There are plenty of articles circulating the web about how to get more followers on Twitter, but when it comes to growing an account for a startup, it’s a whole different ballgame.
Why? Because if there’s anything I’ve learned since launching my business three years ago, it’s that startups don’t have many resources, i.e. people or money. That makes growing any social media account more difficult, but because of the nature of Twitter, it’s often considered the hardest.
Twitter isn’t a straightforward social network – there’s a culture that one must adjust to, a language to be learned, and unique etiquette rules to follow.
Let’s face it, Twitter isn’t easy.
But that doesn’t undercut it’s innate ability to become a branding channel, major lead magnet or powerful customer service channel. So when it comes to plotting out a strategy to get more Twitter followers for a startup, I tend to recommend a grass roots approach. This strategy can be used for any business, but if you’ve got the resources or money to spend, other routes may be easier or less time-consuming.
However, as an advocate for many of the old-school strategies, I can guarantee that the quality of these followers will be excellent. All accounts attract spam and deal with some of the more unsavory folks in the Twitter-sphere, but if you follow this guideline, those folks will be cut to the bare minimum, and you’ll be left with the cream of the crop.
1. Outline who you want to follow
I’m a massive fan of Twitter lists, and to be successful with the execution of this strategy, you’ll want to get specific about WHO you intend on following. By that, I mean listing out keywords for demographics, interests, hobbies, values, and topics that relate to your target audience
If you don’t already have a Ideal Customer Avatar for your startup, make one because it will greatly improve the keywords used to find people on Twitter AND they’ll likely follow you back. If you aren’t sure how to create an ICA, check out this great article HERE.
But you won’t just want to follow your target audience, you’ll always want to include influencers, businesses in your industry, competitors, industry news, and fun accounts to that list. Fun accounts can be folks who share quotes, humor or anything to add some spice into the mix. We want to be purposeful about who we follow, but allow for a diverse mix.
This list will aid in making sure that similar to the thesis of a paper, you stick to the overall goal of who to follow online.
2. Utilize Advanced Search
Once you’ve got a solid list together of WHO you want to follow, now it’s time to go start finding them. You can easily use just the Search function on Twitter to find lots of people with the list of keywords we created in Step 1, but to get really specific, Twitter advanced search offers many options for getting extra particular.
This comes in handy particularly when location is taken into account. You can search for local topics, national discussions or trending topics in certain areas. This can be huge for local startups who would like to start building relationships with local businesses and add the local flavor into their content stream with events and promotions.
But overall, Twitter advanced search can be utilized to search for discussions surrounding your brand name, its product or service, people who share your content or interact with you. Armed with the list built in the first step, you’ll never have a shortage of quality people to follow.
3. Bulk follow
Now that you’ve pin-pointed who you want to follow and where they are, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and start investing time into bulk following. To prevent this practice from being impersonal or unethical, make sure to utilize the keywords from the lists you developed, and take the time to read their Twitter bios of the accounts you’ll follow. My personal preference is to not follow people who don’t seemed aligned with the same industries as I am, have the same values or interests, or haven’t put time into their accounts. Mostly, I’m trying to make sure that I find quality people on Twitter who want to engage and get yappy with me.
This is the hands-on approach to growing followers that many tools handle for you, but if you follow the two previous steps fully before following people in bulk, you’ll keep the less quality follows to a minimum, which most tools can’t promise (except SocialQuant).
Plan out a specific amount of time to bulk follow per day, schedule it out on your planner, and stick to it.
And if you really want to be particular about who you follow, don’t just read bios, but click on accounts, check out the content they’re sharing, and if you click Follow, interact with some of it before heading off. Not only will that increase their chances of following back, but it will let them know right away that your account is being managed by someone who will interact.
4. Check out other Following lists
When I first got wrapped up in Twitter’s web back in 2009, there wasn’t a lot of information on the web about how to find the ‘right’ kind of people. Originally, I followed news organizations and celebrities because no one I knew was on Twitter yet. It took me a few months before I started finding accessible journalists, marketing professionals, and bloggers. And once I started finding real people whom I enjoyed, I began pilfering their Following lists to find other people to follow. And it was fantastic!!
When you come across an account that aligns with your brand and has a respectable amount of people they’re following, check it out and follow the folks that work for you. This can work perfectly with competitor accounts and will cut down on the amount of time spent locating people you’d like to follow.
5. Get involved with Twitter chats
If anything is exploding on Twitter lately, it’s Twitter chats, and they are an excellent way to find great people to follow. They offer the opportunity to talk about subjects of interest or that relate to your industry/brand and can introduce you to a whole plethora of new folks looking for the same.
Here’s a good source for all the available Twitter chats (click here), and if there isn’t one for your industry, I’d recommend starting one. Either way, choose one, jump in and share conversation with other folks – they’re highly enjoyable.
6. Tweet often, post consistently
If you want to find followers and get people to follow you back, then it’s going to be key that you establish your brand as credible and trustworthy. This is achieved by tweeting a minimum of 15-30x/day, and being consistent with that approach. Tweeting so often may seem crazy if you’re new to Twitter, but since it’s a drip feed of content, you have to have enough tweets to be relevant or no one will ever see you.
But consistency is the most crucial part of any social strategy. If you can only post a few times a day to start with, begin there and then add to it. Whatever is possible for you, make a plan and stick to it. If you show up consistently, other people will do the same. And vice versa.
