It was late 2012, and Twitter had already been quite the rage for over six years. I had a few friends who used it, but mainly I was of the opinion that it was a good way to follow every stupid thing Kim Kardashian said, or just a way for superficial people to waste their hours away. I had been on Facebook since its inception for my budding jewelry company, and dabbled in a couple of other platforms. But never, ever would I join Twitter. It just wasn’t for me. And then my mom handed me an article she’d cut out of the Mercury News, detailing how social media could help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
Two and a half years later, Twitter is my leading SM outlet. I have well over 15,000 followers- and aside from the numbers, it has brought me freelance gigs, podcasts, interviews, and real friendships. It introduced me to Travel Massive, for which I am now Portland’s Chapter Leader. Needless to say, the rewards have been real, and it’s all thanks to my mama.
I remember the first week I opened my account. I didn’t know what a hashtag was, how to write to someone, or why a verbose person like me would even try to say something in 140 characters. I mean, what was a good tweet? Should I tell people I was hungry, or that Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” was stuck in my head? I was clueless. Little by little, however, that would change. When I discovered I had 12 followers, I jumped for joy. Those 12 followers eventually turned into 120, into 1,200, into 12,000, and so on.
So how, exactly, should one go about growing his or her audience on Twitter? I’ve read dozens upon dozens of articles on this subject, and there are many opinions floating out there. Some I agree with, and others I don’t. There is no magic formula for such a fast-paced platform. On average, 350,000 tweets are sent out per minute. While this makes it difficult to stay relevant, it doesn’t make it impossible. Most everyone agrees that content and consistency are key (like, in everything blog and social media related), but there is so much more to it.
Here is my advice on the matter. I can’t promise that you’ll be an overnight superstar in the Twittersphere, but if you are dedicated to increasing your followers, you’re bound to the see the results.
1. Follow people who interest you. This is the first thing I began to do when I joined Twitter, and I still do this today. If someone intrigues you, it is very likely that you two have something in common. If this is the case, not only will you want to hear what they say, but they will probably want to hear your voice as well. If so, consider yourself followed.
2. Make friends. It is social media, after all. The point of it is not to show people how popular you are, but to engage with others. If someone sends you a message, respond. Have conversations. Ask what people’s goals are, or where they’re traveling next. Be amicable and people will start to like you. Share and retweet others’ content, and more than likely, they’ll do the same for you. When they do, be sure to thank them.
3. Find your niche and your handle. What do you want to tweet about? When I first started my Twitter account, my handle was @lovewritetravel, or something like that. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to say, so I chose the three things that meant the most to me. As time went on, however, I discovered that I wanted to dedicate myself fully to travel. I no longer cared so much about what people writing fiction novels had to say, but more so what those in the travel industry were expressing. Not only should your tweets reflect this, but your handle should as well. So if you want to write about travel, your handle shouldn’t be @SuzieQ123. Learn to represent yourself in the most easily accessible way.
4. Ensure that your profile and cover photos convey your purpose. If you are using Twitter to promote your bicycling adventures, your profile photo could be you on your bike or holding a medal you won during a race. The photo should be an attractive, inviting one. Make people want to get to know you and what you’re about just by looking at your photo. So if you’re promoting health and fitness, don’t upload a photo of you and your buddies getting wasted, PBR in hand. For example, my current profile picture was taken at Park Guell in Barcelona. I’m sitting on the bench smiling, with a great view of the city in the background. This automatically portrays not only that I’m friendly, but that I’m a traveler. Same thing for the cover photo- some people have collages of cool stuff they’ve done, information about their services, or so on. I have a photo I took of Crater Lake, reinforcing the travel aspect, and also showing that I’m a photographer. Whatever you do, don’t have your cover photo be a pixelized photo you ripped off from Google images. Unless, of course, you’re on Twitter just for shits and giggles.
5. Master those 140 characters. This was the hardest thing for me to get used to. I love to tell long-winded stories, but this just wasn’t possible on Twitter. I had to dig deep, revising my posts two, three, and sometimes four times to make the most out of each word. It’s an art, really. Try to get the most impact you possibly can with every word. If you need inspiration, start reading some Ernest Hemingway or haikus. Seriously, it will help.
