Twitter is an interesting place. There are a few people who look like they know what they are doing. They have hundreds of thousands of followers, and every time they tweet, they get lots of engagement. You will see their retweets all over your feed. Then, your feed will fill up with retweets of their retweets. And you know for sure that they are getting an absolute ton of traffic from Twitter. And then, there are the rest of us…
There are the people who have hundreds of thousands of followers and no engagement. You figure that they either bought their followers (don’t do that, it’s a waste!) or they simply don’t share things that are worth sharing. You don’t want to be that person. Then there are the people with a couple hundred followers and they tweet all the time. I guess maybe they have a great relationship with their audience, maybe they only interact with people they know in the “real world,” but as a business owner, that seems like an amazing waste to me.
And then there are the people that set a realistic example for us in the short term. They have over 10,000 followers that regularly engage with them. You can look at their feed and see that each tweet has likes and retweets and you know that they have a good audience. Of course, many of them have been building that audience and their relationship with their followers for years. But there are those who do it relatively quickly and do it the right way. That is my goal right now, to build up an audience that I have a relationship with. That will read my content because it is my content and they know that it will be good. So far I have been able to grow my following to over 3000 in just over 5 weeks. I would love to help you do the same.
So, in the interest of having more of us out there that are killing it on Twitter, and in turn building a relationship with your audience, I am going to help you to gain your first (or next) thousand followers on Twitter. You can do it in 2 weeks, without paying a dime (it’s a bit easier and faster if you are willing/have a budget), and without using any services that will bring you junk followers. It will take some effort, and you have to be willing to spend 30-60 minutes a day, but you will see massive results quickly. We will talk about the free tools to use, how to use them, and if you think it would be useful, you can even download my daily task sheet. So, let’s get started.
Twitter Account Setup
Yes, your twitter account setup is very important. If I am looking for someone to follow and I see the Twitter egg as a profile picture, I’m skipping that one. But it’s not just the profile picture, here is how you want to set up your twitter account:
Since I mentioned the profile picture, let’s start with that. You want to make sure you have one of course, but there is more to it than that. If this is a personal account, you want a headshot of you. People want to get to know you and that is one of the best ways to do it. If it is a business account, I still recommend a headshot, though a logo is (almost) acceptable. The image should be at least 400px by 400px.
Your Twitter bio is incredibly important. You only have 160 characters, so use them well. Describe who you are, what you do, what you tweet about, etc. It is usually good to throw in a hashtag or two to help with search, but it gets hard to read if you put in more than three. And remember, if someone is deciding whether or not to follow you, often all they have to look at is your bio. It should go with whatever it is that you tweet about. You can also add a link and a call to action to your bio. This is something that can be used very effectively, but you have to be careful that you don’t come across as spammy or salesy.
So there isn’t much real estate in the header photo, so you really have to make the most of it. Personally, I like when brands use a mixture of photos and text to tell their stories. I am in the process of designing a more permanent header photo, but I put something together to go along with the Twitter Challenge that I am doing right now. I used a background and put text over it talking about the challenge. I also used arrows and a call to action to have people look at the pinned tweet for the week’s progress. I’ll be honest, I don’t love mine, but I knew that I had to get something temporary up and I’d encourage you to do the same. Even if it is just a photo that you love, add something as your header photo.
I see a lot of accounts that do not take advantage of a pinned tweet and I don’t understand it. Twitter gives you the option to put your best performing (or most important at the moment) tweet permanently at the top of your feed. This is your opportunity to tell people what you are about, and this tweet has the potential of getting a lot of retweets, so take some time and do it right! For best results, you will want to add an image, keep it short (120 characters will allow it to be retweeted manually without editing), and change your pinned tweet pretty regularly.
There are three free tools that you will want to use to make the process go faster and to save you time. Of course, there are paid tools that you can use (I will be reviewing some once I finish my Twitter Challenge) and I am sure that they make things even easier. But, for this article, we are looking for ways to get your first 1000 Twitter followers for free.
