Twitter has become my “first choice” social network of late. By that I mean I usually check Twitter before Facebook, Instagram, or email in the morning.
How could that be?
Just a year ago, I barely knew what Twitter was for, or how to use it.
My relationship with Twitter has looked like this:
2008: I don’t get it.
2009: I don’t get it.
2010: I don’t get it.
2011: OK, I’ll create an account. Here’s my first tweet:
2012: I’ll log in occasionally when I’m bored.
2013: I begin to use and understand Twitter regularly.
2014: A part of my daily habits.
Around the time I started Side Hustle Nation in the spring of 2013, I had around 200 followers. They were mostly friends or acquaintances, along with some random people.
I didn’t tweet very often or about any particular topic, so there wasn’t much reason for “strangers” to follow me.
This month, my followers grew past 3000.
The rest of this post will cover what I did to grow that following, what impact it’s had on my business, and whether anyone should care.
How to Gain More Twitter Followers
This is not rocket science.
Here is my not-so-groundbreaking two-step strategy:
1. Tweet regularly.
2. Follow more people.
Why You Might Want More Twitter Followers
First of all, we should probably address why someone might want to grow their Twitter following to begin with.
There are two main reasons I can think of:
1. Prestige and perceived authority.
All else being equal, the person with more followers appears to be more established and more authoritative.
Note that this has nothing to do with the content they share or the quality of their ideas; it’s solely a snap judgement based on the number of followers they’ve attracted.
With a number of services selling bulk Twitter followers very cheaply (more on this later), you can actually buy yourself into a position of perceived authority quite quickly.
2. An audience to connect with to read and share your content.
As your follower count grows — provided they are “real” followers interested in what you have to say — you’re building yourself a powerful broadcast channel.
If you want to get your message out, whether that’s a new blog post or a new product for sale, and you have 100,000 followers, there’s a good chance your message will reach some of those people and they may even turn around and share it on your behalf with their followers.
I’ve taken a hybrid approach to reach these two goals. Buying followers or using some automated tools could have grown the base faster, but they might not be the most connected or relevant to my “side hustle” material.
No one wants to follow a dormant account, so it makes sense to post at least a few times a week. Plus, when I search “nick loper” on Google, my Twitter profile is the 2nd result (after only this site).
I think it’s smart to have that stream populated with relevant and timely information to show people you’re active and engaged on the platform.
If I was left to my own devices, I’d probably have a hard time coming up with stuff to post. To combat that, I use a number of tools that help fill my stream with relevant content.
With my free IFTTT (if this, then that) account, I have a “recipe” set up that automatically adds each new blog post I write on SideHustleNation to my Buffer account so it gets tweeted out later that day or the next day.
Buffer is a free (and paid) social media sharing tool that allows you to space out your posts and add new content into your sharing queue, or buffer.
What I’ll do is go through my Feedly blog reader and add the best posts into my Buffer stream. With the free account, you can line up 10 posts at a time and customize the time they post to Twitter.
Lately I’ve been using Buffer’s suggested tweets as well, which are usually pretty interesting articles I otherwise might not have seen.
Buffer sends me a weekly report on how well my content did in terms of clicks, favorites, and retweets.
Revive Old Post (Formerly Tweet Old Post)
Revive Old Post is a free WordPress plugin that helps breathe new life into some of your older content. I have it set up to share archive posts from certain categories every 18 hours
This is helpful because as you’re constantly adding new followers, they might never have been exposed to some of your best or most useful content if you don’t use this tool to get it in front of them.
Triberr is a free service where you can join “tribes” of like-minded people or other bloggers in your niche and share each other’s content.
It’s a good curation medium to find relevant and interesting posts to share, and there is a lot of reciprocity that goes on in that other tribe members will likely share your content as well. (If it’s good.)
Follow More People
Although there are some automated tools to help you build your follower base, including TweetAdder and SocialOomph, I was hesitant to spend any money on it because quite frankly I had no idea what a twitter follower was worth.
(And a year later, I pretty much still don’t.)
Following people in the hope they’ll follow you back can be perceived as underhanded or shady, but that’s certainly not the intention.
It’s a low cost way to expose new people to your brand and potentially make some interesting connections.
How does it work? Many Twitter users receive email notifications when someone new begins following them, and that email will show your profile picture and bio. If you have a compelling enough bio, they’ll follow you back.
I’ve gotten dozens of responses by people saying they love my “will work for freedom” picture, or asking about the “Chief Side Hustler” job title.
It’s an excuse to start a conversation with someone you might otherwise have never met.
To find interesting people to follow, there are several strategies I’ve used:
1. Twitter’s suggestions
Twitter provides a recommended list of people to follow on nearly every page. I like to check out the profiles of those suggestions to see what they’re all about.
In my case, Twitter suggests a lot of Kindle authors and bloggers in the personal finance space.
A couple things I’ll look for on these profiles, aside from at least a semi-relevant bio, is a roughly even follower/following ratio and the date of their latest activity.
Here’s my reasoning on those criteria. Users with a similar number of followers to accounts they follow are more likely to follow-back, since they understand the game.
And I’ll look at the timestamp of their most recent tweet to see if they’re still an active user. If it’s been a couple months since their last update, they’re probably not a regular user and may never see the notice that I followed them.
