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How to get more Twitter followers

A primer for small businesses on Twitter

     
2:16 pm on Apr 14, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I recently came across a Twitter account for a small business that had a grand total of two followers. (I became their third.) They had posted some pretty good tweets (informative, witty, good visuals) but so far as I could tell that was the only thing they were doing. They hadn't followed anyone, and hadn't retweeted, replied to or liked anyone's tweets. I couldn't see any activity other than their tweets. Even with top-notch tweets, that's not how to grow a Twitter presence.

To gain followers, you must achieve two things:
  • get noticed by well-targeted people
  • make a good impression when you do

The business I'm describing needs a plan for both of those, but especially the first. Unless you're already famous, few followers will find you on their own. It's up to you to get in front of them.

Building your presence on Twitter isn't a project where you can do some work and you're done. It takes a multitude of small actions and the results grow over time.

Begin by defining your goals. You need a plan and a focus. Maybe something like this: "I want to become known as a widget expert, with the end goal of selling more widgets. To advance this I will 1) connect with people who are interested in widgets, and 2) share some of my expertise as a widget specialist." Or maybe what you want is to connect with anyone you can find who lives within a certain distance of your store.

Your goals will guide your activities. Your focus and your skill at targeting will determine the degree to which your Twitter presence becomes a true business asset.

The first thing to do is polish your profile so it's attractive, informative, and makes clear what you're about.

  • Make sure your display name identifies you accurately.
  • Fill in your bio, location info and website link. Include industry keywords if you can do so gracefully.
  • Use an icon image that will be easy to recognize when it appears beside your tweets at small sizes.
  • Choose a header image that's relevant and attractive.
  • Customize your colors. To the extent that you can, your social profiles and your website should have similar visual branding. A family resemblance!
  • Use your pinned tweet to extend your bio.

Polishing your profile is the only Twitter task that could ever be considered "done". Maybe!

Start tweeting. Even before you have followers, post some quality tweets (and retweets) so your account has some substance when people start checking you out.

Continue tweeting. Deliver quality content, whatever that would mean for your niche. Be consistent and set a pace you can maintain. Don't post 22 tweets today before twelve and none for the rest of the week! You'll get better visibility by spreading your tweets throughout the day and week than by posting in bursts. Get to know the best times for your target audience. Be aware that flooding people's timelines with too many tweets too fast is one of the top reasons for unfollows. A scheduling tool can be a big help.

Stay close to your focus. Resist the urge to retweet political rants or babble about personal stuff. Post an occasional personal tweet if you have something to celebrate, but keep the majority of your tweets and other activities strongly relevant to your focus. Keep your attitude positive (mostly) and your language clean (always). Aim to be useful.

A note of caution: being too sales-y may repel more people than it attracts. Share knowledge to establish your expertise but keep a light touch about direct self-promotion.

Some studies have found that the factor correlating most strongly with growth wasn't tweeting more often (although that helps to a point), but rather how often one's tweets were retweeted. That's a moment of free visibility! It takes a quality tweet, well on-target for your audience, and sometimes a bit of luck. Being retweeted helps your account grow, and in turn it will happen more often as you grow.

Build your visibility. There is no one hack that will achieve this; it takes lots of small, targeted actions. For a new account, probably the most effective activity is to follow people. When you do, some will follow back. So following interesting, relevant people is a key growth strategy ... as well as fun! Keep a constant eye out for people who would be good to follow.

If you follow someone, and they haven't followed back within a few days, unfollow them if you wish, and follow someone else. Repeat.

There are many ways to find people to follow. Search by keyword to find people. See who follows your competitors. See who your competitors are following. See who they've included in their lists. Watch your Twitter feed and note who is getting retweeted. Locate tweets relevant to your focus, and check out the tweet author and anyone who liked, retweeted or replied.