Buffer to Schedule Posts
Buffer is a great free app that allows you to schedule tweets and retweets (I have a tutorial video here showing how to schedule retweets on Buffer). With the free version, you can schedule up to 10 tweets at a time. If you are only planning on tweeting 10 times a day, you can sit down one time and schedule all of your tweets in one sitting, which is very convenient. If you plan on tweeting more times per day (which I recommend, but more on that later), you can either pay to upgrade your Buffer account which gets you a larger queue, or you can sit down several times a day to fill up your queue.
Right now, I am sitting down three times a day to fill up my queue, but that is only because I have committed to growing my Twitter audience for free for a 5 week Twitter Challenge. As soon as the 5 weeks are up, upgrading Buffer will be my first purchase. So, if you have the budget for it, I would highly recommend an upgraded Buffer account. If you don’t have the budget for it, you can totally make it work with a free Buffer account.
CrowdFire to Manage Followers
CrowdFire is a really nice app, and I only use the free version. It has some restrictions, but for the most part, the free version does what I need it to. I mainly use it to manage my unfollows. I look at the recently unfollowed tab and unfollow anyone who unfollowed me. In Twitter growth mode, I will follow anyone who follows me that is even remotely connected to marketing, so in order to keep my followers to following ratio in check, I need to unfollow people that unfollow me. There are not many of them per day, but CrowdFire makes it very simple.
I also use CrowdFire to unfollow people who never followed me and to follow a few people a day (CrowdFire’s free app limits follows to 25 per day). I don’t spend a lot of time on CrowdFire, but I find that it does save me some time in those simple tasks, so I will use it unless I find something better.
ManageFlitter to Manage Followers
ManageFiltter is another app that I use to manage my followers. It allows me to follow 50 people per day, which I make sure to do every day. You can search for certain parameters and very quickly find 50 people to follow that are in your industry. I do not like the layout nearly as much as CrowdFire, but again, it saves me time and it is very useful in what I use it for. I will also use it to unfollow people that have never followed me if I feel that I am following too many people compared to the number that are following me.
Feedly to Manage Content
Finding great content is one of the hardest parts of Twitter. One tool that I absolutely love is Feedly. I have used it for years simply as a news organizer, but I have found it a tremendous tool now that I am looking for great content to share on social media. It is a free service, and you simply enter the website that you want to follow and Feedly will find any RSS feeds, so adding content sources is pretty easy. They also have curated lists so you can end up finding a lot of new blogs to follow through Feedly.
Feedly offers a button that will tweet directly, but I do not use it. I find that it looks too automated and I get less engagement with those tweets. So I mostly manually craft my tweets (more on that later), but Feedly helps me to find great content to share very, very quickly.
How To Get Your First (or Next) Thousand Followers
OK, 1500 words in and we finally have the account setup out of the way, and we are ready to start talking about how you go about getting 1000 followers in 2 weeks. I am going to go over this in some detail here, but I also have a daily checklist with what you have to do every day to grow your Twitter followers fast.
Growth Strategy #1 – Post Content Regularly
This is a subjective topic because you will hear a lot of different “experts” give you a lot of different ideas on the number of times that you want to post each day. There are some who say that you don’t want to post more than 4 times a day, and others that say that you want to post every 8 minutes. And while I respect the thinking behind both extremes, my experience has shown me that the best strategy for quick growth is somewhere in the middle. I have tried a lot of different posting frequencies, and I have settled on 30 times a day. I tweet roughly every 30 minutes from 6:00 am through 10:00 pm with a couple more posts in the middle of the night.
Buffer has a really cool feature that will show you when most of your audience is active. I used that in deciding on what hours I would post in, but like everything else, it is a process of seeing what times work best and moving the schedule around from there. I have found that I get the best results on my tweets that are earlier in the morning, so I make sure to schedule my best tweets then.
