Do you have follower envy? Is it affecting your business, or just your pride? Either way, you’re in the right place. I’ve got some cures for your pain. But first, some perspective: Having a small Twitter following does not mean you don’t matter. Or that you’re a bad marketer. Or that you can’t get any value from the platform.
In defense of small
Many micro-influencers in small niches have only a couple hundred Twitter followers. They are reasonably active on the platform, but they tend to follow or be followed by people they actually know or work with. Hidden in those “small” groups of their followers you can find CEOs, Marketing Directors, and other heavyweights.
Those heavyweights are the type of people who make million dollar decisions. They tend to be more focused on managing and growing their businesses than on expanding their Twitter following. Never write someone off just because you see a small following.
Larry Alton’s Twitter bio comes across as pretty humble. Don’t be fooled: He’s a columnist for Entrepreneur, Inc, HuffPost, TechCrunch and Search Engine Journal.
This “hidden influencer” phenomenon is why you have to be careful when you cull who you follow on Twitter. Most of the tools that calculate how influential people are only go by behavior on Twitter. That’s not the full scope of someone’s actual influence.
A small Twitter follower count can also hide engagement. I came across an influencer marketing company recently that defines an influencer based on how many engagement signals someone gets from each tweet. They didn’t even mention follower count. They don’t care. But if you get more than five retweets, likes or replies for every tweet you post, according to them, you’re an influencer.
You’ve probably heard this tune in email marketing. “You can still make money with a small, targeted list.” It’s true. But I think there’s another argument that’s better at proving why engagement is what really matters. It’s in the math.
|Twitter followers||Tweets||Average Engagement Rate||Number of Engagements|
So before you go all out to grow a big Twitter following, ask yourself: Do I really want a big Twitter following… simply to have a big Twitter following? Or do I actually want to get some business out of this, even if it’s just some exposure via engagement?
If you want more engagement, it’s the people with 500 followers or less who are most likely to give it to you. That’s what Mention reports in their ebook, “The When Where Who and How of Communicating Online to Get More Mentions.”
Engagement matters. It’s the metric most of us measure the success or failure of our content by. Especially when it comes to blog posts.
One of BrightLocal’s recent polls shows how social shares are the most common measurement of whether a blog post is successful or not.
Now, should we all be that focused on getting lots of shares? Probably not. I’d prefer it if more of us focused on actual results: Conversions, leads, etc. The kind of stuff that makes a direct business impact. But the power of social proof is real. You could make the argument that the number of social shares gives credibility to a piece of content. (At least before Twitter took away our share counts. Grrr.)
It’s the social proof factor that’s why so many people crave a larger following on Twitter. We humans tend to believe that if lots of other humans like something, then it must be good. That if something is being clamored for and talked about, it must be important.
Twitter is a great tool for clamoring. And liking things. And finding out what other people like. And while engagement is where the ROI is, let’s face it: Size matters. Who doesn’t want more Twitter followers?
So enough about making do with a small following. If you want to grow your Twitter followers, there are four strategies:
- Attract them. Either by being well-known or by tweeting out really good stuff, formatted for maximum shares.
- Ask for them. Add prompts to follow you wherever possible.
- Network for them. Follow people so they’ll follow you back.
- Pay for them. Advertise for them or buy them outright. Just kidding. You should never buy followers outright.
Let’s break these out.
Want to be followed? Then be worth following. Here’s the to-do list:
- Lose the egg. Put up a professional quality headshot.
- Use an attractive, high-resolution background image. It’s nice if it’s not screamingly promotional.
- Use a Twitter handle that’s memorable and fits your business or niche. The closer you can get it to your name or business name, the better. @DrewDavies is ideal. @DrewTheAnimal is only appropriate for wrestlers. @Drew09334 looks like a spam account.
- Write a Twitter bio that’s sprinkled with carefully chosen hashtags and keywords.
- Follow other people in your niche.
- Retweet other people’s content.
- If someone tweets about you, thank them.