7. Create Twitter lists
I spoke about my agency’s Twitter list strategy before, but in addition to those lists, and specifically for startups, I’d recommend creating these lists:
A list of people who interact with you. Make this a public list and any time someone interacts with you or your content, add them to the list. I’d suggest calling it something flattering, for example, ‘People Who Engage’ or something that gives them props for being engaged people on Twitter. They’ll be alerted once you add them, and will most likely follow you back.
A list of people in specific industries. Remember all those keywords I asked you to create earlier, group them into general categories and create lists for them. As you’re bulk following, you can add people to lists who you find additionally interesting or relevant.
A list of people from Twitter chats. This is a fantastic way to keep track of people who interact with you during Twitter chats and kind of give them props for doing so. Similar to the list of people who interact with your brand, it will give you a frame of reference as to who they are, and be more flattering for them.
8. Promote your Twitter account
This is like, duh, right? But is it really? We forget (even I am guilty of this) to promote our social channels and then people are unable to find us or don’t know how.
When you create a account for your startup and you want to get more Twitter followers, do a few things:
Write a blog. It doesn’t need to be lengthy, but discuss why you want to have a Twitter account for your startup, what type of content you’ll share, and who will be managing it. By writing a blog, you’re cementing this event in the history of your startup and creating content to share. Plus, the blog can be the long-winded version of what you hope to do with it. Are you aiming to make it your main customer service channel? Have conversations with users? Talk about it. And then share it.
Include the blog and news in your email newsletter. If you don’t have an email campaign set up, then I’m virtually shaking you, but hopefully you’re at least collecting emails. And a new Twitter account is worth telling your audience about. If you don’t tell them to follow you, they won’t, so you’ve got nothing to lose. And keep the spammy content to a minimum by letting them know what’s in it for them if they follow you, i.e. content, news, customer service, etc.
Add a Twitter button to your website and any other relevant sites. If you don’t make it easy for people to follow you on Twitter, it won’t happen. People are inherently lazy, which is why we need this promotion section on this blog to begin with. So we must make it easy for them to do so.
Share the blog on your other social channels, create quote cards with your tweet handle to announce the news, and talk about the Twitter account often. Once isn’t enough in social media land, so strive to be creative with your promotions. In addition, you can cross-promote social channels, i.e. use a tweet for Facebook or vice versa.
However, do NOT hook up social channels so that the same content is flowing out of more than one account. If you post the same things on two accounts, chances are people won’t follow both.
9. Humanize it
You can follow all these strategies, incorporate fascinating content, and use the right Twitter marketing strategies, but if you don’t humanize your account then it will be tough to get people to follow you back. And let’s be honest, that’s what we want, right?
Startups have it tough because there’s so many popping up on the social scene, and instead of having a big smiling face in the profile picture, it’s a logo, and no matter how cool that logo is, people aren’t as interested in following logos. It’s harder to develop relationships with people online when working behind a logo, but it’s done everyday, it just takes purposeful work to humanize the account.
To humanize a social channel means to make it seem more human, personal, like you’re having a conversation with a friend or someone you know. On Twitter, this can be achieved by sharing content that describes the values of your brands, photos and videos from behind-the-scenes, quote cards to motivate, or questions that generate conversations.
The more often people see personal commentary in the Twitter stream, the more likely you’ll be able to get more Twitter followers.
What strategies have I left out to get more followers on Twitter? Or what works best for you?
COMMENTARY: In an article dated March 23, 2015, Joshua Steimle writes about, "Four Things I Learned Getting My First 4,000 Followers on Twitter." Steimle says.
"I haven’t bought any of my followers or engaged in any sort of trickery to boost my numbers. It’s all organic. The only “trick” I’ve found for increasing the number of followers I have, beyond simply being active on Twitter, is to follow others. It seems most people follow back when you follow them." [Steimle included a graph which shows this relationship]
Steimle repeats what social media marketing consultant Murray Newlands had to say about how to get Twitter followers:
“You can get pretty sophisticated, or desperate, trying to get more followers on Twitter, but don’t forget the basics. Use hashtags (but not too many, generally a maximum of two), tag others (where it makes sense, such as to credit them as the author of a link you’re sharing), include links, images, and video, favorite and retweet others’ tweets, and engage in conversations on Twitter, you know, be social.”
Steimle stresses the importance of adding images to your tweets. This is something I do religiously, so I agree wholeheartedly with him. He says.
"Tweet a line of text and maybe it will get favorited or retweeted, but probably not. Add an image to the same tweet, and engagement goes up steeply. Twitter’s own data says tweets with images get retweeted 35% more than tweets without them, so take a little extra time and include a good image along with that tweet."
Steimle points out the importance of using social media tools that can help drive more traffic to your website or blog or Twitter page and increase your followers exponentially. He says.
"If you use Twitter more than here and there, check out Buffer. It has become my go-to social media management tool. Buffer’s primary feature is the ability to schedule tweets, which is useful for me since I live and work in Hong Kong most of the time, while my audience is still U.S. centric. With Buffer and some help from Moz’s Followerwonk tool I can schedule my tweets to go out at the optimal times for my followers, which happens to be while I’m sleeping. But Buffer also makes it easy to tweet content whether on the desktop or mobile, including images with a simple right click."
Like Steimle, I have grown my Twitter followers organically. I never paid for followers like others do. I take the time to check the profiles and content being posted on Twitter by any new followers. Just within the last three weeks or so, nearly three dozen new followers turned out to be individuals or firms selling followers for a price or peddling a service I don't need and no tweets other than a headline. I blocked all of them. I want quality followers, and so should you. I want followers who clearly follow me for my content, and who I will follow back if I find them complimentary to my interests. You should do the same.