Or, How I Grew My Twitter Following By 53% In 90 Days
“If I told you that my global audience has shot up 100% in the last six months, what would you say? If you were to say, “So you went from one reader to two readers?” you’d be absolutely correct. And after I had congratulated you on your keen guess, I’d thank you for being 50% of my reading base.”
― Jarod Kintz, This is the best book I’ve ever written, and it still sucks
So yeah, talking about audience growth, particularly as a percentage, can be terribly misleading. Before we get any further then, let’s talk facts.
January, 2014 – With approximately 10,000 followers through organic growth since starting my Twitter profile years earlier, I began to tweet more often, and to have light engagement with Twitter followers.
January, 2015 – With approximately 15,000 followers through organic growth, I began to investigate additional methods and growth hacks to reach more targeted followers (more on that in a moment).
January, 2016 – With approximately 25,000 followers, I’ve grown my followers by 60% over the past year, and most of that has been over the past 3 months.
That’s right. Since October 3, 2015, I’ve added 8793 new followers.
And that number continues to rise daily.
But let me be clear, this isn’t about creating an inflated vanity metric. Other than being jacked about a fun number like 25,000, you won’t see me talking about how I have thousands of Twitter followers anywhere else. I’ve already grown larger followings and communities on other platforms.
Rather, this is about how important it is to be able to reach more and more targeted people. People that are actually interested in reading what you have to say and hearing your message. Readers. Prospects. Clients.
Those are the people we all want to reach, and we should be thrilled when we’re able to reach more.
So am I excited about this? You bet! I’m particularly excited to be sharing with you the details of how I got here, and how you can too.
Potential Benefits of Growth Hacking Twitter
While I’m sure everyone agrees that more targeted followers on any social platform is a good thing, what we can’t all agree on is the benefits, because that depends on you. We all have different goals and purposes, and therefore different expectations and results from social media usage. What follows are the potential benefits for me, and someone like me, who produces content consistently as part of their business and marketing strategy. Results may vary.
It makes sense that if someone follows you on a particular social network, they’ve seen you. They looked at your profile or something you shared and made a decision to take the next step and follow you. Maybe they’ve been aware of you for a while, or maybe this is their first exposure, but either way the action of following you proves a minimum amount of brand awareness has been achieved.
And now that they’re following you, you have an opportunity to improve upon that brand awareness over time with your ongoing Twitter activity. The more interesting and engaging tweets from you they see, the better their impression of you and your brand.
Increasing Twitter Impressions since Oct. 2015
Note that ‘brand’ can be a personal brand or business brand. For instance, while I have a company, The Social Media Hat, and branded profiles on all social networks for that company, I have also developed a personal brand around myself as an author and consultant. On the other hand, at SiteSell, where I’m the CMO, our focus is on building our corporate brand and community, and many of the techniques mentioned below have been just as effective for @SiteSell as they have been for @Mike_Allton.
With increases in followers and engagement come increases in Twitter social signals: retweets and mentions.
Now, metrics like these can vary wildly, since it depends greatly on what and how often you’re tweeting. But if your Twitter activity is generally consistent, but you continue to gain significant followers each day, that’s more people who are seeing and potentially sharing your tweets and information.
That increased engagement will lead to more people seeing your brand and information, but in this case they’re seeing it, not from you, but from someone else they’re connected with, lending you and your tweets additional weight.
For example, I might share a tweet to a recent blog post, like this:
— Mike Allton (@mike_allton) January 14, 2016
And that’s nice. My followers appreciate that, and it helps to establish that I’m an authority on the topic of content marketing.
But what happens with someone else shares a tweet to that blog post?
— Mari Smith (@MariSmith) January 12, 2016
How do you think I’m perceived by Mari’s followers?
As you can see, when an influencer shares something from you, not only does it have greater potential for social activity, but it puts you in front of a larger, different audience. Each time someone like Mari shares one of my articles, I gain more followers, and more importantly, I connect with more people who are really interested in me and my content.
There are, of course, lots of ways to get your content in front of influencers, but if you’re gaining lots of new followers, that means it’s more likely other influencers will discover you organically (trust me, that’s how people like Mari Smith found me!).
With increases in followers and engagement, retweets and mentions, there will definitely be a corresponding increase in referral traffic to your site.
Or, um… about that.
