People often ask me how they can get more Twitter followers. Well, there are plenty of techniques you can use. I’d say it’s important to have an audience, but if you run a small business you don’t necessarily need huge numbers to succeed on Twitter.

A hand-drawn Twitter 'bird' logo

My reasoning is simple: it’s better to speak with 10 people who are interested in what you’re selling than to talk with 100 people who aren’t.

If you take an interest in others, and work hard to build trust, people will naturally begin to follow and engage with you — we all want to talk with nice people after all, right? And that’s the philosophy behind EggCup Web Design: be a good egg.

Get to know yourself, and gain more followers

It’s not just about what you do on Twitter to increase your following, there are also things you mustn’t do if you want to grow your audience. It doesn’t matter how many followers you can attract: if you end up annoying them with bad habits they will unfollow you. Being mindful about how you present yourself and how others might perceive your behaviour is very important. 

We all have bad habits, we’re only human after all. The problem with habits is that they are ingrained behaviours which we are often consciously unaware of. It’s only when someone points out those behaviours to us that we realise what we’re doing wrong.

My hope for this tutorial is that I can help you improve your chances of building productive relationships on Twitter by highlighting the things that will cause me to ignore a potential follow, or actively unfollow an account.

You might disagree with me, but that’s fine — the key thing is to remember who your audience is. If you’re looking to attract follows from 30-something web designers who run their own businesses, then I reckon you definitely stand to gain from listening to what I have to say.

In this tutorial, I’m focusing specifically on Twitter, although many of  these recommendations will translate to other platforms too. Here goes:

The Enigma

I manage several social media accounts, which means I have to choose who to follow very carefully because there simply isn’t time to follow everybody. In a nutshell, if you haven’t filled out your profile details, you’re making it harder for me to know whether I want to follow you or not. Chances are I won’t even get as far as clicking through to your profile page if you don’t have a profile picture.

Some people are reluctant to give out too much personal information on social media. I understand their fears, and I think it’s wise to start your adventure in social media from a position of caution. But all I’m after is a name, profile picture, and 140 characters about you or your business. That’s no more information than I could glean by chatting with you at the bus stop.

If you run a business then you have the perfect opportunity to talk about what you do as the owner of that business, and the virtues your company holds dear. You simply won’t have the space to give away too much personal information anyway — unless you put your bank details in there!

The Link Dumper

I’m not sure if I can repeat this often enough, but Twitter in particular is all about conversations. It is not a broadcasting tool (which is why I’m quite sceptical about the value of Promoted Tweets).

Dumping a continuous stream of self-promotional links into my feed isn’t going to attract my attention (beyond reaching for the ‘unfollow’ button). On the other hand, composing tweets that appeal to my needs, and offer a potential solution (via a link) will have me in the palm of your hand. Your choice.

Furthermore, if the only thing in your status update is a link, then there’s no way on earth I’m going to follow that link, and sadly enough, unless I know you I probably won’t follow you either. And another thing, if every tweet you post has a link back to your website forget it. Always think about what you can do to offer value to your followers.

The Taxonomist

Two or three #hashtags in a post is absolutely fine. Eight isn’t. Your tweet should still make sense once you’ve added your tags. If you’re adding too many then you’re compromising legibility and just making your tweets look spammy.

Also, if you want me to click a link in your tweet, don’t forget that every hashtag is automatically turned into a link by Twitter. Too many tags makes it very hard for people to see the link you really want them to click on.

The Chatterbox

Twitter is coming up to its eighth anniversary in March 2014. So on its next birthday the platform will have been live for almost 3,000 days. If you joined Twitter on the very day it launched and tweeted eight times a day religiously without fail you will have amassed just over 23,000 tweets to your name.

If you’ve managed that in just the last couple of years, you’re probably tweeting too often. Most people like variety, and don’t like to see their feeds flooded with tweets from just one account. It looks spammy, and boring, and people will move on.

The Automaton

Often, the cause of a hyperactive account can be traced back to services that demand you grant them access to your Twitter account. Many of the less scrupulous services will then go ahead and tweet on your behalf. I also presume that some people think computer generated tweets are a good idea. I don’t.

Generally, when someone takes the trouble to follow me I will take a look at their profile and have a nose through their latest tweets. At this point, a stream of automated messages with few hand-crafted pieces is off-putting. I can just phone up the talking clock if I want the reassuring regularity of an automaton’s voice.

The Wannabe Celebrity

Whenever I see a Twitter account which has vastly more followers than it is following, I always think to myself “Wow! I simply must follow these guys, they must be famous or something!”.

It all comes back to being sociable surprisingly enough. If your profile makes you look like you’re only on Twitter for an ego-stroking exercise, or because you fancy yourself as the next Katy Perry, then I’ll most likely pass up the opportunity to follow you.

If you ever reach a point where you decide you’re just too popular on Twitter now to have time to follow back or reply to people, then close your account. You’ll only be damaging your brand by ignoring those who got you to where you are in the first place.

Think of your Twitter account like a shop for just a moment — if a customer walks through your door, do you ignore them “because you’re too busy” or “because you’ve got lots of customers already”? Not if you fancy staying in business you don’t!

Hire extra hands to help, or close one of your ‘stores’ if you don’t have the resources to manage everything. The key to running a successful small business is not to overstretch yourself.

On a related note, I can just about cope with automated direct messages (DMs) that are relevant to me and not salesy at all. What I can’t stand is when someone sends me an auto DM after I follow them back and then ignores the hand-crafted message I send in return. Not a great way to build your audience on Twitter.

The Creepy Retweeter

Don’t get me wrong, retweeting is great. I love it when somebody agrees with what I’m saying, or thinks I’m so helpful or hilarious that they want to share my words with their followers too.

But if that’s your only interaction with me, and you do it often, or you retweet a conversation I’m having with somebody else without adding anything to the conversation yourself (and neither of us know you) that’s just plain weird.

Imagine a person you don’t know following you down the street a few paces behind you and parroting everything you say. Perhaps you stop to talk to a friend, and they stop a few paces behind you, and then maybe half an hour later bellow out the last thing you said to that person. Creepy hey? And annoying. If you want my attention, speak to me!

The Personality Donor

Again, retweeting is great. But not if that’s all you do with your account. It’s absolutely vital to have your own voice, in the real world as much as on Twitter.

The character limit on Twitter makes it difficult to add your own perspective to retweets, but it’s usually possible to do an “MT” (modified tweet)  instead. To do so, copy and paste the key ingredient of the tweet that resonated with you, prefix with “MT” (without the quotes), then add in a brief comment to explain why you’re issuing the tweet.

If you have enough characters, you may wish to place the quoted tweet within double quotes, but it’s not necessary, so long as it’s clear where the quote begins and ends. Finally, be sure to also include the originators @handle to give them credit.

MTs are a great solution that allow you to give credit to someone else, whilst at the same time showing everybody else that you’re keeping up to date with developments in your industry. Whilst we’re on the subject, you might find it handy to take this opportunity to learn more about making the most of retweeting.

Join the conversation

Twitter can be an overwhelming place at times, so being able to make quick decisions about who to interact with is essential. Do you have any other Twitter pet peeves you’d like to add to this list? Or perhaps you think I’m being too harsh? Leave a comment below and let us know.

 

Image by Shawn Campbell (Own work) [CC-BY-2.0], via Flickr