A colleague recently posted on a freelance forum with a question about breaking the four-figure follower market on Twitter. Being the savvy content creator that I am, I’m polishing and repurposing my response to him so that hopefully some of you will glean some value from this information as well.
Before you start to build your following, though, ask yourself these questions:
Why do you want more Twitter followers? Plenty of successful authors aren’t on Twitter because they’re focused on writing books or other long-form pieces. If that’s your focus or you really don’t enjoy Twitter, maybe it’s not the right platform for you. Despite what some people tell you, not everyone has to be on Twitter. I resisted joining for quite awhile, but once I jumped in, I discovered that I love the short, fast-paced conversations that serve as a virtual water-cooler for me. In fact, I like Twitter a lot more than Facebook, because it’s simpler and the relationships can be asymmetrical.
What kind of followers are you looking for? Most likely, you want followers who are interested and engaged in the things you tweet about, so go for quality, not quantity. (If quantity was all you were after, you could buy followers on eBay, but that’s sketchy in my opinion.) Since I blog about writing and freelancing (as @UrbanMuseWriter), most of my 5k+ followers are fellow freelancers, writers, editors, and other creative pros. Since I sometimes crowdsource sources, PR pros and people I’ve interviewed in the past follow me as well.
Still want to boost your Twitter following and break the four-figure mark? Here’s what has worked for me:
- Participate in Twitter chats. @MichelleRafter hosts a monthly Twitter chat for writers (#WCLW) so I participate when I can and I always find relevant followers through that, not to mention the camaraderie and tips I enjoy along the way. @EFAFreelancers also hosts a monthly chat called Freelance Fridays (#EFAchat) and I was the March “guest,” which again boosted my following.
- Post retweetable content. I’ve found that interesting quotes, enticing headlines, and pithy tips tend to get shared and RT’ed, which exposes my Twitter handle to my followers’ followers. Make sure your tweets are short enough they can be RT’ed with your Twitter handle without shortening. Otherwise, it’s too much work for the RT’er. Using the phrase “please RT” sparingly also tends to get RTs (it sounds suspect but there are studies that back this up).
- Livetweet events. I attended the Blog Better Boston Conference (#BBBos) a few weeks ago and tweeted up a storm. As fellow attendees follow the live feed of the conference hashtag, they tend to follow other attendees and RT interesting sound bytes, which again exposes me to their followers. I’ll also be tweeting at #ASJA2012 later this month.
- Participate in #FollowFriday. Most people tweet a list of recommended follows each week, but I’ve found that I get more mileage out of highlighting one person and explaining why they’re worth following. For instance, “Happy #followfriday to @NikkiGroom. Just discovered her blog & am enjoying the sassy style & interesting topics.” When you send something personalized like that, the personis more apt to RT the #FollowFriday shout out or RT your other content in the future. Now I’m more focused on #FridayReads, where I mention the name of the book I’m currently, give a capsule summary in some cases, and include the author’s handle whenever I can.
- RT others. When you RT other people in your niche, they’re more likely to follow you and/or RT you in the future. However, some people are turned off by too many RTs, because they want your point of view rather than you just repeating what others have said. That’s why you need a happy medium of original content and RTs.
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