How I Attracted 10,000 Twitter Followers in a Year (My 5 Step Process)

Flock of birdsJust a couple of days ago the number of people following me on Twitter went past the 10,000 mark. It was a big milestone for me and I was excited to see it happen — not only because it demonstrates that my brand is growing, but also because it represents a great deal of work coming to fruition.

The fact is that I have poured a huge amount of effort into growing my Twitter following. I have conducted a lot of trial and error experiments, more often noting failure rather than success. However, in spite of that I have still been able to build a relatively healthy following in just twelve months. At the time of writing I have 10,255 followers and according to my records I had just 552 at the start of 2012 (so please forgive me for the slight inaccuracy of the post headline ;-)). I am currently attracting several hundred new followers every week.

I have spoken about my Twitter strategies on the blog here before, so this post acts as a complete round-up and addendum — covering the most important aspects of building a following, ignoring the less productive things you can do, and filling in any gaps I have missed to date.

Before We Begin

What you’re about to read is pretty simple and straightforward but it really is all you need to build a considerable following. With that in mind, always remember to keep it simple.

Twitter never needs to be complicated — that’s part of its beauty. If at any stage you are contemplating some kind of advanced strategy that has you confused at the mere thought of it, take the safe and regressive road back to simplicity. You’ll be surprised at the results.

Just one other thing — the following steps are intended to be taken in order. It may be tempting to skip straight to the “empire building” section but the effect of your efforts will be far reduced. You need to demonstrate that you have a lively Twitter account with lots of engagement before you start going for the big win.

Step 1: Have a Great Blog and Brand

To a extent the popularity of your Twitter profile is determined by the strength of your brand — that’s why Lady GaGa has nearly 34 million followers at the time of writing. As such, one of the most important steps to building your Twitter following is to make sure that you’re growing your brand away from Twitter.

I cannot stress the importance of this step enough — although it can be tempting to dismiss it on the basis that you think you have a strong brand, the matter warrants careful consideration. What sets you apart from the crowd? What compels people to actively choose to follow you over any other number of people vying for their attention? You need to have a compelling answer to those questions in order to grow a sizeable blog, and by extension, a big Twitter following.

In reality this should be a bit of a no-brainer as you are no doubt looking to establish your blog anyway — the fact that your hard work in building a brand has a positive effect on your social media outlets should be a more of a bonus than anything else.

Further Reading

Step 2: Share Awesome Links

The activity on Twitter is largely divided up into two groups:

  1. General chit chat: acquaintances, friends and colleagues exchanging brief messages, either socially or professionally.
  2. Link sharing and interaction: a Twitter user finds an interesting article/web page and shares it with his or her followers via a tweet who then may comment and/or share it themselves.

One of the absolute fundamentals of building a popular Twitter profile is to become known as someone who shares valuable and relevant content — i.e. links. If you share too much irrelevant content or simply not enough, people are either going to ignore your tweets (or unfollow you) or be blind to them.

As such you should get into the habit of regularly sharing content. Be selective and focus on quality rather than quantity. Don’t just tweet out links because you think you should — do it because whatever you are sharing is going to be of interest to your followers.

That is one of the main reasons I have over 50 blogs on my RSS reader (and far more when it’s time for another edition of the LWB 100) — I want my Twitter feed to be a valuable resource. I curate and share the best content I find so that my followers don’t have to go looking for it themselves.

BufferThe best tool there is (in my opinion) for sharing links on Twitter is Buffer. It is a tweet-scheduling app, which essentially means that you can write tweets now that will be published later. This is one of the tools that stops Twitter from becoming a huge time suck. I like to combine it with the Tweriod service so that my scheduled tweets go out at the optimum times.

Further Reading:

Step 3: Interact

This is my favorite bit — communicating with your followers. You cannot undervalue the importance of interaction in terms of increasing brand awareness, not to mention the various indirect benefits that can result from you simply putting yourself out there.

When I was focusing really hard on growing my Twitter profile I had one simple rule when it came to interaction: always reply. If someone sent me a message I always replied. To this day I still reply to probably 80% of messages, only not replying to those that are just simple re-tweets, automatically generated, or sent out to multiple people at the same time. Seriously — try me.

I also recommend that you build up a list of people whose radars you want to get on. Be sure to check out your list’s timeline at least once per day and fire off any pearls of wisdom that you can conjure in response to the tweets that you read. Don’t just reply for the sake of replying — you want to create intrigue, not inspire boredom.

Being so active on Twitter may seem overwhelming but it really doesn’t have to be — I probably spend no more than a collective 15-20 minutes per day on Twitter. If you tackle your tweets in two or three blocks of time — rather than constantly throughout the day — it becomes far more manageable.

