, one of my offline friends joined Twitter for the first time. Seeing the big fat gaping zero underneath her followers tab immediately brought back some uncomfortable memories of my first days on the social network. It seemed that every follower gained was like a small step up an never-ending ladder, and every follower lost was a crushing defeat.
Now that I’ve been on Twitter for well over a year, I’ve learned that it isn’t the unsolvable enigma many beginners believe it to be. On the contrary – it is actually the social network that has brought me the most friends and contacts within my niche, many of whom I’ve met offline and established real-life friendships with as well.
Now, I’m no big shot Twitter guru. Though I’ve established my core network of friends and have seen a rapid increase in the popularity of my account over the past few months, I still have a long way to go before I reach a number of followers that would stir feelings of envy in your average Twitter user.
However, I do feel that I have mastered the necessary techniques to grow my Twitter account in the most natural and value-providing way possible. These are the tips and tricks that I would like to share with you.
In this article you will encounter three main topics: how to begin using Twitter, Twitter tips and tricks, and finally, some big Twitter no-nos that will get you unfollowed faster than you can say hashtag.
Anyone can be successful on Twitter. All you need is patience and persistence!
Why is it difficult to increase your followers on Twitter?
The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it. – Moliere
The more followers you have, the more you will attract. This rule applies to every social network, but no more than on Twitter, most likely because everyone’s followers and followees are so conspicuously displayed on their profile pages.
The problem is that gaining new followers, especially at the beginning of your Twitter career, is difficult. Since most users want to have more followers than followees, they tend to be very selective about who they follow. Not only, but they are very quick to dump anyone who doesn’t provide value to their Twitter feed.
So, the real question at this point is: who do people on Twitter tend to follow? The answer is simple.
- Big names and celebrities. Pretty self-explanatory.
- Users with far more followers than followees. A person with more followers is more likely to provide valuable content and have a significant amount of clout within his or her niche. He/she is also more likely to be an active and sociable user.
- When you look at a user’s profile, Twitter will automatically display whether that user is being followed by people you know. Generally speaking, one is more likely to follow a user who is a “friend of a friend” (or many friends) than a complete stranger.
- Finally, people are more inclined to follow people in their specific niche who provide value to their Twitter feed.
So, where does that leave the Twitter newbie…
…who has no followers, no influence and no experience?
As with any social network, the first thing you should do is follow any real-life friends who currently use Twitter and ask them to add you back. Doing so will give you a small, yet essential, number of followers to start with. It is extremely difficult to convince a stranger to become your very first follower.
Second, it is essential that you select a specific niche to tweet about. This applies regardless of whether you have a blog/business or not, as people would rather follow someone who consistently tweets about one topic than a wide variety of unrelated topics. There are of course exceptions to this rule such as celebrities and comedians, but in most cases, Twitter users will have 95% of their tweets revolve around a niche.
Third, begin following people within your niche who follow lots of people but have few followers themselves, or an equal number of followers and followees. The former group is happy to follow anyone, whereas the latter lives by the “if you follow me, I’ll follow you back” mantra. Either of these groups will be far more likely to follow you than a more influential user at the beginning. Make sure these people are in your niche as it will save you the trouble of going in and unfollowing them later if you find that they tweet about things that do not interest you.
Finally, and most importantly, the new Twitter user must play the last card on the above-mentioned list:
To consistently provide valuable content written by others (and occasionally yourself) related to your niche.
The build up of followers will seem agonizingly slow at the beginning, yes, but people will gradually come to recognize you as a reference for your niche. You will want to balance the content you share in the following manner:
- 60% content written by other people in the form of retweets and shares. I will provide a more in-depth explanation behind the art of retweeting and sharing below.
- 10% your own content. Many people will suggest that you never share your own content, which I find absurd as most of us are on Twitter to market ourselves. The important thing is to share your work in moderation, as if it were the work of someone else that you’d come across by chance.
- 30% conversation and interaction. Twitter isn’t called a social network for nothing. If you want to make friends and contacts, you need to interact with them. Be yourself. Be funny. Be positive. Let the best of yourself shine through. Just don’t treat Twitter as if it were a chat room. You can use private messages for that.
The Art of Sharing on Twitter
Retweeting, sharing, Twitter handles, hashtags and favorites
As I mentioned above, one of the first steps you should take as Twitter newbie is to begin following other people in your niche who either:
1) have a higher ratio of followees to followers (people who mass follow without caring about being followed back)
2) people who have an equal ratio of followees to followers (“follow me, and I’ll follow you back”)
But once you have a small group of followers, what do you do with them? This is where sharing comes into play.
There are two principle ways of sharing on Twitter:
The first is the simple retweet (RT) whereby you share the work of others by clicking the retweet button under their tweet. People appreciate retweets as they allow an original tweet to reach an exponentially larger audience.
The second is to share by creating a tweet of your own that includes the title of the article, a short comment by you stating why you liked it, a link to the article, any relevant hashtags, and if applicable, the Twitter handle of the author, all within Twitter’s 140 character limit. You would generally use this method when you come across an article on the Internet that you feel would be valuable to your following. and has all of the proper web optimisation aspects.
If you don’t know the author’s Twitter handle, be sure to search for it on his/her website so that you are simultaneously giving credit to the author, and letting him/her know that you shared the piece. Likewise, make an effort to include hashtags as they allow other Twitter users to find your tweet in the search box. Below you can see an example of what I mean:
Great read by @TWITTERHANDLE! “The best ways to find followers on Twitter” http://www.twitterexample.com #twitter
Though this may be a personal preference, I am more inclined to share than retweet as I enjoy adding my own two cents to a tweet, however short. Excessive retweeting, especially in succession, can come across as both lazy and spammy.
