Back in 2008 I only had a few followers on Twitter - of course things are different now. But this is my story. Let's take a journey back to the early days...
People join Twitter for a variety of different reasons and this article is not meant to judge anyone in their use of it. No doubt the way I use Twitter goes against many of the twitterverse but I, like everyone else out there, is free to ‘try their own thing'. Isn't this what social networking services are all about?
Anyway, let's get down to business...
Why I wanted to get 16,000 followers - I was a happy Twitter user in the ‘old days' (at about the turn of the year!) and like many many people out there just had a few friends. But sometimes Twitter gets addictive and after a few months of using the service I wondered what it would be like to chat to a few more people on a regular basis. So I followed a few more people and happily continued using Twitter with about 100 people on my list. It was shortly after this that I started to get Direct Messages (DMs) and tweets from people promising me 16,000 followers in only 90 days if I clicked the attached link. I clicked a few of the links and they were all advertising ‘spam' and pretty soon I started to get a little annoyed with it all. I actually came close to giving up on Twitter at that point. Well, a few other things happened in my life at about that time too, and so I had a little more opportunity to grow my Social Network on other services like Facebook. I wondered to myself whether it was also worth growing my Twitter network too. What the heck? If other people can grow 16,000 followers, why shouldn't I be able to? And I was determined to grow my followers without resorting to any artificial methods (no steroids for me!). I was going to do it the hard way. Blood, sweat and tears. All in all it has taken me about 2.5 months to get my 16,000. I could have been more aggressive and done it quicker, but I would have lost the richness of the experience and the twitterverse along the way. So, this is the @jcx27 method of getting 16,000 Twitter followers.
Step 1: Building your brand - First things first. If you really want to build followers (and keep them) you have to work out just what your message is going to be. Furthermore, you have to stick to that message. Change it, or go off topic too often and your followers will leave. After all, there's plenty of interesting people out there as well as you! My strong recommendation is that BEFORE you start building a follower base you start tweeting and discover where your niche is. Write at least 200-300 tweets before you start actively pursuing new followers. Failure to find your brand and style will lead to failure later!
Step 2: Growing your user base - the first 2,000 - Ok, so you've written your 250 tweets, you've got maybe 50 followers already and you're ready to hit the big time! Twitter has some rules about how quickly you can build new followers, especially in the early days (and Twitter defines the early days as following up to 2,000 people). You can, if you are crazy enough, follow 1,000 people on each of the first couple of days and then come to a screaming halt on day three when Twitter tells you it won't allow you to follow anyone else until the number of people following you has caught up. Hmm. Not the best plan of attack! No, take it slowly; follow two to three hundred people every day. Watch who follows you back, perform maintenance (covered in part two of the post) , tweet some more and start to get in the Twitter groove. Remember this isn't a race, it's a way to build a solid social network. Eventually you will reach your 2,000 Twitter follow limit and hopefully the number of people you have following you at that time will be close behind. If it's not, perform some more maintenance and repeat. After a couple of weeks (possibly) you will have your 2,000 followers! Then it's time for the next phase.
Step 3: The middle years 2,000 - 10,000 - there are thousands and thousands of Twitterers out there that have between 2,000 and 10,000 followers. You need to know this up front going into this phase of your growth. Competition is tough. Unfollows are common. Some days can be depressing! Your target is to grow your followers by somewhere between 250 and 400 a day. Sounds easy? Try again! Getting 250 to 400 followers every day AND KEEPING THEM is hard work. It means you're going to have to follow somewhere between 800 and a 1,000 people every day in the hope that 30% to 40% of them follow you back. This is where previous efforts spent on brand definition come into play. If you have been tweeting regularly every day and you have 50 or so close twitter followers that interact with you regularly then you stand more chance of success during this phase of growth. Remember, just because you have 2,000 followers (or even 7,000 followers) doesn't mean people are just going to seek you out and follow you automatically. And there are still Twitter limits to watch out for too. If who you are following gets more than about 10% ahead of your followers count then Twitter will stop you adding more until they even up a little. Also if you try to follow too many people in one day (probably due to the previous) then Twitter will also stop you following for a time. You will find you need to be on Twitter for a lot of the day and slowly add people for this phase to be most effective. And that's a lot more hard work! Still, eventually you will reach your goal of 10,000 followers and you will be ready to move on to running a mature Twitter account.
Step 4: Maturity and nurturing your followers - When you finally reach 10,000 followers you are overcome with emotion! There's something about hitting that magic number. I mean, how many other people out there have 10,000 followers you ask yourself? (Quite a lot actually. Probably about 20,000 or so!). Still, you consider yourself one of the elite now. You tweet regularly, you reply to lots of people, you try to remember to retweet other's good posts and you generally feel on top of your game. But, and here's the kicker, you've still got another 6,000 followers to go. And it's getting a bit old this routine, isn't it? It's a lot of work. Every day you have to add followers, remove people who don't follow you back ,send out a fistful of tweets, interact with friends, and stay on brand topic. It's getting a bit like a job! Well, guess what? It IS a job. Welcome to social networking my friend! The funny thing is remember at the beginning when I spoke about those DMs that promised 16,000 followers in 90 days? All those people will never ever get 16,000 followers (and if you look at most of them they actually have less than 1,000 followers). The reason is quite simple. They don't want the hard work of interacting with their followers. They don't actually want a social network. They want the easy life. If you have now reached 10,000 followers you know this is not an easy life! Anyway, back to the plot. Once you're through the 10,000 mark you can be a little more aggressive, if you want, about follow numbers every day. You should also start noticing a bigger number of people that start following you too without you instigating the follow. Numbers talk! You still need to do your maintenance and you still need to keep tweeting though. The other thing that's easy to forget is that as you are growing followers, a lot of the newbies don't know much about you. Sure, your first 2,000 loyal followers know all about you. But the last 2,000? They're probably just those who started following you in the past week! They know nothing about you. You need to spend time introducing yourself to them, letting them know what you do, how you do it. This is how you nurture your followers. Your core followers will forgive you and your new followers will be grateful. Remember, it's a tough world out there and you don't want to start losing follows at this stage of the game! Ok, fast forward. Somewhere between 60 and 90 days after you started, if you have followed all the advice, you finally reach your 16,000 followers. HOORAY!!! Life stops? No, life goes on. What's next? 20,000? 30,000? Only you know the answer to that. For me, I'm undecided. When I first decided to get to my 16,000 it was a challenge. Now it's a way of life. I love my little twitterverse. I love their conversation and observations. It's become a two-way relationship.
In part two of this post I will discuss the topics of maintaining, adding and purging followers; What, how and when to post; earning money on Twitter; Direct Messages; Linking Twitter to Facebook and blogs; and a few other hints and tips.
Until then, keep tweeting...