- Use images in your tweets. They get 18% more engagement.
- Be an informer, not a meformer. Don’t make it all about you.
- Don’t “burst” your tweets or retweets. Ie, don’t tweet several times in the same minute.
- Don’t send automated Direct Messages to new followers. It weirds us out.
- Tweet things that would be useful to your ideal audience.
- Find out when the best time for you to tweet is.
- Pin a tweet that gets lots of engagement to the top of your feed.
- Use hashtags in your tweets. But only one or two.
- Mix up the content formats in your tweets. A little bit links, a little bit images, a little bit videos…
- Participate in Twitter chats, like the one AtomicReach hosts every week.
- Tweet regularly. There’s a correlation between followers and how often someone tweets:
Ask for them
- Add your Twitter handle and a call to action to follow you to the signature of your emails.
- Embed “Tweet this” links in your blog posts.
- When you guest post, include your Twitter handle in your biography.
- When someone has just signed up for your email list – on the final confirmation page – ask them to follow you on Twitter.
- Add a prompt to follow you to the footer of your website.
- Add a prompt to follow you to your business card, and all other printed materials (even invoices).
- Use an overlay tool like Snip.ly. It lets you add an overlay to every link you share. You can use that overlay space to ask someone to follow you or to subscribe to your email list.
- Get on Twiends.com. It’s a directory of Twitter users that helps people grow their following.
Network for them
- Start following people you know, especially people you know from other social platforms. Most of them will follow you back.
- Use any of the Twitter tools (like Followerwonk) that let you find people based on their interests, bio or connections.
- If you don’t want to pay for a service to find you good followers, go to the follower lists of people you admire in your niche. Follow whomever they’re following (so long as it makes sense). Many of them will follow you back. This is still my preferred way to find great followers.
- Use a paid tool like Narrow.io (http://narrow.io/) or SocialQuant (http://www.socialquant.net/) to automate the “find and follow people who are likely to follow you” process. I’ve tried both of these tools and got decent results. SocialQuant got me significantly more followers than Narrow.io, but I like the controls that Narrow.io gives. With SocialQuant you basically just hand the reins over to them and they grow your account for you.
Pay for them
As social media comes of age, I think we’re all going to get more and more used to paying for access. Same goes for Twitter followers.
I was highly resistant to the idea of advertising for followers, but I finally broke down and tried it. And got Twitter followers for 22 cents each. If I had switched off showing ads to users in a couple of low-performing countries, I could have gotten it down to 18 cents. And that was with just the first two ads I tried – with split-testing I could definitely get it down further. Larry Kim got his cost per new follower down to 13 cents.
What worked? Well, I targeted my audience to followers of people and businesses that my tweets might resonate with (places like Marketing Profs and The Content Marketing Institute). Then I tried different ad formats: a Promoted Tweet and a straight up Follower Campaign. The Promoted Tweet got more followers, but at pretty much the same cost as the Follower Campaign.
Trouble was, the number of new followers was just a trickle. I had been naturally getting about 40-50 new followers a week with no advertising or other tactics, so seeing only about 15 new followers per day wasn’t that big a lift. I could probably have improved that count by split-testing the ads so they converted better, and then upped my minimum bids a bit so Twitter would give the ads more impressions.
Dollar for dollar, I’d probably skip advertising. SocialQuant or Narrow.io would get more followers for the money.
Bonus: Another way to “pay” for Twitter followers is to offer a discount to new followers. And it works. Discounts are the #1 reason people follow brands.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to growing your Twitter account. And while there are tools that can speed up the process, it’s better to not try to hit 10,000 followers in your first month.
Go for quality, and get your Twitter skills sharp first. Then, if you want to try out advertising or some of the paid growth tools, have at it. They do actually work. I checked my Twitter account for fake followers after doing all this advertising and still got a squeaky-clean report.
What do you think?
What’s your preferred way to get more followers on Twitter? Know of any must-use tools I missed? Give us your two cents in the comments.