Look, I’d like to guarantee that you’ll get more Twitter referral traffic from all of this, but that’s simply not a given. While it’s great that you’re increasing the size of your audience and platform, for all of the reasons above, whether or not that translates into more traffic to your content will depend on the content that you’re sharing.
Every article. Every tweet. Everything you say on Twitter is different and unique. Even the same article shared in the same way is shared at a different time, reaching a different subset of your Twitter audience that happens to be receptive to your tweet at that moment. (Which is why it’s critical that you keep sharing that content over and over!)
So what does that mean with regard to this benefit of traffic? Still a lot, actually.
You see, if everything else remains equal, more followers should see your activity and click-through to your content. But while the variances in tweets and timing will make that hard to discern at first, I believe that over time, one will see a slow but steady increase in traffic.
Unfortunately, that’s not easily measured. Google Analytics will show you all of your referral traffic from Twitter, of course, mostly displayed as t.co, Twitter’s link shortener. But that’s all Twitter referral traffic, not just traffic from your growing follower base. If you use systems like Triberr, like I do, to accelerate new content, there’ll be disruptive spikes each time you publish.
You could make sure that every time you share some of your own content you use your own custom short link, thereby giving yourself the ability to track every clickthrough on those tweets specifically. But what about your followers who click through, read your incredible article, and can’t wait to tweet it out themselves? That’s an important element to the growth we’re hoping to engender.
Which means that realistically, you’re not going to be able to “science the shit out of this” as Mark Watney would say.
That comes later.
All of that said, Twitter is now my top source of traffic next to Google, passing Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Facebook, all of which are still doing well. Twitter has simply grown faster for me over the past year.
Increased Subscribers / Leads
The last benefit is, of course, the best. I will explain in a moment how I go about doing this, but basically speaking, about 10% of my new followers on Twitter each day become email subscribers that day. Many more learn a great deal about me and the kind of content I put out, making them far more receptive and interested in new articles like this one.
Before we get into the specific techniques I’ve been using to achieve dramatic growth, we need to cover some basics to help make your foundation is secure. If you aren’t already doing these things, make sure you take the time or the accelerated techniques will be far less effective.
First and foremost, if you want people to be interested enough to follow you on Twitter, you need to make sure that your profile is complete and optimal. That means:
- Use a great, smiling profile image
- Use a custom cover photo
- Give some thought to your profile and link
While you’re limited in what you can say in your profile, it’s your one chance to say something specifically to a potential new follower before they make that decision. So give it some thought! Who are you, and what does that mean to me? What do you routinely talk about? Your title and business name are OK, but you can do better than that.
It should go without saying that tweeting regularly is needed in order to not only leverage those new followers, but actually encourage people to follow you. If they look at your Twitter timeline and you’ve tweeted twice since last May, most people won’t waste their time. In fact, there are quite a few utilities that help people manage their Twitter profiles which will automatically unfollow profiles that haven’t been active for 6 months.
When you’re just starting out on Twitter, it’s OK to tweet once or twice a day. You need time to ‘ramp up’ which includes generating your own unique content to share, identifying other influencers and news sources that you might routinely tweet, and figuring out what your general voice will be on the channel.
As your Twitter and overall online presence matures, you’re going to want and need the help of tools to automate and enhance what you’re doing. There are a lot to choose from, and you really only need a handful. Here’s my current mix and use-case:
- Hootsuite – this is the tool that I use to monitor my Twitter activity. I also use Hootsuite to spread out any tweets that I want to share that particularly day, like on Monday’s when all of my colleagues publish great new articles.
- Buffer – this is the tool that I use to automatically share content from trusted sources, on a predetermined schedule. More on that in a moment.
- SocialOomph – while I used to use Buffer to share my old, evergreen content on a regular schedule, the amount of content that I’ve amassed over the years outgrew that tool, so I transitioned to SocialOomph. With SocialOomph, I’m able to maintain a queue of 500+ tweets with links to articles in my archive. I’m therefore able to share one of my old articles to Twitter about every 90 minutes and go a whole month without recycling.
- Bit.ly – I mentioned above the importance of having a custom shortlink for your content. You can set that up in Bit.ly, and then tie your Bit.ly account to both Buffer and Shareaholic, the buttons I use for social sharing on my website, so that every tweet that goes out uses my custom link.