2. @mentions in my stream
Whenever I’m looking through my twitter feed, I’ll check out the other users the people I’m following are mentioning or retweeting.
If they’re already “2nd degree” connections, I figure they might be good 1st degree connections as well — and I’ll follow them directly.
You can search Twitter for whatever topic you’re interested in and find people talking about that subject or mentioning it in their bios.
For example, I’ll sometimes search for “side hustle,” “entrepreneurship,” “marketing,” “podcast,” or other keywords and follow the users in the results.
Aside from Twitter’s built-in search, another tool you can try for this is WhoTalking.com.
Every month or so, I’ll go through and do a quick “purge” of those users who didn’t follow me back.
Why? Because going back to that “perceived authority” benefit, I think that perception is lessened when you’re following more people than follow you.
Is this kind of follower-count “sculpting” a worthy human endeavor? It’s kind of embarrassing to even be writing about it. More on the “results” of my Twitter social media plan in a minute.
There are 3 tools I use for this:
TwitNerd is a free tool that will give you a full list of all the people you’re following who don’t follow you back. You can opt to unfollow them individually or in bulk.
TwitNerd warns that following and unfollowing mass amounts of people in short periods of time can get your account in trouble, which is why I only process this one time per month.
Note: I don’t unfollow EVERYONE who doesn’t follow me. But most. I also make an effort to follow back most who follow me. If you’re reading this and I’m not following you back, just let me know and I’ll fix that right away!
UnTweeps is another free tool, but this one shows you the inactive accounts you are following. You can ask for a list of people who haven’t tweeted in 30, 60, or 90 days and unfollow those users.
The theory is why “waste” followings on users who aren’t even active.
This one hit home when it suggested I unfollow my wife! I couldn’t do it…
3. Twitter Lists
You’ve probably heard the argument that no one can realistically follow thousands of people of they really want to engage and see every tweet in their stream.
One way around that is to create Twitter Lists to segment the people you follow into neat little categories.
For example, you could have lists for friends, other bloggers in your niche, news outlets, and athletes and celebrities.
That way, you’ll be able to keep up with the users you’re most interested in in a more organized way.
Full disclosure: I make no attempt to read every tweet that comes through my stream, and don’t expect my followers to either. And this is the myth of Twitter “reach” — only a small fraction of your followers are likely to see or act on any individual tweet.
The Easy Button: Buying Followers
If all I cared about was increasing the follower count, I could have accomplished this in no time and for almost no money.
There’s a huge market for buying followers. In fact, at least one seller on SEOclerk promises to add 2000 “verified” followers to your account this week for just $1.
That initial burst of followers might help you with your perceived authority, giving you the appearance of immediate social proof, but they definitely won’t do anything for your bottom line.
In terms of reading your content, buying your products, or clicking your affiliate links, fake followers are worthless.
Are Followers a Vanity Metric?
Does the number of Twitter followers really matter? Is it just some number that’s fun to chase without any real meaning to the bottom line?
As is true with most things, it’s not the quantity of connections that count, but rather the quality of those connections.
And while “quality” can be tough to measure, I do have some data to share.
Twitter as a Traffic Source
So far this year, Twitter has driven over 2100 visits to my site. (Earlier in the year, SlideShare actually held the #1 referral spot.)
To run this report in your own Google Analytics, visit Acquisitions > Channels > Social:
Now 2000 visits doesn’t mean much without the big picture. During the timeframe measured, the site generated 69,356 total visits, meaning Twitter accounted for only 3.1% of the overall traffic.
(The good news: that percentage is double what it was in 2013.)
And I should note that the volume is much higher than Quora and way less time-intensive! Because of the tools and processes I have in place, I’d like to believe Twitter doesn’t take up 3% of my time, so that’s an efficient trade.
Twitter for Reaching New Readers
So if Twitter, though growing, is not a life or death source of traffic, one exciting thing is the 1032 “new users” shown in the image above.
Acquiring new readers and subscribers and podcast listeners is hugely important, so at least Twitter is doing a decent job at that.
If I can avoid turning Twitter into a time-suck, it appears to be a good channel to reach fellow side hustlers.
A Note On Mobile
One surprising piece of data that came out of my analysis was the percentage of Twitter traffic that came in on a mobile device. In some meaningful way, mobile traffic is less valuable than desktop traffic because mobile users are less likely to opt-in to your email list.
The facts: 60% of my traffic comes from laptops and desktops, but that traffic accounts for 84% of my email sign-ups.
I expected the Twitter traffic to be heavily skewed toward mobile, but it wasn’t. I was actually surprised to see it slightly lower (38% vs. 40%) than the sitewide average:
But as feared, a big fat ZERO email sign-ups from Twitter mobile traffic.
Still, any traffic is good traffic. Every interaction is a chance to impress someone new with your content and have them share it or come back later to dig deeper.
Twitter will still be a fixture in my overall strategy, and now that I’ve had a year of activity on the network I’m beginning to see the value and potential.
It’s a great platform to ask and answer quick questions, make introductions, engage and re-engage with members of your community, begin new connections, and more.
But don’t expect it to be a silver bullet in terms of driving traffic or sales to your site.
I don’t know that it makes sense to invest in automated tools to help grow your following. Maybe I’ll have to do an experiment and see what impact they have!
How do you use Twitter? Is it a worthwhile avenue to spend your time on?