Further Reading:

Step 4: Start Building Your Twitter Empire

By now you should have a solid brand, a good Twitter profile, and you should have been producing quality content and interacting with your existing follower base for at least a couple of days. In doing so you have laid the foundation for an effective targeted following campaign.

Now this topic deserves a post of itself which is fortunate because I have already written one: How to Get More Twitter Followers. That walks you through my process for taking what is the most important step to growing your Twitter following. I don’t think I would have half of the Twitter followers I have right now without having taken this step — it is integral.

Tweet AdderIf you choose not to take this step then you will probably find that your Twitter profile grows steadily and modestly. However, in order to accelerate your growth you really do need to use Tweet Adder – it was the main reason why I turned from getting a handful of new followers per day to tens and now occasionally hundreds.

Further Reading:

Step 5: Boost Shares and Referral Traffic

The final piece of the puzzle is to use your burgeoning Twitter profile to drive traffic back to your blog. It can be all too easy to forget that doing so is the main purpose of the whole exercise (beyond expanding your network and nurturing relationships), so make sure that you keep your eye on the ball.

First of all, you need to make it easy for people to share your content. With that in mind I have two plugin recommendations:

Digg Digg installs a floating social media share bar on your site so that a visitor always has the option to share. You can see in action right now just to the right of this post — give it a spin and share this post if you’d like!

Meanwhile, Easy Tweet Embed is a plugin that I co-developed which enables you to insert pre-populated tweets within links on your post (like this). I have found that this can boost the number of times your posts are shared by a considerable amount (30% and up). Here’s a brief video showing you how it works:

Beyond that, you need to ensure that you are sharing each new post on your blog effectively. I recommend that you tweet out new posts three times, with each tweet around 7 hours apart. This ensures that your post hits most of the time zones and gets exposed to your followers all over the globe.

You can do this manually with Buffer but the easiest method I’ve found is to use WordTwit Pro — a new favorite WordPress plugin of mine. It’ll set you back a few bucks but is awesome for maximizing the exposure of new posts in Twitter.

Finally, you may want to get your hands on Evergreen Post Tweeter – a free plugin (again, developed by me) that will automatically tweet old posts on your blog according to a set schedule. If you do decide to do this please make sure that you are selective in what old posts you choose to tweet out — make sure that they are still relevant or it will affect your followers’ perception of the quality of your tweets. Furthermore, do not abuse the power of the plugin — I personally recommend that you tweet out no more than a couple of archived posts per day, and only then if you are quite active. The ratio of third party content to your content should be weighted heavily against you.

Further Reading

Rinse and Repeat

That’s it! My complete strategy for getting 10,000 Twitter followers in a year. I referred back to two articles from the LWB archives on a few occasions above so if you want the full picture I recommend that you read them in full too:

You should now be set to build yourself a thriving Twitter profile. If you have any questions at all please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you are a Twitter user and have any tips of your own, please share them below!

Photo Credit: moonjazz

Comments

  1. says

    Pretty impressive mate! Would you rather have lots of Twitter followers or lots of traffic on your site?

    With 10,000 followers, if just 5% came by to check out your site, that is a nice health 500 boost a day. What type of traffic are you seeing from Twitter?

    Sam

    • says

      500 would be 5% day-by-day which would eventually have to be 100% of your followers, so unfortunately those numbers are not attainable!

      Twitter accounted for just over 6% of my traffic this month, behind only direct referrals and Google. To be honest though, the biggest tangible benefit I observe is when I get someone telling me they’ve found me via Twitter and that they love the blog. I very rarely get people telling me that they found me via Facebook or Google but I get a healthy handful of people telling me just that via Twitter every week. If you put the numbers to one side for a moment and consider real fans it really demonstrates Twitter’s value to me.

      Cheers!

      • says

        Tom, honestly I hate Twitter but then my businesses are not very mainstream. I gotta ask you though if 6% of your traffic comes from twitter and you have 10,000 followers then doesn’t that seem like a bit of a waste of your time? Is it really an empire if you’re getting such a small result? How can you know that those people wouldn’t already be reading your blog anyway? Hey maybe you just like to use twitter that’s cool. But at some time don’t you think if you spent more time on other methods and social networks that you might actually find that your time/money is better spent elsewhere instead of twitter especially if you’re doing it yourself and not outsourcing.

        • says

          Hi Chris,

          Interesting perspective. Would you stop work on the second single biggest traffic referrer to your site, especially when it only takes 30-60 mins per week to manage? That’s not to mention the fact that I just plain enjoy it :-)

          Furthermore, a blogger like me with no Twitter presence would be very unusual and I think my brand would suffer for it.

