Darren Rowse recently wrote a series of posts about increasing your Twitter presence, in which he mainly talks about how to use Twitter by adding value in order to increase your Twitter following. While Darren made several good points, I want to give you my perspective on it, which is somewhat different.
You’re interested in increasing your Twitter followers. You want more people reading your messages. It’s not difficult to build a prominent profile but I think it’s important to start with the right understanding. This is the first thing you need to know: It’s not really about how you tweet, what you say or who you talk to but who you are.
Take a look at this list of Twitter users with the most followers and you’ll see that almost everyone on it is famous or well known for reasons other than Twitter. For example, you’ll notice that the top 10 users are mainly all people who own popular websites/businesses and brands or have established a reputation through their involvement in different activities.
Run your eyes down the list further and you’ll notice the same thing: these Twitter users built their large audience through their already established popularity. They didn’t start from the ground up: it’s likely that they started with a decent amount of followers and will continue accumulate them passively through the strength of their reputation or personal brand.
Darren has written some useful articles about Twitter on his site but he built his following mainly because he has a very popular blog and not because he was inherently entertaining or helpful as a Twitter user. In other words, he grew his large subscriber base because he cleverly integrated his brand/blog with his Twitter profile.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t develop a strong Twitter following if you are not famous for something online or offline. It can be done but in my opinion, building a Twitter following has little to do with how you use Twitter. I don’t believe that in order to get a sizeable audience, you need obsesses about specific tweeting etiquette.
I’ve never written any articles on how to use Twitter because I don’t think there’s an ‘optimal’ or best way to use Twitter, nor am I interested in regulating another person’s lifestream. Even if you’re purely using Twitter as a broadcast tool to increase your online influence, how or what you tweet is not really the thing you should be focusing on.
So let’s talk about what I think will help you to get more Twitter followers.
Maximize Visibility: Treat Your Twitter Profile Like Any Other Website
Image Credit: Tweet via QuickSilver
The first step is to understand that your Twitter profile is like any other website. You should treat it no differently from your own blog or a free opt-in newsletter. This means that if you want to increase your Twitter subscriber base, you just need to do one thing again and again: Drive web traffic to your profile. The more targeted the traffic, the better.
This sounds obvious but many people overlook this fundamental principle and focus instead on less relevant details like Twitter usage times/frequency. I’m sure that causing controversy or learning to tweet a certain way might get some extra exposure to your profile but in my opinion, the benefits are minimal. How, when and what you tweet is not crucial.
When you want to catch as many fish as possible, use a large net and spread it as far as you can. The guideline to remember when building your profile is just one: keep working on sending visitors to your profile. People can only follow you when they know you exist.
With this in mind, you can play around with a myriad number of marketing strategies, just like how you would promote a website. Think in terms of incentives. Why would someone want to follow me on Twitter? How will he or she benefit from it? Assuming that someone doesn’t know who I am, what would motivate him or her to subscribe to my Twitter profile?
Here are just some examples of traffic-driving strategies (there are many more):
- Create a tool/application and promote your profile alongside it.
- Buy a banner ad to target tech-savvy audiences, link it to your profile.
- Use Twitter as a tool for tech/customer support.
- Organize a contest through your Twitter profile
- Include links to your profile in email/forum signatures.
- Evangelize Twitter on your blog/other blogs and include a link to your profile.
- Connect your blog and other social media profiles to your Twitter page.
- Learn to pitch Twitter influencers with articles relevant to their interest
- Explicitly ask another user to recommend your profile or exchange recommendations.
Apart from these strategies, there’s also another sure-fire way to increase your Twitter followers and this simply involves the act of following other users. Lets look at this in detail.
Mass Following Twitter Users: The Favorite Methodology of ‘Spammers’
Twitter is similar to many other social networks in numerous aspects, particularly when it comes to friending behaviors. Like Myspace, its possible to befriend a massive amount of users, some of whom will add you back as a friend. Continually adding Twitter users as friends allows you to increase the amount of followers you have.
This is a strategy that has worked remarkably well for early adopters when the Twitter was still a relatively new phenomenon. For example, I know a marketer who followed over ten thousand users and got thousands of followers in return. He then cut down the amount of people he followed and changed his username to make the account look legitimate.
Nowadays, the Twitter community has grown more aware of these ’spammers’ and many tools like the Twitter Blacklist and Twerpscan have been developed to help Twitter users weed out people who try to follow many users in order to build an large audience. Still, a portion of Twitter users (perhaps the new ones) tend to add anyone who befriends them.
Take for instance, Osen Komura. A fake profile set up by another Twitter user in February 2008 as a social experiment. The Osen account followed 41,798 Twitter users in one month and 7,847 users added him as a friend, a 17%+ follow-back rate.
And Osen is not only the only profile out there with thousands of followers all derived through mass user following. The question is: Should you consider using the same strategy?
Apart from the risk of being labeled a Twitter spammer and increasing the noise on your Twitter stream, this method still works. However, know that following so many users inevitably reduces your ability to keep track of individual users since they are drowned out by other updates, unless you conscientiously keep track of your Twitter stream or use RSS.
Scoble has suggested that it’s beneficial to follow many Twitter users because you get more access to information and it shows that you’re listening and more open to communication or meeting people. Perhaps so, but I would recommend increasing the people you follow on Twitter gradually, while making sure that you’re maintaining conversational interactiveness.
Most Twitter users don’t like it if you’re simply following him/her to broadcast a message and if you don’t monitor them equally in return or engage them in conversation. Unless you’re a popular celebrity of some sort, one-way attention doesn’t work very well for Twitter.
In any case, only viewing Twitter as a broadcast platform to drive traffic to your websites is a limited perspective, especially when your Twitter followers offer a wealth of knowledge, connections and opinions you can use to improve your business and personal skills.
Personally, I prefer building up an online reputation and driving traffic to my Twitter profile. For me, the benefits of Twitter come from using it as a conversational/networking tool, so I’m more concerned with whose updates I’m receiving daily and hence, the people I follow.
All in all, it depends on your goals and how you use Twitter. Feel free to share this article with your Twitter friends. I’ll love to get more feedback on this topic.