Another way of showing appreciation for a person’s work is with the like button. In terms of actual sharing, it has little use but functions more as a virtual pat on the back much like the ‘like’ button on Facebook. I often use the favorite button for photos and funny or interesting tweets without links to external content.
Ten Twitter Tips and Tricks
A few more ideas to power up your Twitter account
Up to now, we’ve gone over the basic rules for growing your Twitter account. In this section, I’d like to touch upon some tips and tricks I’ve found useful in increasing my followers in a natural manner. None of these tips will garner you 1000 fans overnight, but they will certainly help you add relevant and targeted people to your circle of acquaintances, which is what every serious Twitter user wants.
Remember, it isn’t the number of followers you have that counts, it is the quality of those followers.
As you might have guessed by now, to have power in the Twitter community is to have more followers than followees. Avoid mass following or following people who do not interest you. Don’t feel that you have to follow someone just because they follow you. Yes, you will have to follow people to gain momentum at the beginning, but make sure they are relevant to your niche.
If a person who’s tweets really interests you isn’t following you back, even after a long period of time, don’t take offence. As I mentioned at the beginning, Twitter users (especially important or experienced ones) are infamously picky about who they follow. He/she may be observing you and your behavior on Twitter. Perhaps he/she hasn’t noticed you yet.
Send that person a few friendly tweets and see how they react. If you get a friendly response, you really have no reason to click the unfollow button, even if they don’t follow you back after that.
Make good use of the #FF (follow Friday) hashtag. Most people draw up a list of their favorite users (usually the same people) every week and tweet it to the world, but I find this comes across as cliquey, monotonous and counter-productive. Instead, pick out one or two people every week to place in the spotlight. Say why people should follow them. Not only will the selected user appreciate this and usually follow you back, but your other followers will find value in getting to know someone new in your niche. I usually write something along these lines:
This week’s #FF goes to @TWITTERUSER because….
Post at least once a day to demonstrate that you are an active user. People will often use programs such as Tweepi or ManageFlitter to see which of their followers are the most inactive, and subsequently delete anyone who doesn’t make active use of the social network.
I, for instance, usually unfollow any user who has been inactive for more than two weeks. It may seem severe, but there is no point in following someone who never uses the network.
Something many newbies don’t notice at first are the Twitter lists you can create to divide Twitter users into categories. If you participate in the recipe niche, for example, and want to keep all the users who write recipes for kids together, you can use a list. Plus, the great thing about these lists is that you don’t have to be following those you add to it. This makes it a great way of keeping track of people who interest you to a certain extent, but not enough to follow them.
Always be positive when sharing on Twitter. More likely than not, your followers haven’t met you face to face. They don’t care if you’ve had a bad day at work, or if you hate your sister-in-law.
They have enough problems of their own to face, so unless you are celebrity who is basically at liberty to say whatever he/she wants, or a comedian who makes a living out of putting a funny spin on the negative side of life, keep your tweets as positive as possible.
Be very explicit and straightforward in your biography. State exactly what your niche is and what you intend to tweet about. There is nothing wrong with using the generic phrase “I am a ____, and I tweet about ____.” People on Twitter don’t have the time to fish through all your tweets to discover your niche.
Sometimes it is necessary to “take out the garbage” on Twitter. This means using a third-party program like Tweepie to weed out a) anyone who does not follow you AND doesn’t interest you, b) inactive users, c) fake followers, and d) users who followed you and then immediately unfollowed you when you followed them back.
If you write an article about a specific brand’s product, make sure you always include the brand’s Twitter handle in your tweet. Depending on the social nature of the brand, they may share or retweet your article, allowing it to reach a wide and relevant audience. For instance, every time I share an article of mine with a brand, I usually gain about 5-10 followers from the subsequent retweet or share.
Try to post images as much as possible. Now that Twitter shows a preview of any image you tweet, they tend to get more attention than a tweet that consists solely of text. I like to post images that show me being active in my niche. If you are in the recipe niche, for instance, you may want to regularly post photos of yourself in the kitchen, realizing your culinary masterpieces!
Five Big Twitter Don’ts
If you want to lose followers, this is the way to go!
In the hours I spend on Twitter, I see so many people breaking some of the most basic rules of Twitter etiquette, and losing followers as a result. How do the rules of Twitter etiquette differ from those in the real world? Not much, to be honest. All you need is a bit of common sense to get the most out of this great social network.
- Don’t be negative! Nobody wants to hear about how much you hate your mother-in-law or how you just ate the worst sandwich of your life. Cursing and badmouthing are a surefire way to getting unfollowed, if not banned from the network entirely.
- Don’t tweet about irrelevant things. Yes, it is fine to write an off-topic tweet every now and then if you are sure that it will bring a smile to someone’s face but 99% of the time, you should be wholly focused on your niche and the needs of your followers.
- Don’t follow someone just so they’ll return the favour. And even worse, don’t unfollow that person as soon as they’ve followed you back. That’s like offering a child a lollypop and snatching it away at the last minute. It’s just downright rude. Give the person a chance before deciding whether or not an unfollow is necessary.
- Don’t buy fake followers. Experienced Twitter users are very good at sniffing out phoney accounts. One look at someone’s list of followers and you can easily tell whether the account is legitimate or not. And if that isn’t reason enough, avoid buying followers because they won’t bring any value to your experience on Twitter. These bought followers won’t share your work, and even if they do, they won’t have any followers themselves who will read or share it.
- Don’t use Twitter as a substitute for a chat room. Just as too few tweets can be damaging to your account, so can too many, especially if they are irrelevant to your other followers. If you want to hold a long discussion, take it to the private message box or exchange emails.