I'm so close I can feel it.
Over the past months, I've been experimenting more and more with social media, trying to find out how to gain more followers. It's not just for fun. If you only have a few hundred followers, you're speaking to a small audience.
For me, Twitter helps spread the word about new articles and keeps me connected with readers. It's also one of the primary tools I use for connecting with public relations folks. Sometimes, I even send out a mass tweet and let people know I'm leaving for the day or that I'm focusing on answering emails for the next hour or so. It's invaluable.
Back in 2011, I wrote a fairly seminal piece (at least, it was seminal for me) about gaining more Twitter followers. My goal back then was to hit 800 followers in a few weeks. I used a tool called Sprout Social. (In fact, I'm still using this app on my HTC One smartphone, on the Web, and on my iPad after two years.) It's best feature is the ability to post one tweet to multiple accounts at once and then track your success in how many people retweet what you say. And, I love the simple interface.
After two years, I am now approaching about 5,000 followers. It's great. I know my social media efforts have paid off and that there's a wider audience that reads what I post. What I've heard from a few experts is that my audience for social media is more "organic" than most. People seem to follow because they really want to read my posts. They say it's better to have fewer "real" followers than thousands of fake ones who may or may not care about what you have to say--and never click on your links.
That said, I'm still open to ideas. So I put out a call with a few social media experts who looked at my Twitter activity and they came up with a few more ideas. These tips seem to be working so far, although I have not quite hit the 5,000 mark yet. I'm close!
1. Post the same links multiple times
Rebecca Caroe is a social media expert at Creative Agency Secrets in New Zealand. She helped me quite a bit because I was making a big mistake. I usually only posted a link once or twice, but people tend to make "drive-bys" on a Twitter stream and only check for recent activity. There's a reason why the show Million Second Quiz on NBC posts a dozen tweets an hour. They are hoping casual followers at least see a few interesting links.
Caroe told me to post my own links at least three times in a day hitting a few different time zones. I've started doing this lately. Over the past month, I've added about 130 followers which seems to be tied to this change in how I post my links. I may even start posting the same link more times per day and see if that helps.
These links increase your followers when people visit your Twitter page and see what you've been up to and what you do. People follow active posters.
2. Follow your followers on other social channels
This one seems obvious but it's easy to overlook. The fact is, the followers you have on Facebook, Google Plus, and LinkedIn might not be following you on Twitter.
Maybe they don't even know you are on Twitter--or they don't know your handle. (Mine is a little obscure on purpose. It means they are following me because they know the handle and not the other John Brandons.) Caroe also told me to ping my followers on other nets and ask them if they want to follow me on Twitter. This is a manual process, unfortunately. (There's a good start-up idea right there--a tool to automate this.)
Of course, the trick is to follow people in your same field and who have similar interests. You should also look for "influencers" who have a lot of followers. By following these folks, you are making an introduction to state your intent and, in many cases, they will follow you back. In general, following the influencers is a strategy every social media expert told me about. By spending a few minutes looking for the gurus and following them, you can find a bastion of new followers for yourself.
3. Interact with your followers like crazy
Harry Hawk, the social media strategist for Leske's Bakery in Brooklyn, told me he increased his followers to 5,000 in just two months, mostly by following key influencers. He says the key is to go beyond just a follow, though. He told me he's interacted with high-profile companies like @KlondikeBars and @Toyota by posting questions and interacting with them. Eventually, after a relationship develops, the influencers will feel compelled to follow you back. This is also a great way to keep the followers you do have--letting them know you are alive and active on Twitter, not comatose.
4. Show your personality
I keep hearing this advice from most social media experts like Phil Laboon, the CEO of marketing agency EyeFlow, so I've been trying to live this one out. The idea is to be yourself--to show your character. Too many Twitter streams have a banal list of links and nothing else. You get the feeling there's a bot generating them. New followers will find you eventually, but they will decide whether they want to stick around when they see you are a real person talking about a real company. I've been inserting a few jokes here and there, adding quips and quotes, and always (always!) answering direct messages. When someone gives me a mention on Twitter, I try to thank them and post a follow-up response. This tells new followers they will get the same kind of attentive response.
"Don't just build followers. You really need to stay active and continually engage with your audience, not just build useless followers you never engage with. You need to share engaging, valuable, or educational content. You really have to establish yourself as an resource for something whether tips, articles, news, opinions, or humor," says Laboon.
After two years of working hard, my goal is on the horizon. When I finally do hit 5,000, I'll post again with the tips that worked the best.