I write this on the brink of getting Twitter 1,000 followers – putting me in the top 2% of twitter accounts by size. This comes after a couple of months of consistent posting, following the strategies I've outlined below.
My aim is to update this as I hit bigger markers, the next big one being 10,000 – the top 0.05%
Why Twitter, why now?
After writing Twitter off as a dying platform, riddled with bot traffic, a few things persuaded me to try it again in 2019.
President Trump was definitely one of them. Love or hate him he's definitely thrown a spotlight on Twitter in a way that even Obama never dreamed of, and where the president is, journalists will always follow.
After a poke around I discovered that there's also a lot of pop and celebrity accounts connecting directly with their audience. A completely different crowd, but huge nonetheless.
If Twitter can cater for these two surely there must be some fledgling marketers (my audience) in there too. Turns out there are.
Lastly, Twitter is built for audience building. The popular “retweet” function is built to send posts viral and you can easily get your content in front of at least a 6 figure audience in your first month once you figure out the vibe of what the platform loves. That's the first key in your quest to get more Twitter followers.
First things first. Strategy.
Before you start trying to get followers, be very clear about what you want to achieve or you can find yourself in a bubble of similar minded people talking to each other, but having no bigger impact.
For me it's to attract marketers large and small who I can collaborate with on product creation & promotion.
Thats not hard, any social channel will have a ton of marketers in there, but most of them are utter crap, broadcasting lukewarm content on autopilot.
Sifting through the noise is a problem, but it's not hard to stand out either.
My other objective is to tighten up my writing and have some fun.
Writing emails, blog posts and a little on Medium is great writing practice, but it doesn't have the discipline of Twitter's limited characters.
The lack of space also kills nuance. Twitter can seem an aggressive place as a result, but I'm ok with that. People who can remain civil in that sort of environment are people I can work with. If you're easily triggered by opposing views to your own, you're not going to get far.
Forget the hacks
All the recent significant growth has been done without ads, without follow/follow-back, and without even bothering with needy hashtags.
Admittedly I tried these all a long time ago but although the numbers looked good, they did nothing for my end-game of finding partners & an audience for future products.
Bots follow bots. Bots don't have either money or influence. Furthermore they don't engage, and with low engagement stats, Twitter will think you're dull as a dinner with a dummy. Your great content won't get exposed.
Steps to get more Twitter followers
This is the typical path a follower might take:
- See your post as a retweet or a like from an account they follow, or a reply to a post they're reading.
- Click your avatar.
- Check out your profile to see what you're about.
- Read a few tweets.
- If they like what they see, they'll hit the follow button for more
There's a few things in here you have control over:
- Content that you use to engage with other accounts
- Your own original posts
- Your profile
- Your recent tweets
I'll take these in the order you should deal with them.
Polish your profile
Your profile page consists of a few items that you have control over:
- Your profile picture
- Your cover image
- Your bio
- Your pinned post
Your profile picture
Take some care over this. Mine is professionally shot, but you don't need to go this far at first.
If you can, use a shot of you in action doing whatever you do. Speaking, painting, writing, lifting weights, fighting.
My day job involves me hammering at a computer which isn't too exciting to look at, so I went with a stringer image.
Try to steer clear of the grinning mugshots that you'd use on LinkedIn. These just shout conformity and weak opinions which will get you nowhere on Twitter.
A lot of anonymous accounts use some sort of artwork. Greek gods seem popular. I've always steered clear of these though. Authenticity and people seeing a recognisable image of me makes me less likely to engage in pointless arguments.
Your call. Whatever suits the image you're trying to project. Strength & authority, friendliness & approachability, quirky & creative. Only you'll know this.
Your cover image
Your cover image is a big piece of real estate for your profile page, and an important decision to make.
The image is used for one of two reasons. Branding or promotion.
A promotional cover image can include calls to action or URL’s similar to your bio.
Branding covers tend to be more image heavy, with something in tune with your brand.
For example I talk a lot about using automation so my image is of a robot arm. It’s an interesting image that leaves questions unanswered and sets the tone for the rest of my content.
Some branding covers also include some sort of mission statement or positioning.
My own experience is that any sort of text in the cover shouts “I’m selling”, and can get in the way of relationship building.
It’s fine to be overtly sales-focussed if you’re an ecom brand, or the page for a product, but personal branding needs a bit more restraint.
Try a few though and see what works.
Canva is your friend for quick, quality graphics at the right size.
Use Pexels.com or Unsplash for more abstract images.
Your bio text
This is where the real work happens and you should test a few variations.
The bio text should:
1) Tell the reader what they’re going to get by following you.
2) Tell them where they can get more of your content.
A good formula to follow is:
- Big result you’ve achieved
- What you do that the reader will benefit from
- Where to get more in-depth
“Founded 3 agencies and an ecommerce brand. I’ll teach you to use simple technology to scale your business. Find out more…”
On this case I’ve not put a link, but instead, the website in my profile comes directly below the bio anyway.
Use bit.ly if you’re short on space and want to link to a specific page. If you’re committed, find a short domain name of your own. I used expireddomains.net to hunt down good ideas.
Your pinned post
Twitter lets you “pin” a post to the top of your profile, giving it permanent prominence. This is where you should show off your best work.
There are two approaches to this and both are going to need a little work.
