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Growing an organic following on Twitter in 2013

July 8, 2013

flock of birds

A tweep recently asked me:

“I’m really trying to grow my followers. How do I do it?”

Twitter is one of my favorite social media channels. After 4 years, I’m fortunate to have a following of more than 5,000 friends, colleagues, neighbors and interesting people around the world.

I haven’t bought followers, nor have I paid to advertise my account. I share my username on my email signature, my business cards, my websites, my presentations and wherever else I can work it in.

Before you work on growing your Twitter following, ask yourself if you really need a big following. Is it for ego and for show, or can you accomplish more with your company’s digital outreach?

And what is a big following? One hundred, 1,000, 10,000 or more? An engaged and rapt group of peers trumps huge numbers most of the time.

Let me take you through how I grow followings for new Twitter accounts in 2013 …

1. Follow your peers. You know who your peers (or competitors) are. Look for their Twitter accounts and follow them.

Pro tip: Someone has already done the hard work for you by putting them all in a Twitter list. Pick someone you’re following on Twitter, and see to which lists they belong. For example, you’ll find me on nearly 400 lists:

http://twitter.com/wadeontweets/lists/memberships

Simply replace my username “wadeontweets” with the appropriate one in the URL.

Once you find appropriate lists, you can either subscribe to the list or follow everyone on it (or both).

2. Follow your friends. Twitter will scan your email address book for people you know. You can follow some or all.

Why all this following, you may ask? To let people know you’re on Twitter, and to find good tweets to share.

3. Participate. You simply cannot attract an audience on Twitter through silence. It’s a noisy medium, and only those who speak regularly can stand out from the lurkers and the spammers.

(Celebrities are the exception to almost all of these steps. Damn you, Bieber!)

4. Use your phone. Take away any excuse of not having Twitter at your fingertips. Use an app, or remain logged in via browser, but be ready to share questions, thoughts, updates, photos and videos through your phone.

5. Be very careful about automating your content. It’s easy to run a Twitter account that approximates — but falls short of — original tweets from you in real time.

A few examples:

  • Facebook page updates: They can end up on Twitter as an incomplete thoug …
  • YouTube/Flickr activity: It’s hard to inspire people through tweets that show you just uploaded a photo or liked a video.
  • FourSquare check-ins: I’d rather know why you’re somewhere and what you’re doing, not just that you walked in.

Pro tip: If you decide to schedule your content (and let the debate rage in the comments below), make sure you have access to the scheduling software from your phone. That will allow you to pause tweets at a moment’s notice.

6. Think long term, slow and steady. Building relationships takes time and energy.

James Spann has a great Twitter following. In a recent blog post, he shared how he has built his audience while navigating changes in the TV news industry:

Use social media with intelligence and patience. The followers you have there will become very valuable down the road, but you won’t have many followers unless you produce good content, respond to questions and comments, and are consistent.

And remember, many of your followers will not watch you on TV news because they simply don’t use local TV news. But, these followers will be very important currency that will make your personal brand important in the years ahead.

7. Be you. I typically follow people for two reasons: valuable info or personal affinity. Who you are can make Twitter far more interesting than any single tweet. You might be kind, or funny, or helpful, or flirty, or smart, or well connected, or responsive, or modest, or inspiring. That’s what I’m looking for when following.

My followers may connect with me on Twitter for any number of reasons. And, at any time, they may sever that connection. I enjoy Twitter because it’s flexible and allows people to come and go as their interests and their habits evolve.

Commit to Twitter and reap the rewards over time. Reach out, connect and have fun.

Photo: Steven (CC)

What the heck … follow me on Twitter
as you build your following.

Follow @WadeOnTweets

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