          Cheers,

          Tom

  2. Dennis says

    Tom, I’ve been following your progress on Twitter and have always been impressed. I like your strategy but what part of your strategy do you think is the most effective? What’s the biggest bang-for-buck and/or best use of your time? Tweetadder?

    • says

      Hi Dennis,

      To be honest everything I’ve written above comes in a package. If you ignore one element then the effectiveness of your results will be far reduced. But like I say, you only have to spend a few minutes a day on this stuff to get real results.

      Cheers,

      Tom

    • says

      Interesting! Do you know how they figure that out? Filtering out inactive accounts with Manage Flitter certainly helps to keep the number of genuine followers healthy.

  3. Tim says

    Tom,
    Thanks for that. Very informative article.

    The question I have is does this strategy vary when when you are starting a Twitter account from scratch? At the start you have to follow some people to get some to follow you back, and also to have some interesting stuff to retweet over and above your own content.

    So right now we are following about 200 people, all manual follows who we want to follow, some of whom will probably never follow us back. We have about 50 followers.

    So how do we embark on the Tweet adder method if we should aim to keep following to 0.98% of followers?

    Would you fore-go this rule and just start adding and removing until the numbers start to even up, or wait until the “natural” following evens up first.

    Thanks
    Tim

    • says

      Hm…good question. First of all, do you really need to follow 200 people? Say average tweets per day are 5 per user, that’s 1,000 per day or 41 per hour — do you have time to keep up with all that?

      Could you perhaps remove those follows, start from zero and begin building, then re-add them when you have a bit of wiggle room?

      If I were you I would do that and then start out by manually adding people whose bios seem extremely relevant to what you have to offer (use the same principles for finding users as I do for setting up Tweet Adder above). This will result in a higher follow to follow back ratio. Add ten or so a day and use ManageFlitter to filter out the inactive accounts etc. Do this for a week or two to give yourself a bit of room to play with then fire up the automation with Tweet Adder.

      Cheers!

      Tom

      • says

        Thanks for the tip Tom, I was going to ask the same question!

        I’m following a few friends who never use Twitter. I’m going to purge them from my list, along with a few other users who aren’t following me back, in order to reduce my ratio.

      • Tim Elliott says

        HI Tom

        Thanks for the reply. Maybe I don’t need to follow that many, but like IMHypeless mentions I need some fodder for getting involved in conversations, retweeting etc. But perhaps 200 is more than strictly necessary for that. I’ll look to remove around half of them, leaving me following the most active / relevant / interesting accounts.
        Thanks
        Tim

    • says

      And one other thing — look beyond Twitter to get some follows under your belt. Ask friends, family, colleagues, customers, clients, complete strangers, all to follow you! Don’t worry too much about the relevancy of these people — it’s more to give you a head start with the number of followers you have than anything else.

    • says

      I’m not nearly successful with Twitter as Tom is, but maybe this tip might help since you’re starting from scratch. Identify the leaders in your niche, authority figures or simply profiles with a lot of followers and add them. This alone might get you some followers. Then start commenting their tweets, but don’t just spam – do your best to leave a meaningful comment. Interact with them as much as possible – retweets or marking their tweets as favorite also helps.

      This method helped me gain followers when I was starting from scratch, way before I purchased Twitter Adder.

    • mz says

      Tim,

      I think the suggestion from IMHypeless is a good one. I used a similar strategy when I had less than 200 followers and it helped a lot. I had to work hard to get the first 250 followers. After that, the follows started to happen more organically. I managed to top 4,000 in a little over a year, which I was happy with.

      My goal was not followers for the sake of getting followers. I wanted engaged followers. I highly recommend strategically interacting with key people in your industry and interjecting your intelligent or witty remarks when you see an interesting Twitter conversation going on among influencers. I did a lot of that. When influencers started following me, and interacting with me on Twitter, others took notice and followed too.

      I do not play the follow-then-unfollow game. But if you have an imbalance where you are following 200 and only 50 are following you, I have a suggestion. Instead of outright following those extra 150 people, you can put them on a list. That makes it easy to check their tweets, and when you see something interesting from them, engage — make a comment, RT a link with your own 2 cents. Have a lot of tweets with an “@” in them. If you take notice of what other people are saying — and engage with them — more and more will start to take notice of what you are saying too.

      But if you “unfollow” all those 150 people, there will be no easy way to see their conversation on an ongoing basis — unless you “list” them. I very much use lists to my advantage. And I generally categorize the lists by subject, so “tech” people are on one list, “media” (journalists and publications) are on another, etc. I take a look at the tweets for each list once a day, and I frequently interact with these people, who in many cases end up following me (and then I sometimes follow them back).

      • Tim Elliott says

        Thanks for the tips mz. It’s a slow process at first but I hope things will start to roll a little bit faster as I get more followers. The difficulty is coming up with engaging and interesting tweets of your own and finding relevant tweets to comments on / retweet.