- Commun.it – with a tool like Commun.it, you can automatically mention and engage with new followers, people that mentioned you that day, or perhaps those who retweeted you to the largest audiences.
- Brandwatch – I use Brandwatch daily to monitor my Twitter account growth, as well as specific campaigns. The charts make it easy to see the impact that my combined Twitter activity is having, not just on pure follower growth, but on mentions, retweets, and my growing audience reach.
- Triberr – I use Triberr to share my latest post with other bloggers in my field, as well as curate their latest posts to tweet out to my followers.
- IFTTT – I use If This Then That to automatically add the latest articles from a few my closest, most trusted friends and colleagues to Buffer. Every week, articles from Mark Schaefer, Peg Fitzpatrick, Jay Baer, Heidi Cohen, Jeff Sieh and others are automatically added to my Twitter queue along with an @mention of them. Interested? Here’s the recipe.
All of that is automated or semi-automated. On the manual side, I:
- Check my RSS feeds in Feedly 2x a day and tweet or schedule shares of great articles that I find.
- Pay attention to emailed newsletters and other social channels and if I see a great article, particularly from one of my colleagues, it goes out on Twitter.
- Use Hootsuite to monitor some of the Twitter Lists that I’ve set up, often retweeting interesting tweets from people.
- Use Hootsuite to monitor Mentions, as it’s important to thank every person who engages with you, and respond to questions. I personally answer every question that’s posed to me, and make an effort to thank all those who share my content. Of course, the more active and engaged your Twitter profile is, the harder it is to scale such activities. While I had to stop monitoring and thanking people for retweets long ago, I do still pay attention to mentions.
Here’s what my recent timeline looks like right now:
If you publish new, original content regularly, people will be more inclined to follow you on Twitter, or their social network of choice. They’ll be running in, or ‘subscribing’, so that they won’t miss anything new that you put out. It’s a successful technique that Darren Rowse, Jeff Bullas, Brian Clark, Michael Stelzner, Heidi Cohen and thousands of other bloggers have used successfully.
While you can still grow a strong Twitter following without providing any of your own content, I think it’s harder. You certainly have to do something that’s unique. So if you aren’t going to answer questions and provide information via blog posts, what will you do?
Not to mention, if you’re regularly adding new content to your website, you’ll be improving your overall online presence, search engine ranking, and ability to gain new traffic and leads. Ideally, you’ll publish 3 new posts per week until you get to 50 – 75 pieces of content in your archive, and then throttle down to a more reasonable 1 post per week (unless your business model depends on more frequent content, of course).
While not strictly necessary, or always possible, there are a handful of things that you can do to help solidify that foundation before you move on to the hacks.
- Twitter Cards – set up your blog posts so that the appropriate meta tags communicate your article’s details to Twitter. Once set up and approved, any tweets of your content will automatically include link previews like on other networks.
- Attached Images – it’s always a good idea to include images with your own tweets, and if you’re using a tool like SocialOomph, you can also attach images to the tweets in your queue.
- Follow Button / Icon – you can have Twitter icons and follow buttons on your website and blog posts, as well as places like your email signature. I’ve also added it to my business cards.
- Tweet Chats – you can also participate is scheduled tweet chats – sessions where a bunch of Twitter users get online at the same time and answer questions using the same hashtag. They’re fantastic opportunities to connect with like-minded users and demonstrate expertise.
- Pinned Tweet – Twitter will allow you to permanently display any of your tweets at the top of your timeline, making it the first tweet a new follower sees if they look at your profile. You can pin a new tweet any time you wish by going to your profile, click the … button in the lower left of a tweet to reveal more options, and select “Pin to your profile page.” While you can pin any of your tweets, what’s particularly effective is if you pin one of your best articles that contains a digital download for lead generation, a technique we’re going to discuss in more detail momentarily.
Now, to the moment you’ve all been waiting for. The Hacks.
