To make Twitter really work for you as a marketer, you first need to build your reach, there’s no way around it. It doesn’t matter how great your content is, if there’s no one there to read or retweet, it won’t get the traction it deserves.
So how do you build reach and increase engagement?
Let’s start with the basics. Most social media experts will say that the core to Twitter greatness is:
- Providing real value and engaging with others
- Acting the way you would act in a real life situation
- Never spam
- Building meaningful relationships
And that’s a great place to start. There are also some next-level tactics and techniques that work great for building reach and increasing engagement. I’d love to share them with you and hear what you think!
1. Follow strategically: The hack to get 1,000s of new followers
If you’re trying to promote a business or a startup using Twitter, you will need three things to make it work:
- A story (or a message)
Your message is a direct expansion of your content strategy and is unique for each company. The need for reach and distribution are universal.
Reach relates to having a huge audience that will see your content. Distribution refers to the people who will engage and share your content.
How do you build reach?
The common advice is to not just follow everybody but to follow only people you are really interested in. And of course – it’s not how many followers you have but how they interact with your content.
This is solid advice though it misses one important thing – the fewer people who follow you, the less engagement opportunities you will get.
You really shouldn’t just go following anybody, and quality engagement is definitely a key factor to Twitter success. But to really make Twitter work for you, you need to have a massive reach.
3 ways people get to hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of followers
There are three ways to really become a Twitter superstar in terms of followers:
1. You’re a celebrity
Lady Gaga, Charlie Sheen and Barak Obama didn’t get millions of followers within hours because they share amazing content at peak times and use images to get 18% more clicks on their links.
They are celebrities. People will follow them no matter what they’d do and what platform they’d be on. Tim Cook had over a million Twitter followers before he even sent out his first tweet.
Visited Retail Stores in Palo Alto today. Seeing so many happy customers reminds us of why we do what we do.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) September 20, 2013
How to identify celebrities: You will usually notice they’re followed by millions and are following dozens.
Are you a celebrity? If not, then you still need to think of a way to get more followers to engage with you.
2. You’re a Twitter early adopter
There’s a small group of early adopters (Chris Brogan for example) who got a real early start on Twitter. They started using it back in 2007-2009 when there were much fewer options on whom to follow.
This got them early traction and a pretty big amount of followers to start with, plus producing quality content back then was something a little more unique and the Twitter-sphere wasn’t as crowded as it is now. These early adopters usually have 100,000 or more followers and are following a few hundreds themselves.
If you’re still looking to increase your reach and followers, I’m guessing you’re not included in that category.
3. You’re a marketer
If you’ve been listening to all the social media experts, you’ve probably been sharing quality content consistently, optimizing content, and trying to post at prime hours for your followers. Somehow you’re still getting 10-12 new followers each week. It’s nice, but it sure won’t get you to 100K followers in the next few years.
So how do new and upcoming marketers really get their high following numbers?
The secret to gaining hundreds of thousands of followers
If you go to followerwonk.com and search for “content marketing,” sort it by “social authority” and pick the first five individual (not company) Twitter accounts, you’ll notice an interesting pattern:
- John Luke – Following: 2175 / Followers: 15.2K
- Michel J.D. warner – Following: 32.4K / Followers: 38.8K
- Steven Farnsworth – Following: 40.7K / Followers: 116K
- Gerry Moran – Following: 60.3K / Followers: 75.1K
- Steve Cartwright – Following: 62.6K / Followers: 67.8K
Except for John Luke, do you recognize a pattern here? Most of these Twitter masters follow an amazing amount of people.
If you’ll look for the next 5 Top social authority twitter users ranking high for content marketing you’d get the same ratios (with a few exceptions of course).
This means that these people followed a large amount of other Twitter users to get to those big numbers of followers they have today. By sorting the list by “social authority,” we also debunk the notion that simply following a lot of people is spam and promises no real engagement.
The twist hides in a little hack I’m about to show you, on how to get tons of followers but also make sure you have a qualified and engaged following.
As I said before, you should follow as many people possible, but not just follow anybody. This is where a little platform named Tweepi comes in.
Capitalizing on the power of Tweepi
Tweepi is a tool that lets you manage your Twitter account in terms of who you follow, who’s following you, and more.
It has two important features you’ll need for this hack:
- “Flush”—shows you who you’re following that isn’t following you back
- “Follow Followers”—a feature that enables you to see who’s following a specific Twitter account
- Sign in – Go to Tweepi.com and sign in (you can use your email or simply use Twitter to log in)
- Follow Followers – You’re about to follow people in hopes that they will follow you back, so you want to keep the list relevant. You do that by following people who are already following a Twitter account that you share the same target audience with. Head over to ‘Follow Followers’. In the next screen, you’ll be prompted to enter someone else’s Twitter handle, and the platform will show you who’s following that specific user. This part will expose you to a large amount of followers who are very relevant to you (they just don’t know it yet).