Pro Tip – What To Post
I know what you are thinking because I was thinking the same thing when I started… “What in the world am I going to tweet 30 times a day?” And if you think of it that way, it seems pretty daunting. But right now, I have to schedule 10 posts at a time to fill my Buffer queue. I tweet 1-2 links to my own content or something personal, 1-2 quotes, 1-2 links to good content that I find on Feedly, and I retweet stuff from my followers to fill out the rest of the queue. So if you are posting 30 times a day, that means you multiply each of those numbers by 3.
Growth Strategy #2 – Be a Giver, Not a Taker
This is true in all parts of life, but people like you more if you help them out. Twitter is the same way. You want, long-term, to build relationships with your followers. You want them to retweet, click your links, actually read your content, join your email list, etc. In order to build that kind of relationship with people, they have to know, like and trust you. Right now, you are the new guy (or gal) and nobody knows you, let alone likes or trusts you. The best way to move towards that like is by sharing stuff from people that you follow/follow you. When you are getting started, you may not want to target the major influencers, because they are a lot harder to get to notice you. They are more of a long-term goal. However, I have found that it isn’t that difficult to start to build a relationship with people with 5,000 to 20,000 followers and they can be very helpful in helping you to reach more followers.
In looking for people that I want to build a relationship with, I am looking for people that have a decently engaged audience, are in a very similar industry to me, and regularly post and create great content. I figure that if I am going to try to build a relationship with someone on Twitter, I may as well look for someone that I admire and want to learn from.
Pro Tip – How To Engage
Retweeting is a great first step in starting to build a relationship with someone on Twitter. When I find someone that I want to build a relationship with on Twitter, the first thing I will do is retweet something that they shared, often with a comment. It is best to retweet them sharing their own content because that is most helpful to them. I will then look to see how they respond. If they don’t respond at all (or it’s obvious that it’s an autoresponse), I figure that it is going to be difficult to build any kind of a relationship there and move on. However, if they respond favorably, they may be someone that I can begin to build a relationship with.
One thing to keep in mind though is that simply retweeting will never move you all that far towards that know, like and trust factor that you want. And this is not a simple, do it once and I have a relationship with this person kind of thing. Just like a real relationship, it takes time to build and nurture a relationship. Be patient and engage with people regularly and you will start to realize that you are building relationships and you will see your engagement grow like crazy. Some other simple things that you can do to catch someone’s attention and build that know, like and trust factor –
- Actually go to their blog, find an older piece of content and share it
- Leave a comment on their blog (make sure to use the same name you use on Twitter!)
- Answer a question that they ask on Twitter
- Ask them a question, especially if it is a follow up to one of their posts that you have shared
Growth Strategy #3 – How To Structure Your Tweets
I know there is an easy way to tweet content. You can click the button from the blog article or your reader and it will tweet out the title along with a link. So what’s the problem with this? Well, it’s easy, so everyone does it. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything. If I’m in a rush and I just need to fill up my queue so that my activity level keeps up, then, by all means, I am going to tweet the title and link. However, if I want to get better results and engagement, I will structure my tweets a little bit differently. I’ll give you a few examples and then I’ll explain how I structure tweets.
In each of these tweets, I did not simply tweet the title and picture. I asked a question or copied and pasted a short quote from the post. I find that I get more engagement from other users when I do it this way, but the main benefit is that it shows the person whose content I am sharing (usually an influencer that I want to develop a relationship with) that I read the post and valued it enough to share it. Not just a simple drive-by tweet, but an actual interaction with their content. I find that I get much better interaction with the authors by sharing this way, which is one of my main goals at this point.
After the quote or question, I paste in the link. I want it right after the quote/question to make people more likely to click it. Then I add 2 or 3 relevant hashtags (if I can do it in the question/quote I do because it saves space) to make it easier to find. Then I end with a mention of the author. The mention of the author is super important so that your tweet will show up in their notifications. No sense going through all of this trouble if the influencer will never see it!