As a quick aside, some of you may be familiar with the term Growth Hacking, and some if you may not. Some of you may even think it’s a bunch of hooey (yes, hooey). So let me be clear:
Growth Hacking is not just another term for Marketing. Growth Hacking, rather, is a subset of traditional marketing that is characterized by the extensive use of specific tools and techniques to achieve rapid, measurable growth. While many of these techniques, and the overarching idea of growth hacking itself, are not new. It is helpful to give consideration to growth hacking and incorporating such hacks into your business model and marketing strategy. And there’s a clear difference between growth hacking and more traditional marketing methods like advertising or even blogging. (In fact, most of the “lists” of growth hacks that you might read, unfortunately, are filled with suggestions that aren’t growth hacks at all, which is where there’s so much debate and confusion around the phrase.)
Growth Hacking Preparation
First, there’s some additional prep that we need to do.
- Lead Generation – You need to have a piece of content that you can direct people to that is awesome. People need to read your article and be blown away. It also needs to have a “content upgrade” – that is, something that they can have emailed to them that is related to that initial article. It might be a PDF version of the article, a checklist for everything you outlined in the article, or something else along those lines. I use my Blog Promotionology article, which lists all of the things that I do to promote a new blog post, and include a Blog Promotion Checklist that readers can have emailed to them to help them with each new post. (Note that I initially tried using gated content – a post where you had to subscribe to get the full article, rather than an upgrade – but that didn’t work as well. Fewer people were interested in subscribing, and some people didn’t like that I sent them there to begin with.) Whatever you choose to use, make sure that it’s great, and that there’s an element to it that encourages people to subscribe to your list (which means that the post itself must apply to your target audience!).
- Automated Direct Message – Here’s the thing. In order to leverage new Twitter followers, you have to use Auto DMs. I know not everyone likes auto DMs, which is why I wrote “Auto Direct Messages, Bane or Blessing?” But here’s the thing. If done right, you have an incredible opportunity to warmly welcome your new followers and offer them something very real and interesting. DO IT!I use SocialOomph to send auto DMs to new followers. Using SocialOomph, I’m able to programmatically vary my messages so that the same exact message isn’t sent over and over. But they’re generally all the same. I don’t say things like “hey, thanks for following” or other meaningless rubbish. I simply share with them that promoting blog posts to wider and wider audiences is something I struggle with, we all struggle with, but that I’ve put together a massive article that might help them. At that point, I share a trackable link, and it works. My new followers love it. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Here are just a few of the replies I’ve received:
“It does, thank you!”
“WOW! That’s great! Thanks so much.”
“You kick content marketing ass!”
(I particularly liked that last one.)
Once you’ve set up your Twitter profile to be optimized for follower growth, and to warmly welcome new followers, it’s time to start hacking and getting that growth accelerated.
Here are the five best growth hacks for building up your Twitter followers. [tweet that!]
Growth Hack #1 – Use Click To Tweet On Your Best Posts
When you’ve got a great article that’s drawing a lot of attention, build some additional Twitter shares and mentions into it by adding 2 – 4 Click To Tweet links.
A Click To Tweet link is when you find a quote or a statistic and build a clickable link that will create for the user a tweet, pre-written with that text along with a link to your blog post and your Twitter @username.
Each time someone shares one of those quotes or statistics, it’s another link tweeted out to your content, along with a mention. Some people are more inclined to share a stat than to use the regular tweet button, so this encourages more shares and mentions, which leads to more traffic and followers.
Growth Hack #2 – Targeted Follow First
Generally, the ‘follow first’ method of gaining new followers, on any social network, is a waste of time. You follow 100 or even 1000 so-called “recommended” profiles and a tiny fraction follow you back.
But what if you could follow Twitter users who are targeted in some way? Users who have already demonstrated an interest in the kinds of topics you’re writing and tweet about.
- Go to the Twitter profiles of peers, colleagues and competitors, click on Followers, and follow some of those accounts.
- Do a search on a particular hashtag or keyword, identify active profiles, and follow them, then follow some of their followers.
If you want to make a really good impression on someone you find on Twitter and would really love to begin to build a relationship with:
- Follow them.
- Favorite a few of their recent tweets.
- Retweet one or two of their recent tweets, particularly if it’s new content they’ve published.
- Reply to one or two of their tweets with an insightful comment.
- Repeat regularly and genuinely.
Growth Hack #3 – Following Email Lists
Most of the time, our goal will be to transition Twitter followers into email subscribers, so there’s little point in trying to get email subscribers to follow us on Twitter. However, most of us have other lists of emails. We have personal contacts, client and prospect lists, and perhaps even purchased lists.