  4. says

    Really great Twitter guide Tom!

    I like to use Hootsuite for the scheduling side of sides, as for Interaction – I couldn’t agree more. It is amazing how many accounts I see though that are just constant affiliate offers being Tweeted all day….

    Do they honestly get any success with this method?

    I have looked into Tweetadder before, heard it can be a great tool.

    Regards,
    John

  5. says

    Just goes to show that active and growing Twitter following is always within our reach, Tom.

    I was happy to see Tweet Adder mentioned as one of the steps – doing this my hand is sooo counter-productive!

    Off to check out your tweeting plugin.

    Question: do you strongly prefer Twitter over FB?

    • says

      Hey Ana,

      Only in a sense that I get far more out of Twitter in terms of followers, traffic, interaction and relationships. I prefer Facebook in terms of functionality and the increased functionality you have with status updates.

      Cheers,

      Tom

  6. says

    Hi Tom and thanks for the interesting piece. I think a lot of people are using something like your approach, but most are sometimes reluctant to share their ‘secret’ – so thanks for being open.

    I totally agree with points 2 & 4 and partly with 1. 3 & 5 are less important IMHO.

    Couple of things I would add if you don’t mind:

    1. They way you construct your ‘really useful content’ links is critical. If it really IS the most useful content, then many others will likely be tweeting about it at the same time. I find it helps to construct link tweets carefully, and always try to add some form of opinion or take-home message – by adding value to individual links in this way, it increases the likelihood of YOUR tweet being the one that gets the RTs.

    2. You could also have mentioned the synergies between your five approaches, which is where I think the real sweet spot for follower growth (and specificity) lies. For example, if you are following folks using Tweetadder by using a specific tweet search keyword (good for specific followers I find), try posting links on that same topic simultaneously. Just imagine someone follows you, you go to look at their profile and you see a few recent tweets on things you’re interested in: you will v. likely follow back and possibly re-tweet to all your buddies (who are also interested in the same topic). If you can work out ways to converge two or more of your approaches simultaneously (especially 2 & 4), you can really hit a follower artery from time-to-time.

    cheers, and thanks again

    @francetim

  7. says

    Great tutorial Tom, even better then the one you wrote for SPI. It’s obvious you earned a lot from then, congrats on the 10k followers milestone.

    There’s one thing that really bothers me in general, when it comes to Twitter profiles in the IM niche. It seems like most profiles are just RSS bots, tweeting only various affiliate links, links to other blogs or their own content.

    It would be interesting to see more marketers use Twitter to express their opinions on a certain subject, comment other bloggers/products/forum activities, mention what their doing at the moment…anything that doesn’t involve blatant product promotion or content syndication.

    I feel this would actually make their personalities more interesting and they, as a brand, would become much more recognizable and unique.

    Does this makes sense, what’s your view on this? Do you think it’s worth to try things mentioned above, or people in this niche don’t care about the personality and just want more and more links? :)

    • says

      I makes perfect sense. Most of the links you post should have your own personal twist (not just the title of the post) and you should regularly look to engage with your readers. Definitely go down that route!

  8. says

    Hi Tom not sure if you had any feedback on Twitter banning accounts when they use services like “manage flitter” apparently mass deleting may get you into trouble? Can you let me know your thoughts? I am really interested in using your method and are very close to buying Tweet Adder from your link but just need a little reassurance that your method is still safe to use.

    • says

      Hey Martin,

      I’ve never had any problems personally nor have I heard of any problems, but that does not of course mean it doesn’t happen. Also, TweetAdder’s functionality has now changed since the introduction of v4.0. I’ll be writing about this soon :-)

      Cheers,

      Tom

      • says

        Thanks Tom think I will wait until you publish your post have lots of other things on the go, but know I have to make a start with twitter, have signed up for follow up comments, look forward to reading what you have to say about the new version – cheers

  9. says

    Hi Tom,

    I am a newbie to Twitter. Would like to know how do you cope and read the all the information once you start following thousands of twitters, is 20 to 30 minutes per day sufficient to go through all the tweets as you mentioned ? If not then how do you make sure that you dont misss important information.

    Regards,

    Faisal

    • says

      Hi Faisal,

      The key with Twitter is to let go of your feed. Spend as much time on it as you can afford but don’t kill yourself trying to read everything!

      Cheers,

      Tom

    • says

      I think Facebook should be used to drive Facebook users to your site and Twitter should be used to drive Twitter users to your site. I don’t really see the point in sending them in-between.

  10. says

    Hi Tom,

    I’ve noticed that you don’t have any social media buttons prominently displayed in your sidebar: is that because you’d rather have people singing up for your newsletter/posts than for your SM?

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