- Start following about 100-150 people (if you have a new Twitter account, I’d start off with 20-40 at a time). How do I choose whom to follow? I actually don’t really look at the number of followers they have because it’s not a great way to predict who will follow you back. I sort the list by the “latest tweet” column and try to focus on who tweeted in the past 24 hours, maybe up to 2 days. I do this because I want to make sure they’re active and will actually see that I’ve started following them so they could follow me back. I usually get a follow back rate of about 20-25%.
- Wait for 24 hours, just live your life, Tweet amazing and engaging content, communicate with your followers and other best practices for social media. During these 24 hours you should start seeing a large amount of new followers on your Twitter account.
- After 24 hours, go back on Tweepi and choose ‘Flush’. This section will show you all the people you are following but are not following you back. Now unfollow all of them except the ones who are thought leaders you want to keep following. Don’t hesitate, simply unfollow them all.
- Do it all over again. Follow another 100-150 (you can even go up to 300) relevant people, wait, unfollow and repeat.
I was a big believer in only posting quality content, engaging, and then waiting for followers to come. If you’d look at my Twitter account you’ll see that I’ve only recently really started using this technique, up until now I’ve been only doing this for my clients.
I went from 10-12 people following me per week to about a 100 per week.
Also, my engagement improved by over 32%.
More people are clicking on my content (raised my average by about 3x) and sharing it.
To be honest, using this technique you could add about 20 new followers a day without even posting anything on your account. But that’s just a waste.
The follow / unfollow technique is what will help you build reach fast; posting great content and optimizing it is what will boost your distribution. So it’s important not to be blindsided by the increasing number of followers and to keep posting amazing content.
2. Don’t be afraid to automate a DM
In general, social engagement automation is a big no-no. Your followers want to have real engagement with you and not just a bot of a sort. There’s a “but” there and it is dressed as a “welcome” DM for new followers.
Yes, we all hate those automated ‘welcome’ direct messages. They sound robotic and fake. I personally really hate them. Two years ago, I actually gave a talk about how to build trust and sound human as a business online and I emphasized over and over again that you should avoid automating your ‘welcome’ messages. But I was wrong.
Think of another automated element people dislike – the ‘opt-in pop up form” in your blog, right? Everybody hates it when they read interesting content and suddenly a pop-up appears and interrupts their reading. But as the guys at Buffer and Noah Kagan already proved, pop-ups work amazingly to build your email’s subscribers list. Same goes for automated DM.
Jonathan Gebauer and DR. Susanna Gebaur describe their DM experiment in their first social media shortcuts book about Twitter.
“We started to send messages on Twitter to new followers asking them very politely to also like us on Facebook. We automated these messages. Yes, you heard me correctly… we automate our messages on Twitter… And it works wonders for us. Facebook growth is going though the roof – within 2 months we’ve gained over 16,000 fans on Facebook, bringing us over to 20,000. Repeat 16K. And these fans turned out to be active. They like our posts, share our content send us messages.”
You’ll notice that the benefit of using automated DM is to promote another content channel such as your Facebook page or blog. Now, because your new followers (from the first hack) are all relevant and are interested in your content, you will not only be getting tons of new visitors to your other platforms, but they will be an engaged audience as well.
There are several tools to automate DMs, and you can basically choose the one that works best for you. I personally don’t have any preference for one or the other.
Copywriting tips to successfully automate Twitter direct messages
Be warned: the fine line between spamming and increasing engagement and conversions is very thin. It all relies on your copywriting for the automated DM. Here are a few tips that will help you get it right:
1. Make it sound human, but don’t fake personalization – People know it’s automated, don’t try to fool them.
2. Focus on the benefits – don’t sell your product, sell your content. Don’t offer anyone to buy from you, but talk about what’s in it for him or her.
3. Be very specific – don’t ask them to check your blog. Offer them to read more about the type of content your provide.
For example: ‘Welcome aboard! Now that you’re following us on Twitter, you should also check out our blog!” is kind of boring and way too general.
This will work better: “Welcome aboard! If you’re interested in content marketing and growth hacking you should check out our blog”.
If your content is right for me, I will recognize it right away and will click on your link.
4. Make it the beginning of your funnel. Don’t just send them to your site, but create a landing page welcoming them. That’s where you make the experience more personal.
5. Use a branded link – Shortened links are huge trust breakers. They always look fishy and you never know where it’s taking you. By using a branded shortener you’ll make your new followers feel safer.
3. Follow back only the accounts that interest you
Remember in the first section where I told you to use the Follow / Unfollow rule? There’s a hypocritical side to it. When you try to expand your reach you want to get as many followers as possible, but you want them so you can increase your distribution.
Distribution relies on the assumption that whoever is following you is interested in your content and what you are posting. So the new follower should be interested in your content. If they are only trying to expand their reach (the same way you did just a second ago) and you’re not interested in their content, don’t follow back.
If it’s a client or a customer looking for your attention, they will mention you and ask you for your email or to follow them back so they can DM you their question. Don’t worry about it.
If you’re not interested in a specific Twitter user’s content, don’t follow back. If they’re interested in your content, they will keep following you and become an engaged reader. When they start engaging with you – that’s when you follow back.