Twitter often suggests accounts to follow. It's easy to accept a suggestion but before you do, check to see if that person has been active recently, and things like where they're located, what language they tweet in, and so on. There's little to gain by following someone who isn't currently active or who tweets in a language you can't read. On the other hand I don't recommend following the sort of hyperactive account that has tweets by the ten-thousands and followers by the dozen. That's not usually a sign of quality.

Try to follow someone new every day, but be aware that Twitter has limits about follow activity. The main limit to know is that new accounts may only follow up to 400 per day. As you grow and prove your quality, the limit becomes more generous. Read more here: [help.twitter.com...]

I can't prove this but I'm convinced that Twitter is more forgiving if it's clear that your targeting is good when you follow people. Not everyone will follow back, but some will if they think you look interesting. If no one follows back, your targeting is off. Aim for relevance, relevance, relevance.

Value ... quality ... useful ... relevant ... are you picking up some themes here?

At the same time as all of the above, you need to engage with other people's content.

Start with some searches to locate recent, relevant tweets that you could like, retweet or reply to. Then ... you guessed it ... like, retweet or reply as appropriate. Repeat.

When you engage with someone's content you'll show up in their notifications, and others may see it in their feeds. As well, Twitter sends emails with notes about recent activity in people's networks. Being mentioned there is a bonus.

Some of the people who notice you will check your profile, and some may decide you'd be interesting to follow. One by one, your following will grow ... if your targeting is good.

Get to know Twitter's advanced search. Even better, get to know the search operators here: [developer.twitter.com...] Build your own specialized searches by combining operators, including negatives.

Bookmark your best searches. A collection of well-crafted custom searches will save a lot of time.

These searches are especially worth noting:

  • keyword ?
  • "keyword phrase" ?

Those will turn up tweets with questions, and while not all will be suitable, some will provide a natural opening to say something useful.

Keep doing all of the above. Try to do something every day even if you only have a few minutes. Twitter growth is nourished by activity. You'll continue to gain followers as long as you are active.

There's much, much more that could be said. Please chime in with insights about things like #hashtags, @mentions, lists, Twitter chats, automation, paid promotions inside Twitter, promoting from outside Twitter, analytics, Twitter cards and more.

What advice would you give to a small business who wants to build their presence on Twitter?
3:36 pm on Apr 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Well done - You seemed to have covered most or all of the basic points nicely

What advice would you give to a small business who wants to build their presence on Twitter?


The other side of Twitter

My advice to small business would be to avoid those accounts that don't seem to engage -- Engagement is a 2-way street, so having followers just for the sake of having followers is an account that will only look good in the ego driven mind. Twitter is somewhat closer to the real-time world than some of these other so-called social media platforms, and I suggest that it be treated as such. What good is following a blue checked Twitter account with 100K followers going to do for you if that account only follows 500 back over a period of 10 years and only has 1500 tweets? I usually avoid those kinds of accounts because their gross lack of engagement will ultimately do nothing for my bottom line. Twitter accounts where the follow/followed ratios are more balanced, with a much higher tweet count, might serve to provide you with more engagement --

Also -- Beware of the bait-and-switch followers .. these would be those that will follow you and have you follow them back, only to unfollow you a week later and you don't notice it because for some reason you weren't paying attention. You might actually have to pay attention to your follower counts/page - Make a list in real-time, especially if you have quite a few followers, because every time you visit your follower page, your followers aren't going to be listed in any particular order (Twitter likes to sow seeds of disorganization in that regard) and the account that unfollowed might be missed for the sheer number of followers that Twitter jumbles up on purpose.

The hashtag is your friend on Twitter -- Tho' I don't make it a habit of including a hashtag in every single tweet, I do understand their importance and make use of them as they might relate to various relevant industries.

keyword ?
"keyword phrase" ?


... these will do absolutely nothing for you unless they are prefaced with this "#" -- Keywords and key phrases aren't measured the same on Twitter as they are on Google. The hashtag is a sure fired way of putting your name in front of as many eyes as possible in the shortest period of time.

