Updated: Growing My Twitter Following The Natural Way

 

twitter-follow-me-banner

As you may have already noticed, I only recently started full-time blogging on this site. Before I took the plunge, I had made very little effort to promote the site (aside from a little reddit marketing experiment). It also looked incredibly ugly. Here’s a screenshot from before the redesign:

internet-folks-old-design
Yuk.

It goes without saying, then, that the re-launch needed a full set of new social media accounts. Being the sort that likes to report and things, I decided to do some experiments and track the natural growth of the accounts, review the best software and techniques and, hopefully, start building a rich and relevant social following for this site. I’m not new to this, having done it for clients in the past, but I’ve never actually marketed myself before so it’ll be a bit of trial and error.

Starting With Twitter

Let’s kick off with Twitter (to learn why, take a look at my guide to writing a Social Media Strategy). Why Twitter to start with? In my experience, it’s the easiest social media channel to use. I mean, you don’t even need to verify your email address or provide a phone number to get started. It also takes about 30 seconds to get set up. Here’s how my new twitter account looks on Day 1:

twitter screenshot

In order to express myself in more than just words (well, in larger words with different fonts) I added a custom twitter header to attract attention and make my brand clearer. I added the keyword “SEO” to my handle (@tomtheseoguy) and bio, to help get noticed in the search function. I followed a bunch of people/companies that I work with or follow the blogs of. These are people I actually want to hear from, I’m not just adding them for the sake of it. Finally, I made my first tweet, with a link to the “How This Site Works” page on this blog. 5 minutes of work and we’re done.

Now visitors are flooding to the site and reading my posts. Oh, wait, that’s not true. Will anyone visit your site from just one tweet? If you have lots of targeted followers the, yes, it’s likely. But for a new account with 0 followers, it’s a pipe dream. Now it’s time for the hard work.

Why Use Twitter For Marketing?

As I said, I like Twitter because it’s so fast and instant, but there’s a lot more to it than just that. Here’s a summary of the ways that Twitter can help market our websites, products and brands:

  • Reaching New Audiences

When we tweet with #hashtags or @peoplewelike, we potentially hit the feed of a new, unsuspecting, audience. If they like what they see, they could become loyal followers.

  • Keeping Audiences Engaged

Maybe you’ve got a few blog readers from organic search or another social network. With a sea of webpages, most users flit about from site to site; Twitter can help bring back previous readers (and customers) as you become an authority in your field.

  • Customer Service

Twitter is the ideal network for have conversations with fans/friends/customers and anyone else you may come across. Some of the best companies in the world have dedicated Twitter support teams to answer questions (here’s a nice summary if you want to read more). Even if you run a non-sales site like this one, Twitter is still great for chatting to readers and sharing ideas.

  • Being Human

A lot of social media managers must have met in a secret den years ago and decided to never show emotion online. In 2014, social networking, and Twitter, is all about personality. Your audience is human, so you need to be human yourself. By being a person, you get the chance to express your brand on Twitter more eloquently than you can with an image-based site like Instagram or Pinterest.

To Buy Or Not To Buy

That is the question. I am, of course, talking about buying Twitter followers (or retweets/favourites etc). I have both purchased and sold Twitter followers, retweets etc over the years and I have mixed feelings about its ethics and success. There are certain types of people in the world, and certain types on online behaviours. There are a few that like to be pioneers, getting in early on the latest trends (called innovators or early adopters), while others prefer to wait until things are established before jumping in. It’s called the Diffusion of Innovations, coined by Everett M. Rogers in 1962; you can read more about it here. The Diffusion of Innovations is usually discussed in relation to product purchases and technology, but it works with Twitter too. Therefore, research shows that:

you are more likely to get Twitter followers if you already have Twitter followers!

The old catch-22 at work. So it’s a no-brainer to spend $5 on some twitter followers when you open a new account, right? Hmm, not really. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used Twitter follower services to boost the success of accounts (it’s called social proof) in the past, but my best successes came from working hard to build a real, engaged group of targeted followers.

Egg On Your Face

If you’re famous or a customer-facing brand, don’t waste your time with fake followers (or facebook likes etc). They’re super easy to spot by anyone with a little online experience (and especially us SEO guys) and it could hurt your brand in the long-term. Just ask Mitt Romney.

That said, Twitter admits that follower number plays a part in how much Klout your account has.

klout-score

My brand new account (which just got 1 follower as I was writing this) has a Klout score of 10. That brings us to lesson one of “How To Grow Your Twitter Following The Natural Way”:

[highlight color=yellow”]Use a keyword in your bio, name and/or handle.[/highlight]

This works because a lot of people are using software to target relevant accounts (some of it automated).

Finding New Followers

I signed up for a free account with Unfollowers.com to track my followers and connect with new ones. The first thing I did was navigate to the followers of some of the people I follow (aka people with common interests):

unfollower-app

Then, I select any people that seem to be similar to me (other internet marketers, SEOs, self employed etc). Unfollowers lets you add up to 100 people per day (for free), but you can also do this directly on Twitter if you prefer.

In the time it took to write this post, I got 4 followers. I decided, as they were relevant to my niche, to follow them back (that’s why they followed me in the first place).

19th June 2014

  • Following: 39
  • Followers: 4
  • Tweets: 1

4 days later and there’s been some positive movement.

23rd June 2014

  • Following: 65
  • Followers: 31
  • Tweets: 6

My Klout score has also increased to 13 (I don’t know where the profile pic went though):

klout-score-update

My Tweet strategy consists of some self promotion with links to this site, sharing useful external content (like this Moz whiteboard Friday) and related photos/statuses (e.g. work sucks, look at this graph, inspiring quote). 6 Tweets in 4 days is hardly crazy, but I’ll gradually increase the frequency over time.

Unfollowers has been useful as the site sends me a daily update of who unfollowed me (so far it’s been 4 people).

unfollowers-update-email

Using a words like “SEO” in your profile brings quite a few followers each day. As I mentioned earlier, a lot of people are using applications like Unfollowers to follow people, wait for them to follow back or ruthlessly unfollow them if they don’t. That strategy works, don’t get me wrong, but it causes 2 main problems:

1. You end up having roughly the same number of followers as followees.

2. Your followers are not necessarily engaged or interested in your Tweets.

If you don’t believe me, try doing a search for #followback on Twitter with any account (even a new one with the ‘egg’ profile photo). In a few minutes you can easily accrue a bunch of followers. However, they are pretty worthless (unless you’re playing a numbers game) and no good for building a community or furthering your brand.

To avoid falling into the followback trap, I only follow people that follow me if they are:

a) related to my industry (SEO, marketing, blogging etc)

b) people (not brands)

c) companies I have worked with/want to hear from

I will also unfollow any Twitter accounts that:

a) Over-tweet or send a lot of spam

b) Tweet off-topic content

c) Rarely post content

UPDATE: 25th July 2014

Just over a month after starting my Twitter account, I have the following stats

  • Following: 141
  • Followers: 116
  • Tweets: 53
  • Klout Score: 33

klout-score

The majority of new followers were earned in response to a popular post I posted a few days ago called Dear Moz, Anything Can Violate Google’s Quality Guidelines. When people shared my content on twitter or tweeted at me, I engaged in conversations and followed relevant people, which resulted in a healthy rise.

More updates to follow shortly…. in the meantime, follow me on Twitter!