When I first started using Twitter, I just wanted more followers!
I didn’t care who they were or where they came from—whether they were interested in entrepreneurship, marketing or startups—and I used every site and tool I could find.
Unfortunately, my strategies resulted in meaningless bot followers who made my feed more and more unusable. But I knew there was still value in Twitter, I just had to find it…
After spending a lot of time and a decent amount of money learning through trial and error, I decided to “unfollow” everyone on my account. I used TwitJump to speed up the process (this was before Twitter frowned on bulk unfollowing), and I immediately noticed something interesting.
People that were following me were using automated tools that unfollowed me as soon as I unfollowed them.
I lost thousands of followers within a day or two of my cleansing. But that didn’t bother me – not since I’d finally figured out that the value in Twitter wasn’t the sheer number of followers I had.
I was relieved to now be able to follow people I actually wanted to learn about and communicate with; people who had good links to articles of interest and retweets from knowledgeable users. Today, I follow about 500 people. It used to be as many as 10,000 if memory serves. I haven’t missed a thing since cutting these numbers.
My experience with Twitter has been exponentially better since I decided to worry less about followers and more about meeting, talking, learning and sharing. I tweet with new people every day! About cool stuff. Twitter is fun.
And that’s the real secret: the more you meet, tweet, learn and share, the more people will follow you. It’s an awesome snowball effect. There are a few others things I’ve learned as I’ve used Twitter for the past 3 years. Here are some things you might want to do if you’d like get more out of Twitter.
Twitter action plan
First, before you do any of the stuff below, commit to the fact that you are going to use Twitter. Agree it isn’t a fad. Really embrace it and use it everyday. If you’re always stopping and starting, you won’t like Twitter. Once you’ve committed, here’s how to make Twitter valuable:
- Custom background: Create a unique custom background that says something about you. Check out colourlovers for inspiration.
- Photo: Put up a real picture of yourself. Fill out your full profile bio and then link it to your FB page, your blog, and your LinkedIn page, or somewhere else with more information about you.
- Profile hash tags: Consider adding some highly targeted hash-tags to your profile description (rotate different hash tags in and out once in a while).
- Tweet often: Sure, people tweet about lame stuff sometimes. But you should get in the habit of sharing. If you don’t share, then people won’t share back and they won’t follow you. You’ll end up feeling like you’re always talking to yourself.
- Schedule tweets: Use a service like TwitJump or TweetDeck to schedule tweets so you’re not posting 100 times a day. I often find cool stuff that is not time-sensitive, so I schedule it for other days in the future. Lately I’ve really been loving BufferApp.com as a great tool to schedule tweets and shares on Facebook as well. Their product has a great UI.
- If you do schedule tweets (you should in my opinion), pick times people will read them. I like to use a site called CrowdBooster to help me determine days and times that are best for me to tweet (based on @ replies, RT’s and clicks on my links). I don’t spend a ton of time thinking about days/times to tweets, but you might want to as it will help increase your tweets impact.
- Leave room: Keep your tweets about 20 characters short of the 140 total. People like to add comments or retweet your stuff, but they have to do a lot of editing if you use all 140 characters. You can sidestep this rule occasionally though, because your main goal should not be to have your posts retweeted.
- Join conversations: Look for people tweeting about things that interest you and join in. Twitter is a free-for-all for the most part. You really cannot interrupt on Twitter. So join in the discussion.
- Use hash-tags: Add hash-tags to the end of your tweets if they’re applicable. People search those and they may find you. (Don’t use popular hash-tags just to be found. People will figure out you’re simply hash-tagging to get attention.) Also, for the love of Pete, please do not OVER hashtag. This means adding a bunch of meaningless tags to tweets. Even worse, do not do it with great frequency. It’s great to add hashtags that add meaning. It’s fun to make them up, too. However, overdoing either is annoying.
- Unfollow: Go through your follows every few months and unfollow people who aren’t tweeting about stuff you like. Be sure to search regularly at search.twitter.com for new follows as well. I often check out people that @ reply me as well and follow them if they look interesting. There is no science to this. Follow and unfollow as you see fit.
- Unfollow again: Don’t be afraid to unfollow those who don’t follow you. I’m not advocating for the auto follow-back method, nor the auto unfollow-back method. But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little unfollowing of people that should, but don’t, reciprocate.
- Spread your name: Put your Twitter @name on your email footers, on every other social site, and on social listing sites. I have it on my business card, too. In fact, I put it everywhere as it’s a great way to communicate with me. If you commit to Twitter, it’d be a great place to communicate with you, too.
- Extend Twitter: Use a blog or some other tool to link to sites where you can chat past 140 characters about things you enjoy and/or know about.
- Share: Post pictures and links to articles; share what you are seeing and reading. People love to learn about cool stuff, so find it for them! I find some of my favorite reads from links on Twitter. It’s a wonderful curation tool, so curate.
- Retweet: Retweet things you find interesting. Chances are other people will too. I think you should occasionally add your own comments and other times simply do a straight RT. Share others content though. A side benefit is that they will RT your stuff more, too.
- Reply: Always, always, always reply to someone that sends you a tweet. You are not a celebrity, and you are not that busy. Reply to people. (That said, the @ reply rule does not apply to spammers. If someone uses your @ name, send a message to @spam with their @ name. Spammers ruin everything they touch.) Seriously, if someone contacts you, take the time to send them a short reply. I adhere to this 100% of the time (I hope).
- No auto replies: DO NOT set up any kind of automated replies. Only send stuff such as @ replies or direct messages that are written live and by you. No exceptions.
- Give praise: Write a specific tweet about the people you find interesting on Twitter and share it with them. Don’t do #FollowFriday or #FF mass @ name mentions. Pick a few, share why you should follow them, and tweet it out. Find users to share individually with others.
- Connect your feed: Connect your Twitter account to your other social accounts, and use Twitter exclusively as your sending mechanism. If someone responds to that outgoing update on Facebook, for instance, only then should you use Facebook directly to respond. I’ve found that all of my other networks have grown dramatically by doing this, and my Facebook wall always looks full and fresh. Some people hate this, like Scott Stratten @UnMarketing . So feel free to read up on his rationale to NOT do this. I like it. It works for me. It may not work for you.
- Keep it real: Don’t be afraid to say what you think on Twitter, it can be deleted. But more importantly, it can be discussed. If you have questions or comments, then ask and share. It may be uncomfortable at first, but if you want to grow your Twitter connections you can’t just talk about the weather all day. Be careful to be somewhat appropriate, but don’t wimp out either. You DO represent your employer and company, despite what you might think. However, depending upon where and who you work with, you should try to be yourself – whatever that means.
- Have fun: If you only use Twitter as a means to gain followers you will get bored and get poor results. Remember to enjoy yourself and connect with folks who are passionate about the same things you are. You will see long-term results and have fun, too.
As a final note, I should add that my number of followers has more than tripled since the day I “unfollowed” everyone and started over. So get busy tweeting!
What tips can you share with us? Share your thoughts in the comments!