Twitter's suggested followers? Really? ... More often than not, we find the deck stacked to Twitter's favour in that regard. I don't follow politicians, or generally tweet with any kind of political bent for instance, but every time election season rolls around (which is quite often these days), here we have all of these so-called politicians being suggested. Why? -- Would it be because I'm in the web-dev biz and all of my colleagues are posting with political abandon? I don't think so, as I follow mostly guys/gals who know what they're doing in web-dev (regardless of their personal views) and are as proud as punch to show off their skills for the world to see.

IMHO the Twitter suggest box is a ruse, a facade invented to make you think that Twitter knows best. My best advice for helping to find someone to follow (who in turn might follow you back) would be to visit the followers lists of those who you are already following, or who has followed you - up close and personal like ... Try not to depend on the Twitter suggest-bot too frequently.
5:19 pm on Apr 15, 2019 (gmt 0)

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keyword ?
"keyword phrase" ?

... these will do absolutely nothing for you unless they are prefaced with this "#" --


That may depend on your niche. In my experience, especially with one account, keyword-plus-question-mark queries turn up real questions by real consumers, no hashtags involved, about real products that we could sell them.

Such questions don't turn up every day but they are valuable when they do.

ADDED: in case it wasn't clear - the question mark ? is actually part of the queries I'm recommending.
1:40 am on Apr 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Is there a "healthy" ratio between tweets vs followers, following vs followers, Tweets vs following?
4:22 am on Apr 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I don't think "health" could be defined by any particular ratio, as so many things could vary from one niche to the next and one account to the next.

One ratio that matters is that Twitter may freeze your ability to follow new accounts if you follow too many before enough have followed you. But other than steering clear of Twitter's limits, I'm not convinced that there's any particular sweet spot in the ratios you mention.

That said, it doesn't take much looking to find examples that are clearly unhealthy. The most extreme example I've seen is an account with over 7 million tweets and 85 followers. The tweets are in a language I can't read so I don't know what they're about, but it's clear that few people are finding value in all that busy-ness.

At the other end is someone like Oprah who had a million followers before her first tweet.

I think the best diagnostic questions to discern health would be, "Are growing numbers of people following you or otherwise engaging who are in the target audience you want to reach? And are they doing the things you're hoping for?" (Eg. website visits, product purchases, community activism, whatever.) If you're making progress there, you can probably call yourself healthy. Figure out what's working and keep doing it.
10:38 am on Apr 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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If you just created a website and are eager to get ahead of the game on social media, full stop.

Twitter is an extra, a luxury, any time you spend there is helping Twitter first and foremost, not yourself. At first I STRONGLY recommend that you make your site Twitter friendly so that OTHER PEOPLE can share your content there, but that's it. You're not a somebody yet with a new site so work on that first. In time, if you truly want to do the whole social media thing which is completely optional now, you can create a personal or brand account and begin interacting but work on your stuff first(and second... third... etc).

Social media can be, and for most is, a complete time loss for the results it brings. I wouldn't even consider investing resources into Twitter until you've hit the wall of content creation ideas and organic growth opportunities.

Having social media is over-rated for the vast majority of websites, imo, but especially for new websites. Other people can share your content on those platforms without you holding their hand, if it's good enough. The stuff you own will always be there but the social media platform may not be, ask G+ users.
4:38 pm on Apr 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I removed all social media links from my sites last week.

I hadn't updated any of them for 2+ years since no one in my global widget industry was bothered about interreacting with each other this way since the industry much prefers face-to-face trade fairs etc.

99% of my widget trade directory sites have closed or simply sit there untouched for years, many back into the noughties, only one English language trade forum board exists and even that isn't used much.

Saying that I have seen a few successful large retail widget sites using FB however I do also know that they've had to put in lots of energy and expense to do so.
7:24 pm on Apr 16, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Twitter is an extra, a luxury, any time you spend there is helping Twitter first and foremost, not yourself.


