Getting Started and Building a Twitter Following

This morning The Boston Globe published Scott Kirsner‘s 10 Tips for Attracting a Following on Twitter.  Recommended reading for my social media marketing students — several of the folks quoted are ones I spend time with in person and on Twitter.  I’ve been asked previously to publish my tips (I usually give these to my classes as a handout.)  So, here they are — warning, it’s a long long list, and it is focused on people who are just getting started.

Understand that a Twitter following isn’t all about the numbers.  It is about building a community of like-minded individuals – or individuals you find interesting and who might find you interesting.  Quality over quantity any day.

  • When you are just getting started, make sure you have a picture and the bio portion of your profile includes the key words people might search under.  Make sure you are also appealing to prospective customers.  Try to not lose your personality but understand there is a character limit.
  • As you are setting up your bio, think about whether you want to use the large city nearby or your “actual” location – if it is a suburb or small town.  Both approaches have benefits — big pond/little pond.
  • Make sure you have a “stream” of tweets before you go looking for friends.  People want to see what you are offering before they follow you — NO ONE follows an empty stream except spammers.
  • Spend some time with Search.Twitter and search for people tweeting your key words or key terms. (I like the advanced search function because I am often looking for people in a specific place/geography.)  If you friend them, they will often friend back — you can tell the likelihood of this based on the proportion of followers to following.  Don’t worry about your “numbers” too much right now in terms of follow/follower percentage — you can fix that later.  Don’t use this tactic for more than a few people at a time.  One of the easiest ways to identify spammers is to look for accounts following 1500 people who only have a dozen followers.
  • Look for “Follow us on Twitter” buttons on associations you belong to, or want to belong to.
  • Use  the function on your Twitter client (whatever you are using) to alert you to tweets with your key words — think of Google Alerts for Twitter. Respond or retweet them.
  • Want someone in particular to follow you? Most effective is a thoughtful response to one of their tweets.  Twitter is a dialogue, not a harangue or a rant.
  • Put your Twitter I.D. on your website, in your email signature, on your blog, on LinkedIn. This is also the time to really think about what area of expertise you want to focus on.  On your website, instead of a generic “Follow me on Twitter” button, how about a “Follow me on Twitter for the latest ‘social media marketing’ tips”?  (You can offer up far more than just that one topic but specialization may be beneficial, especially at first.) Think about what your audience wants to hear.  Offer value in your tweets.
  • Set up Google Alerts (use quotes around the specific terms to cut down on the random stuff) to arrange a stream of info that you can use to help fuel your tweets, and make sure you are up-to-date on hot topics of the day.
  • I use as a URL shortener when I am linking to articles I want to share with my audience. (Note you can create custom short URLs too.)  There are also some great services which will track your click-thrus.  Add “sharethis” to your toolbar to make article sharing easy.
  • Use something like Twitseeker to search on specific topics (either by profile or by tweets.)  There is an advanced function if you want to focus on a specific geographic. Looking for local friends?  Go to Twitter Grader and get your rank, then click through to your town and check out the lists of locals who are active on Twitter.
  • Use Twellow to search for specific people — start with people you know — customers, friends, co-workers, and partners are a good place to start.  Consider also:  industry publications, analysts and reporters for your industry publications.  Use the categories and sub-categories to zero in on groups.
  • Consider upcoming industry events and find the hashtags for them so you can find an existing community of like-minded individuals — also look historically.  Examples — #journchat, #gno. Follow or check out @hashtags for ideas.  Once you get a decent-sized following, you can consider creating your own event.  (Use Tweetchat or Tweetgrid to see #journchat on Monday nights as an example.) You may want to start your own regular tweetchat.  Be patient, it takes time to get it going.
  • RT the good stuff.  RT= retweet, copy and give attribution for good stuff.  Thank people for RTing you.

I’ve always been an advocate of using the available tools to reach your audience – and today, social media tools are extending our reach beyond what we ever thoughts possible. Remember, Twitter is just that, a single tool in your arsenal.  Happy follower hunting.

2 thoughts on “Getting Started and Building a Twitter Following

  1. Bobbie: thanks for tips. I’ve got some work ahead of me, but glad you’ve been there and pointing the way, Ty

Comments are closed.