First is the promotional post. If you have an offer, particularly one with a low cost of entry, like a book or a short course, put it here. Let people know what you’re about and how they can get it.
Make the copy engaging, entertaining, and unique. Leave out the breathless hyperbole and fake deadlines.
Second is to dump a mountain of value on them with an in-depth thread.
One of the best examples I’ve seen is @roguewealth who hasn’t just created one thread, but multiple ones on different aspects of sales, then pulled them all together in a single Twitter Moment.
You can definitely tell he knows his stuff.
Keeping your recent Tweets clean
Not everything you write will hit a home run. Far from it, and some things you write in the heat of the moment you'll regret a while later.
Don't be embarrassed to delete stuff on a regular basis. Your recent tweets are what your new readers will gauge to decide if you're worth following.
There's nothing more annoying than following someone for their expertise, then seeing nothing but an endless stream of rants about politics or football results.
Now, you are building a personal brand, and you need some personality. “All work and no play makes jack a dull boy.” as the saying goes, but have some balance.
Make sure there's at least a clear indicator of your area of expertise in one fo your last 3 tweets – the number you can see on your profile page before the “who to follow” block that Twitter inserts on every profile page.
Further back than that I delete tweets that have got no likes or retweets after a day or so. TweetEraser can help with this, but be careful, I once deleted my entire history of Tweets by accident – lesson learned.
Creating your own original posts
It’s time to get writing.
You need to get a bit of a body of work in place before anyone will take you seriously.
50 or so solid tweets will do this, but don’t expect a lot of reaction to them. Until you’re up in 4-figure followings you won’t get a lot of action on every post.
You’ll also be incredibly frustrated by Twitter’s tendency to ignite your genius tweets, but go viral with your random comment about your cat.
I say this not to dissuade you, but just so you know it’s normal when it happens to you.
Now, writing great tweets is literally a book of its own and most of it has been written by in his book “Engagement is the new cocaine.”
I’d supplement this with “Elements if style” by Strunkk & Whyte, whose whole theme is “omit needless words” – an essential skill for Twitter.
I’d also recommend a basic book on comedy to keep the entertainment factor present.
“The Serious Guide to Joke Writing: How To Say Something Funny About Anything” is an easy and productive place to start.
Remember also, if you’re a personal brand, you need a personality.
That doesn’t mean acting up like a second rate celebrity on a talk show, but it does mean letting occasional views from the rest of your life into your posts.
I let the odd observation about my family, my rowing training, and humorous observations on life I go my feed, same as I would if we met in real life.
Content that you use to engage with other accounts
Congratulations. You’ve reached the bottom of the mine. This is where the gold is. It's time to reveal the biggest lesson I’ve learned from getting my first 1,000 followers on Twitter.
Twitter is built for networking, not broadcasting.
If all you do is pump out tweets, it’s going to take a really long time to get traction, no matter how much value you give.
In fact, straight teaching is one of the least useful types of content you can put out without first knowing people want it.
Twitter isn’t Google. It’s users aren’t looking for information. They’re looking for connection and entertainment, but most accounts don’t offer that, they just turn the dial to broadcast and start preaching.
Look at your own feed and you’ll notice that the accounts you don’t know are brought into your world by someone else liking, or retweeting them.
That’s your challenge. To get a big account to notice and engage with your content.
Here’s the story about how I did this with Scott Adams. Yes, that Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoon guy.
Scott writes a lot about persuasion, particularly on how Trump does it, and that’s given him a huge audience.
In his book “Winning Bigly” about Trump’s persuasion techniques he uses a phrase “two movies on one screen” to describe how people will recall events differently depending on their political leaning.
He posted an example of this and I simply used the phrase “two movies on one screen” in a reply.
- I was familiar with his work
- I was essentially supporting his conclusion in front of his followers
A like from @scottadamssays won me dozens of followers and hundreds of profile views over the next few days as a six-figure audience saw my comment, and the fact that Scott has “endorsed” it.
This is how you get in front of other accounts.
Big accounts like Scott are rare though, and many are managed by somebody junior, or just post content from another platform and never engage (Seth Godin is a prime example of this).
But if you’re just getting started there are masses of accounts with only a few thousand followers who don’t get a load of attention and are way easier to make this type of connection with.
Reply with something that endorses what they’re saying and adds value to the conversation (maybe an example form your own experience) and you’ll get noticed more often than not.
How much work does it all take?
Honestly, a lot. But if you keep at it it won’t feel like work.
Writing will open up a flood of ideas as you do it. More connections will give you faster results. After a while it’s just like thinking out loud.
I’ll admit to not being totally consistent, and I delete a lot of duff tweets, but 10 original tweets per day, spread out using Buffer or Hootsuite isn’t too much (Most tweets are dead & buried in under an hour).
Then at least the same again in replies and retweet’s of content from people I follow.
I spend a little time on Tweetdeck to find new people to engage with as well or things get a bit stale.
It’s worth it though. I’ve already had sales of my consulting offer, ebooks and some sales of affiliate products.
More importantly though I have some genuine connections with people who give air-time to my skills, just like “real world” friends would.
And not a grey suit or business card was needed for any of it.
The Next Step
My aim is to update this post with anything I learn as I progress with growing my following on Twitter. If you'd like to watch it happen, triumphs and car-crashes together, follow me at https://twitter.com/stephenpratley