Twitter is productive for some businesses, less so for others. Sometimes the difference is that some niches are simply less suitable, so know your audience.

Other times it's the difference between working hard vs working smart. It's not enough just to be busy on Twitter, you should be doing things that relate to your focus.

Example: over the last few days I could have engaged with many, many tweets about Game of Thrones. That would have put my brand in front of new people but it would be random luck if any of them would be interested in my type of widgets. So I didn't go there. Like the tortoise in the race, I stuck to my focus.

In time, if you truly want to do the whole social media thing which is completely optional now, you can create a personal or brand account


The sooner you start the better your chance to get the @handle you want. So I'd recommend setting up your brand account as soon as you can. Get your profile set up and looking good even if you're not very active.

The stuff you own will always be there but the social media platform may not be, ask G+ users.


That is a hugely important point. Something I thought about mentioning in my first post was that promoting your social media should not come ahead of promoting your mailing list. In fact, use your social activity to help build your list. If Twitter died, you'd still have your list.

At first I STRONGLY recommend that you make your site Twitter friendly so that OTHER PEOPLE can share your content there, but that's it.


Yes, it's important that your content is easy to share. That means more than just putting up share buttons. I strongly recommend setting up "Twitter cards" on your site so that if someone (including you!) tweets about one of your pages it will show to advantage. Learn more here: [developer.twitter.com...]

Other social media also have ways to optimize how you come across when people share your stuff. It's worth the time to investigate.

... I have seen a few successful large retail widget sites using FB however I do also know that they've had to put in lots of energy and expense to do so.


Paid promotions can put your growth in high gear, but you'll want to really understand your targeting before you start paying for ads.




[edited by: not2easy at 1:41 am (utc) on Apr 17, 2019]
[edit reason] author request [/edit]

7:44 am on Apr 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Play if it makes sense. Twitter is a conversation according to @Jack. Be a conversationalist!
12:50 am on Apr 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Oh if @jack says it...

I digress. It's surely useful for some, of course, but I just wish new webmasters didn't get so gung ho about social media before their sites are ready. Be interesting first, the conversation flows more naturally when you have something to offer.
2:00 am on Apr 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@Jack certainly is making an effort to show his company is useful ... paid a visit to a certain house today and spoke to the head honcho there.

Twitter can be useful, but not quite the same way, or as measurable, as a regular website. Nothing predictable about Twitter, though some generalizations can be made.

What I and many others have determined over the course of many years is that Nbr of Followers does NOT equate to Enhanced Web Site Revenue.

YMMV

Twitter, however, is good for getting the word out for new things or changes/updates, etc., if they are of a general public interest (not necessarily commercial).
6:10 pm on Apr 29, 2019 (gmt 0)

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What I and many others have determined over the course of many years is that Nbr of Followers does NOT equate to Enhanced Web Site Revenue.


More important than the sheer number of followers would be why they followed you. Are you attracting followers because they're interested in your widget expertise, or because they like your jokes? The business value would be quite different. Your activity will determine the kind of audience you build. A personal account can say anything, but a business account needs a focus. Define what your focus should be, and stay close to it.

Be interesting first, the conversation flows more naturally when you have something to offer.


Yes. To that I would add, "Be interesting about topics that will attract the target audience you want."

True story: I used to know a lawyer from Texas (now deceased) who was the toughest-talking, sharpest-tongued dude I ever met. Someone told him it would be good for his business to build a presence on Facebook. He began posting ... cat videos. And more cat videos. He built an audience, yes, but it yielded no discernible benefit for his law practice...

Different network, same advice: define your focus and stay focused.
3:47 pm on May 8, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Bait and switch followers are a pain. For a fortnight recently my follower account was going up on alternate days and down on the others. What I have seen is that despite a steady increase in followers the number actually engaging with my tweets is pretty static.

With regard to retweets it seems pretty random, the ones that I think are relevant only to a very limited audience get thousands of views the ones of more general interest get hundreds.
 

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