But wait, Mike, there’s no way to bulk follow or import into Twitter, is there?
Oh yes, there is.
- Make sure that you have a Gmail or Yahoo email account.
- Import all of your email contacts into that email account.
- Log into your Twitter profile and go to Settings -> Find Friends.
- Connect the email account and approve access.
Twitter will take a few moments to match up your email address with existing Twitter users, and then present you with a list of new folks to follow. Select all those that you wish to follow and then click the Follow button.
If you want to take that to the next level, connect your account to FollowerWonk, a tool owned by Moz, and analyze your followers regularly. You can pick out those who have a stronger social and online presence and give them the influencer treatment.
Growth Hack #4 – Use IFTTT to List Targeted Twitter Users
Using IFTTT, you can do a variety of Twitter searches for specific kinds of users, and add them to a list that you’ve created. Each time you add someone to a list, they’ll get a notification and will consider following your Twitter account if it’s interesting.
You can put people in list who are
- Following other specific Twitter profiles (competitors, for instance)
- Mentioning other specific Twitter profiles
- Using specific hashtags
You can have up to 50 lists, and each list can contain up to 5,000 users. Unfortunately, that means that this technique has a limited lifespan since, eventually, you’ll fill all of your lists. But while it lasts, it’s an easy and excellent technique to get you started.
Growth Hack #5 – Use SocialQuant to Follow Targeted Twitter Users
Of course this is the real winner, the one technique that grew my Twitter following by over 50% in 90 days.
SocialQuant is a system that is constantly analyzing everyone’s profiles and tweets on Twitter, and paying attention to the topics that are being discussed and mentioned. One glance at my profile, for instance, and you can tell that I’m frequently talking about Social Media and Content Marketing, and other related topics.
Using the tool, you can then specify which keywords and topics you’re interested in. The tool will begin to automatically follow other Twitter users who are relevant, and generate for you followbacks from those users.
In other words, using the Follow First method, SocialQuant helps you to find and follow targeted users, with the expectation that a portion will follow you back.
SocialQuant is just $50 a month, and well worth it as I’m about to demonstrate. If you’re interested in giving it a try, I’d certainly appreciate it if you used my affiliate link and grabbed a free trial.
As I mentioned, the system is based on finding targeted users based on keywords. It’s a simple idea, but one which SocialQuant executes well. Each keyword that you enter is tracked individually, so that you can tell exactly which keywords your new followers are coming from, and which ones aren’t generating sufficient interest.
Performance is measured by conversions – how many Twitter followers followed you back after you followed them, based upon their perceived interest in a particular keyword.
For example, since starting on 10/03/15 with SocialQuant, the keyword “growth hacking” has generated 206 new followers and a 23.8% conversion rate. “Digital advertising” on the other hand, has netted 0 new followers.
Each day, you can review your follower growth, gauge the best and worst keywords, and make adjustments. You can trim out the keywords that just aren’t working, and add in new ones that you think might. SocialQuant also suggests additional keywords that might be of interest based on your own profile history.
Does $50 a month seem like a lot to you? Let’s do some comparisons then.
- Twitter Advertising – You can do a follower growth campaign within Twitter that suggest your profile to targeted Twitter users. In September I ran a couple test campaigns and was paying approximately $1.33 per new follower. If we were to assume that you were twice as good at me at running a Twitter campaign, you might still spend $0.50 or more per follower, giving you just 100 new followers for the price of a month of SocialQuant.
- Fiverr – There are few things I recommend less than to use Fiverr or something similar to pay for followers, but since you asked… yes, there are Fiverr gigs where you can pay for new followers. The going rate is about 1000 followers for $5. The problem is that they’re often fake followers, inactive or bot accounts, and the most ‘targeting’ you can get is assurances that they’re U.S. accounts. Such campaigns do nothing but artificially inflate your Twitter follower count, which is a complete waste a money. If you’re doing all of the above recommendations, you’ll soon have hundreds and thousands of real, interested followers, so you shouldn’t be worrying about what your Twitter follower count number looks like.
- SocialQuant – Conversely, with SocialQuant, I’ve added nearly 9000 followers in 90 days. If my math is correct, that’s an average of 100 new followers per day, with a cost then of $0.02 per follower.