6. Learn how to properly use (and not abuse) hashtags. Most people don’t just scroll through their Twitter feed, especially if they’re following thousands of people. If they want to know about a topic, they’ll search the hashtag. Think about what you’re trying to convey and choose the most specific hashtag possible. For example, if you’re writing about hiking in The Pacific Northwest, don’t use general tags like #travel or #outdoors. Instead, use #hiking and #PNW. Since these are more specific, they might not reach as large of an audience, but people will find you much easier. #Travel is indeed a popular hashtag, but your tweet will easily get lost amongst the millions of other posts about travel. Also, economize your hashtags. Choose about three pertinent hashtags, #because #posts #with #a #hashtag #in #front #of #every #word #are #really #annoying, not to mention distracting and difficult to read.
7. Use photos as much as possible in your posts. People are visual creatures, and a photo is likely to grab someone’s attention for quicker than a bunch of words. As a writer, this is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the truth. The photo of a beautiful sunset in Thailand is going to make someone instantly want to go there, peaking their interest, and ultimately pushing them to read your article. Which brings me to my next point.
8. Always link your tweets to something else you’ve created. Ok, sometimes it’s fun just to post a joke you heard that day. But for many people, Twitter is a tool to increase business and not just pass the time. You will increase your overall online exposure by referring readers to your blog posts, Instagram photos, photography, Facebook pages, and so on.
9. Be smart about how you post. This might seem like a full-time job, but it doesn’t have to be. Look at your blog’s settings and make sure that, each time you post something new, it appears in your Twitter feed (as well as other social media channels). Link up your Twitter to Instagram, Facebook, and so on so that you create multiple posts across the internet in one shot. In addition, use services like HootSuite, Twuffer, or FutureTweets so that your tweets automatically go out at whatever time you choose. You don’t have to be on your phone or laptop 24/7 to gain an audience.
10. Keep track of who you’re following and who follows you. In order to build an audience, in my opinion, there has to be some sort of reciprocity. Unless it’s someone you truly admire or can learn from, like National Geographic or Thich Nhat Hanh, there’s no reason to be following them if they’re not following you. I usually give people about three weeks to follow me back, and if they don’t, I unfollow them. You want the people in your feed to be willing to be social with you so that you can help each other out. I personally use the free crowdfire app to keep track of who I’m following and who follows me. It’s helped immensely in growing my amount of followers.
10a. Don’t be a jerk! There’s been much debate on the followers/following ratio, but I think it’s hogwash. Sure, the more followers you have, the more credibility you gain. And followers start coming to you much easier. Nonetheless, unless you’re Lady Gaga, there’s no reason why you should have five million followers and only follow ten of them back (shoot, even Mama Monster is following 133,00 people, because she’s awesome like that). Honestly, when I see people who are building their businesses and have an extremely disproportionate amount of followers and people they follow, I get suspicious. I won’t follow them (unless, again, they’re Lonely Planet or NatGeo). I know they won’t follow me back, or if they do, it will only be temporary. In a nutshell, it’s a waste of time. Summary: Follow people back if they interest you or are in your industry. DO NOT- I repeat, DO NOT follow people just to get their follow and then turn around and dump them. It’s rude, tacky, and you’ll be labeled as a social media jerk until the end of time. Plus, it’s probable that you’ll be blacklisted or blocked. And you would deserve it.
11. Don’t ever buy your followers. This is like paying your cousin to pretend to be your boyfriend; it’s wrong on many levels. It might be tempting to increase your following overnight, but it will only backfire on you. These people won’t care what you have to say, you’ll open yourself up to spam, and you will have a fake-ass audience. People will recognize this and you will instantly lose credibility. Once your credibility is lost, well, good luck in gaining it back. I have never, nor will I ever, buy followers. If you have to pay people to be your friends, you’re probably not going to have much success on social media. Or life in general.
12. DO be yourself. Let your personality shine through. “Personality goes along way,” said Samuel L. Jackson, and he knows not to hide his bad-ass-ness. People are drawn to genuine people, so have fun and be your own unique self. Would you want to surround yourself by people who are always putting on fronts? I didn’t think so. Then just be you.
This list is a culmination of what I’ve learned over the last two and a half years on Twitter, and there’s been a lot of trial and error. I hope it can be of help to you, and I wish all of you luck on your adventures in Twitterland!
What do you think of what I mentioned? Do you have any tips on growing your Twitter audience beyond what I’ve mentioned? I’d love to hear if these tips helped you! Please leave any questions or comments below, and thank you for reading!