How I Got 3500+ Twitter Followers In 90 Days (By Just Being Me!)
If the title of this article brought you here, it’s probably VERY important that we make a few things clear right away:
1) If you are reading this because you are thinking Twitter is possibly the next biggest marketing tool ever, and want to figure out the quickest method to gain the largest amount of ‘targeted’ followers in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of work, let me save you some time. Run far away from the rest of this article. Be afraid. Be very afraid. And please don’t send me your Twitter spam once you find the Twitter Traffic Machine or the Twitter Trick or whatever scam you think will get you rich with minimal effort.
2) I do not claim to be an “expert” or have a “system” that I am trying to push or sell or anything like that. I just want to share some of the things that have helped me to not only gain what some consider a large amount of followers but more importantly broaden and strengthen my Twitter experience.
3) This is not a step-by-step “how to” guide. This is just insight into what I’ve done. Maybe it will help others or maybe I’m the only one in the world that will have the relative success I have had. Either way, I think there are some general principles that are worthwhile and transferable to anyone’s Twitter approach.
Okay, now that those things are clear, let me give you a quick, statistical analysis of why you should even be the least bit interested in what I have to say. I mean, why should you listen to me at all? First, please forgive me if providing this information sounds like bragging. The truth is, I am just as surprised as you may be that my following and influence on Twitter has grown as rapidly as it has. Even more amazing, surprising and important to me is how that growth has translated into relationships and connections, personal and professional opportunities, and enhanced my pursuit of lifelong learning.
Some quick stats:
I opened my Twitter account on March 8, 2009. I started actually using it about 3 weeks later. Over the next 90 days my follower count grew from 8 to over 3800. Check out the graph below from TwitterCounter:
Out of the 2.5 million users of the respected tool Twitter Grader, I have a current ranking of 262, a perfect 100 grade, and a #1 ranking in the entire state of Florida!
So while there are numerous Twitter tools and statistics developing almost every day, and these numbers cannot be considered comprehensive, it seems obvious that I must be doing something right, wouldn’t you agree?
Why do follower counts matter?
We live in a global society that is always looking for measures of success, so statistics and numbers are an easy tool to use. But I think increasing your follower count on Twitter, your friends on Facebook or MySpace, your LinkedIn connections – whatever your social media vehicle of choice – solely for the reason of increase is pointless. In the beginning I got caught up trying a couple auto-follow tools that made me a follower of someone based on keywords they used, thinking this would network me with like-minded people of similar interests. But I quickly ditched those tools when I reminded myself of my goals. I never set out to gain a large follower count on Twitter! The whole reason I opened an account in the first place was to make connections with other designers and potential clients. If I left that up to a machine, then who is making the connection? The programs and tools removed me, the person, from the equation, and not only steered wide of my intent but actually misrepresented me as a whole.
That said, since I began addressing and acknowledging every single person that followed me as an individual, my numbers have increased but more importantly my connections and relationships have. So if that follower count truly represents REAL connections with REAL people that make a difference in your life, THEN I believe the follower count is an extremely vital statistic. Because it doesn’t represent a statistic or a success anymore. It represents people.
Keep in mind that connecting with real live human beings is my primary goal on Twitter – which may or may not be yours. In that spirit I offer to you some key elements of my daily Twitter routine, mistakes I’ve made, tools I use and so forth, to come up with what I consider important reasons for the relative success I have had with Twitter so far.
BE YOURSELF (unless you happen to be a mean, spiteful, unlikeable person)
I did not change my daily routine all that much when I took on using Twitter as part of it. Instead, I simply invited the Twitterverse to join me.
I am an early riser – usually by 5:00 am. So after I get my cat fed and my coffee started, I check my email, my RSS feeds and my Twitter. Some people that I interact with on Twitter are in other countries and time zones so they leave me messages or retweets overnight. I usually address them, tweet a good morning to whoever’s listening, and then I get on to going through my 300+ RSS feeds. This is my modern-day equivalent to how we used to sit and read the morning paper with that first cup of java. Now instead I get personalized news, tutorials and articles from numerous sources all on my desktop. Once I added Twitter to the routine, I began to share by tweeting links to the articles that I found interesting or thought others might. So in essence, nothing really changed other than sharing my morning cup of coffee and news with whoever else is up at that time. As I share I usually end up catching up with anywhere from 20-50 others who generally inhabit Twitter during that same time slot. So my morning tweets are a combination of resources and conversations. This is a time I have really come to enjoy as a great way to start each day.
As a freelance web and graphic designer, I spend almost my entire day on the computer. Obviously this gives me an advantage of staying connected and the freedom to interact or update whenever I feel necessary. I will check my various groups and columns in Tweetdeck or Seesmic (more about these tools in a minute) throughout the day and interact with others or update my own status with links from my RSS reader or a random thought. It takes seconds to do, but keeps content and presence perpetual on Twitter for me, which I have come to deem important.