Certainly, some of the other techniques, like using IFTTT to populate Twitter lists, have no inherent cost. If you’re just starting your blog or online business, I’d suggest focusing on the first few parts of this article for a few months, until you get the hang of Twitter and have a nice archive of content starting to work for you.
How To Deal With Automatic Direct Message Spam
Gaining lots of new Twitter followers is a wonderful thing. But there’s a catch. If you use SocialQuant, or even your own manual Follow First method, you will be subjecting yourself to a slew of inbound auto DMs. Many of the accounts that you follow, or that your account follows automatically, will send you auto DMs that, frankly, suck.
And you’ll get sick of reading them.
But the problem is, you can’t ignore them! If you’re following the above techniques fully, many of the direct messages you receive will be people thanking you and reaching out to you with more questions and engagement.
While Twitter has yet to do anything to improve the internal Message system, if you use Hootsuite, it’s actually quite easy to deal with.
First, you can use Hootsuite desktop or mobile for this. I prefer desktop. I have a stream saved for my Inbox, and check it once per day – usually at the end of my afternoon as a final wind down from the day.
- Delete any message that’s obviously spam, like the silly TrueTwit Validations. Simply over your mouse over the upper right corner of an individual tweet and click on the trash can icon to delete. Now, there’ll be a popup window that asks you to confirm, and on that window there’s a checkbox asking if you want to continue to allow Hootsuite to create these dialogue boxes – don’t check that box! Hootsuite has to be able to confirm you want to delete a tweet, so it’s an extra click. But if you accidentally disable those popups, you’ll simply need to close Hootsuite and re-open the dashboard.
- Move your mouse back to hover over the next tweet and repeat.
Deleting all of that day’s spam messages takes me just a few moments.
The fun part is responding to all of those people that thanked you for sharing such a great resource with them! For most, a simple “you’re welcome!” will suffice. You’ll likely get quite a few every day, so prepare a bit of text, like, “you’re welcome! Hope you have a great day.” or something along those lines, then copy and paste into each new direct message. Sometimes people are thanking me for following them, not necessarily for the information I just shared, so I tend to avoid mentioning it here unless it’s obvious that’s what they’re thankful for.
The best though is when people are truly impressed with what you’ve shared with them, and have more questions. People reply back to me all the time asking things like, “how often should I blog?” or “when’s the best time to post to social media?” and these are questions I love to get. Not only do I enjoy helping others, but 9 times out of 10, they’re questions I’ve already answered in my blog and I can refer them back to more extensive articles.
My Daily Routine
So, now that you’ve got the whole process, let’s do a quick review, and then touch on how I work my day on Twitter.
First, make sure that you’re presenting the best possible Twitter profile by having a great profile pic and cover photo, consistent activity, and lots of great new content being shared regularly.
Then, employ some of the techniques and growth hacks to help get your Twitter profile in front of more and more people, leading to increases in Twitter followers and activity.
Here’s what I do each day, now that all of my automation is established:
- Curate new content from Feedly, etc.
- Review Influencer lists for tweets to retweet
- Review Mentions 2x daily
- Review Direct Messages
And that’s it! I don’t devote that much time to Twitter on a day-to-day basis, though that can certainly vary. There will be days where I have some time to myself and might jump into a chat or engage a little more with one of my lists. And I also have some personal lists that I follow, like one for local St. Louis sports journalists, so I can keep up with the latest developments in Cardinal Nation.
And virtually all of the above I do using the Hootsuite mobile app – I rarely open the native Twitter app. Hootsuite makes Twitter management a breeze, particularly when you have multiple Twitter accounts like I do.
If you do all of these things – and I get this has been a lot to take in – but if you work your way through these processes, improvements and techniques, and get yourself to the point where you’re just engaging on Twitter each day, you’ll be very, very pleased with the results.
You’ll be gaining dozens of new followers each day. And they’ll be followers who are genuinely interested in you and your ideas, which makes them far more likely to visit your site, read your material, and sign up for your list.
If you aren’t sure exactly where to begin with Hootsuite, I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of “The Unofficial Book on Hootsuite” over at Amazon. It walks you through every aspect of the social media management tool, including how best to use it for social listening.
And be sure to get yourself on my subscriber list if you aren’t already! My community members get all of my latest articles, plus exclusive offers and insider tips. So sign up!
Question? Have a hack of your own you want to share? Leave a comment below.