Pro Tip – Use Images
If you are scheduling your tweets with the Buffer app on your computer (this doesn’t work on the mobile app) they make it very easy to add images to your tweets. When you paste in the link, it will give you a choice of images from the post to add to your tweet or retweet. You will get much better engagement with images, so try to keep your tweets short so that you have room for an image in the tweet.
Growth Strategy #4 – Follow Targeted People
One of the main growth strategies that we will be employing is to follow targeted accounts regularly. Why? Well, many people will follow you back if you follow them. But you do have to be careful with this… you don’t want to search for the #teamfollowback crew. Sure they will follow you back, but they are not at all a targeted account. Remember, we are in this for the long-term – to build a real audience not to inflate numbers. So how do we find the people to follow? Here are 4 ways that I have used successfully.
1. Use Manage Flitter To Follow 50 People Per Day
With the free version of ManageFlitter, you can follow 50 people per day. Do not miss out on these, because it is very, very easy to do. I use the advanced search (click where it says refine and it will open up several new search fields) and search within people’s bio for a hashtag related to my industry. I will often search for #seo, #socialmedia, #marketing, or something related. I also will set the minimums and maximums for both the followers and following as well so that I make sure that there is a good chance that the people that I’m following will follow me back. I will usually pick a range of about 1,000 for the followers (usually about as many followers as I have or a few thousand more), and then set the minimum following for 80% of the minimum followers, the maximum following for 500 more than the maximum followers, and click the only active accounts. My set up will look something like this:
The great thing about ManageFlitter is that it allows me to find accounts to follow very quickly. The bad thing about it is that It is not easy to check the accounts out to see if they are quality accounts before I follow them. Honestly, this is a throw it against the wall and see what sticks kind of approach and I don’t like that about finding people to follow through ManageFlitter, but it is a good way to find 50 semi-targeted accounts very quickly.
2. Use CrowdFire To Copy 25 Followers Per Day
CrowdFire has a great feature that lets you copy the followers of another user. For this, you click on the Copy Followers button on the left menu. Then you will enter the username of the account that you choose. I usually choose an account that is very related to mine and has a few thousand more followers than I do. The thinking behind this is that if the person is following a very related account, they have demonstrated that they are interested in your content. I generally get a very good percentage of people that I find this way following me back.
Generally, I find that accounts with right around 5,000 – 10,000 followers work very well as you are starting off. Then I generally look for people’s names (not company names) that have a good follower/following ratio, and that appear to speak English. Then, you hit the little green plus and you are now following them. Another very quick way to add 25 targeted followers every day.
3. Twitter Search
In the the Twitter search, I simply put in a hashtag related to my field. We can use #SEO again for this example. It will take you to the top tweets tab by default. I find that I get much better results if I go to the Live tab (all tweets tab on the mobile app). Then I just start scrolling down and looking at the accounts that have recently tweeted something with #SEO. I find this goes much faster if I do it on my iphone or ipad because of the way the app works. I click on any accounts that I think look interesting and go to their feed. I look to see if it is in English, I look at their follower to following ratio to make sure that there is a chance that they will follow me, and I do a quick look to make sure that most of their tweets are marketing related. If they are, I follow them. If not, I go back to the all tweets tab and look for the next account. In 5 minutes I can usually find 25-35 high quality accounts to follow and many of them will follow me back within the day.
Pro Tip – Getting Influencers To Follow You Back
When I say influencers here, I am talking about people with 5,000 to possibly as high as 50,000 followers. This does not work nearly as well on the true influencers that have hundreds of thousands of followers. But if you find someone that you would really like to follow you back, this has worked well for me. I follow the person, and then I will either retweet one of their posts (good), answer a question that they have asked (better), or write an original tweet linking to some of their content (best). This is by far the best way to get someone to follow you back in my experience, and it is a great way to start to build a relationship with people who matter.
Growth Strategy #5 – Follow Back (Selectively)
I will follow back most of the people that follow me. I figure that I want to keep the followers that I am gaining, and if I am unfollowing people that don’t follow me back, others are probably doing the same. There are some exceptions to this though (and this is all personal preference, so you’ll have to come up with your own rules).