When I head out the door or sit down to dinner or watch a TV show, I let everyone know what I’m doing. I usually try to be humorous and personal in a way that might be interesting or endearing, because that is the type of person I want to be. Again, I don’t change my routine. I just invite others to be a part of it as much as they see fit.
At the end of the day I will interact a bit more if I have the time, and I will finish with a sign off and a good night. Sometimes I’ll leave an inspiring or humorous quote for the overnighters.
I think I have naturally found my niche among other freelancers, creatives and friendly folks by simply allowing them to be a part of my life. Is it really that hard? Do you need to pay someone to teach you how to be yourself better?
SHARE AND ENGAGE SELFLESSLY (do you really need to keep all the great stuff to yourself?)
The links and resources I share are almost never mine to begin with. They are usually articles that others have written. So why in the world would I be concerned about who gets the credit for sharing them first or who tweeted them? I do my best to give credit whenever I can, whether it’s a retweet or an original tweet that I found, I’m almost never the one that originated it, so when someone says “Great link” or “Thanks” I’ll be the first one to admit it’s not mine. I’m just sharing what i think is of interest.
When it comes to interacting with people on a one to one basis, I try to reach out and be personal with those that seem to enjoy the engagement. Keep in mind, some are not. But when I see someone tweet “Good morning!” I’ll reply back and ask how they’re doing. And not because they’re someone ‘important’ or ‘influential’. I believe in showing selfless interest in others. Nothing expresses kindness more succinctly. And who doesn’t love to know someone cares about them, even in a relatively small way. I have met some WONDERFUL people this way!
I think when we refrain from ‘targetting’ people as marketing conquests or demographics and instead embrace them as human beings, we will be much more likely to reap benefits that are lasting and substantial.
BE POLITE (just like Mom taught us too)
One of the things I am most proud of is that I have said thank you to every single person that has retweeted me. I have no idea how many “thank yous” that is over the past 3 months, but I have over 13,000 tweets and most are retweeted at least 2-3 times. Still, it only takes a second to compile a list of 8-10 RTs and say thank you. I have had people end up following me just because I expressed gratitude to them.
The other area I strive for truth, transparency and politeness in is the Direct Message/follow back procedure. When someone follows me, I do not use any tools to automate following them back or sending them a private message thanking them for their follow. Yes, there are free and easy to use tools that do this. And it can be a lot of work to go through 50-100 new followers’ profiles per day, determining if they are of interest to follow back, and then typing a simple personal message to say thank you for the follow. But in the end, do you prefer to talk to a live human being or navigate your way through computerized voice mail systems only to end up somewhere you never wanted to be in the first place?
That’s what I thought. Me too.
So I spend about 2-3 hours a week doing this. It keeps me in touch with who is following me, helps me weed out all the spam and automated followers that obviously have no reason to be following me in the first place, and adds yet another personal touch to my online presence. To me, that’s worth the extra time.
USE TOOLS & TECHNOLOGY (for good, not evil)
I do not endorse using automation of the follow process in any way. But there are amazing tools you can use to streamline and make the most of your Twitter experience. If you are still using the Twitter web interface, please stop. It is the worst part about this whole amazing social media lovechild. Try Tweetdeck or Seesmic Desktop. I’ve used them both, they’re both free to download and they both have fantastic capabilities that radically increase the usability and power of what Twitter has to offer. There are many other tools for your phone and online that others have already written great articles about, so rather than reiterate, I’ll just give you some links. Get them. Learn them. And use whatever helps you accomplish your goals on Twitter better. I researched and tried a few things and right now I use Seesmic for all my Twitter viewing. But I really like Tweetdeck to, and use it on occasion when some of its features are more relevant for what I’m doing.
TWITTER TOOLS (avoid the automation, embrace the efficiency)
19 Twitter Desktop Apps Compared
25 Tools for getting more out of Twitter
130+ Enormous Twitter Toolbox
25 Apps that Add Form and Function to Twitter
27 Twitter Tools To Help You Find And Manage Followers
50 Web 2.0 Twitter Applications & Sites
I could probably write a small pamphlet on this subject and perhaps will add more in future articles, but for now I hope you will get the general idea of what I do and why I believe it works. This is not so much a practical guide as it is a personal reveal. This is how I do it. It seems to work well for me.
And in the end, it’s not really about the amount of followers I have amassed.
What is most amazing to me is the connections I have made. I have begun real life friendships with people I never knew before Twitter, around the world and even in my own home town. I have found new professional opportunities and have gained clients without selling my services or targetting people. And I have grown as a web designer and graphic artist as I have found my way into a very welcoming design community.
For me, that is a WHOLE lot better than any number of followers, large or small.
What about you?