- I won’t follow back porn or people who retweet porn
- I won’t follow back any accounts that I strongly disagree with politically or morally
- I won’t follow back any accounts that have 0 tweets
- I won’t follow back if they follow way more people than follow them (often a spam account)
- I won’t follow back if it is not at least mostly in English
- I won’t follow back if it does not seem like a real account (just a gut feeling, but you will start to notice them as you get more into Twitter)
Pro Tip – You can’t rely on Twitter Notifications to find everyone that has followed you
I made this mistake and I know that it cost me quite a few followers. I was noticing that a lot of people were unfollowing me that I had never followed (you can see this on CrowdFire) and I couldn’t figure out how that was happening. Then I noticed that people that I would see follow me on my iphone notifications would not end up showing up on the Twitter Notifications. So now, once a day, I will click on my Twitter followers and scroll through looking at who has followed me that I have not followed. I find that it works best on the mobile app because I can take a quick look at the accounts before I decide whether I want to follow them back.
Growth Strategy #6 – Unfollow Regularly
Just like we look at people’s accounts and judge them on their follower/following ratio, others will look at your account the same way. One of the pitfalls of following a lot of people as a growth strategy is that you will end up following a lot more people than follow you. In order to keep this from happening, you have to regularly unfollow people that do not follow you back. You don’t need to start this right away as you want to make sure that you give people the chance to follow you before you unfollow them. I’ll usually give up to a week before I decide to hit the unfollow button. Both CrowdFire and ManageFlitter have an unfollow option. In both apps you can select people that are not following you back and order them from oldest to newest. That way you can unfollow the people who have not followed you back after several days very quickly.
Pro Tip – You don’t have to unfollow everyone
Of course there will be some people that you want to follow that won’t follow you back. Possibly a major influencer, a brand, or an account that just doesn’t follow anyone. In those cases, just skip past them in the unfollow process. It is totally fine to keep some people that you follow that don’t follow you back – you just don’t want too many of them.
Growth Strategy #7 – Be Polite, It Pays
Just like your mom always told you, people like it when you say thank you. If someone retweets you, mention them and say thank you. If someone asks you a question, answer it. If someone answers one of your questions, make sure to respond appropriately. This will end up being a personal preference thing, but you want to have as much engagement as possible with your followers, so take every opportunity that you can to do it.
You will notice that a lot of people will thank every new follower and thank everyone for putting them onto a list. In major growth mode, I found that to simply be too much. I simply felt that I could not keep up with every new follower and I didn’t want to just welcome some followers, so I decided not to do it at all. However, if you feel like it would be helpful and you can handle it, by all means, do it!
Now, you will get some awkward tweets that mention you that you don’t know how to respond to. There are the people that will mention you in a welcome tweet and then offer you some kind of a download/whitepaper/video/etc. There is no polite way that I could think of to respond to those tweets, so I would simply like those tweets and move on. I figure that I am at least acknowledging that I got it and letting them know that I appreciate it.
Pro Tip – Look in People’s Bios for Conversation Starters
I have gotten into several good conversations with people that were started by info in the bio – either theirs or mine. I was able to talk to someone about the flooding going on in Arkansas because I saw that he was from Arkansas. I had someone ask me about why I was a wannabe author and not a full fledged author yet. Taking the info that you can find in a bio, you can often start a conversation with someone that you want to build a relationship with.
I know that this was a ton of information. I hope that it doesn’t end up being too much, and that you are able to follow it to start to grow your audience quickly. I can tell you from experience that it is possible, and you will probably end up liking it more than you thought that you would (I certainly did). And to help you to get the same kind of results that I did (and I hope even better!) I’ve created a daily cheat sheet to help you to stay on task and grow quickly. I’ve even added a bonus growth strategy to say thank you for downloading. Just click the red button below to download the daily cheat sheet.