If they unfollow you because you didn’t follow back, well, they weren’t relevant to begin with.
This is the right way to build the following / followers ratio. By posting great content that gets people to follow you, and by not following people who aren’t engaging with you.
4. Influencer outreach can wait
One of the most important insights Kristoffer Tjalve shares on his post “The story behind #BeTech” is how to relate to influencers on Twitter.
Do not worry too much about the influencers. The influencers are already super busy doing their own stuff. Rather, you should focus all your energy in making the life better for those who are using the hashtag. These early adopters are your best friends in establishing the hashtag community. Thank them!
While most social media experts will tell you to try and engage with influencers so you’ll get more credibility and followers, it will mostly be a waste of your time.
Influencers are extremely busy most of the time and are probably responding to tens if not hundreds of mentions on Twitter daily. They will usually have their own content to promote and their own very clear agenda to follow. You, as a newcomer, are not really a part of it.
Think of it as being a fan of a rock star. Yes, he’ll appreciate your following and support, but he won’t be your friend. Just yet.
The content world is divided into roughly two major groups:
- Content creators
- Content curators
Content creators are the ones people seek their attention. Content curators and just-beginning content creators are usually the attention seekers.
If you’re just starting out and want to build your following, start by attracting the content curators, they are the ones who will actually share your content and be the foundation of your increasing reader-base.
How to Spot Content Curators:
- They will usually have fewer than 1,000 followers
- They will tweet quite often using Hootsuite or Buffer as their sharing tool.
- They’ll respond to every “thank you for sharing” tweet you’ll tweet at them.
You recognize the kind.
After a while, when enough content curators notice you and start following and retweeting you, you will understand that for a small niche, you have become an influencer. Then, it will be the time to reach out to other influencers by email. Not as a newbie looking for attention, but as an equal.
5. Tweet the same content multiple times
Remember this tip? “If you share the same link more than once, your followers will take you for a spammer”.
Up until recently there was a strong belief that your audience doesn’t want you to share the same content more than once. That it is recycled content and you need to put more emphasis on creating higher value and share new stuff all the time.
In reality, most of your audience wouldn’t see your next blog post if you share it just once. As the good guys here are Buffer mention on ’The everything guide for Twitter success’ e-book, posting the same (valuable) content more than once won’t annoy your followers.
What it will do is get you more traffic, you’ll hit different timezones and reach new followers. Belle Beth Cooper explains it better than me in her post: ‘Why You Should Share Your Blog Post More Than Once on Social Media: The Case for Reposting Content‘.
Some of the main takeaways:
- If you tweet something only once, a lot of people will miss it because their Twitter feeds are crowded with content. If you’ll tweet it multiple times there’s a bigger chance more people will catch it than people seeing it for the second time and thinking it’s spam.
- If your audience lives in different timezones, one’s morning is another’s nighttime. Posting the same content at least once per time zone is recommended.
- There are new followers on board – If you’re implementing the technique I showed you on the first section, then you’re getting about 100-120 new followers every week. This means that there are over 100 new followers who haven’t seen the content you shared last week. If you have interesting posts they might enjoy or find helpful, re-sharing them will increase the chances they’ll actually see it.
Read Belle’s post for a more in-depth analysis.
6. Forgo your timeline
If you’re using Twitter as a personal social media outlet, you’d want to keep your timeline clean and clutter free. If you want to get hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, you’ll need to start following a lot of people and your timeline will soon be unbearable for the naked eye. Try following the feed of over 23K users. You’ll go crazy.
Most social media gurus will tell you to take advantage of Twitter lists in your marketing efforts, but keep your Twitter feed clean so you can interact with your followers. That’s nice advice, but not scalable.
What you really need to do is to come to peace with the idea that the timeline is not for you anymore. From now on, lists are your new home.
5 Lists I Think Every Marketer Should Create:
1. The timeline you wished you had – This is basically the following mix you used to enjoy before becoming a Twitter master.
2. Journalists and bloggers – Keep a tidy and up to date list of every journalist that covers your area of business. You’d want to engage with them so they’ll keep you in mind, see what they’re writing about so you can offer more information or guest posts. Remember, a good relationship with journalists means more PR (if you play your cards right).
3. Influencers – A great way to keep up to date with all current trends is by following other influencers. See what they are posting, share the best content they put out, plan your own content by seeing what works for them and see who they are engaging with, so you could get into the conversation as well.
4. Customer/ Clients – You want to build a strong relationship with your clients, so follow them on Twitter, help them when they are in need and spontaneously engage with them on daily events, just so they will see how much attention and effort you are willing to spend on them. They are worth it.
5. Competitors – Yes, you should have a list (probably private) dedicated only to your competitors. You want to know what they are up to and how you can learn from them.
7. Sell your content and your product on social media
If you’re a Gary Vanyerchuck fan then you’ve probably already heard about his latest book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. In a way, Gary really nails the essence of doing content marketing; even though some might find him too aggressive at times, he definitely gets it right.
Since social media became a mainstream marketing channel a few years back, you’ve been warned not to sell on social media. You can sell through ads, you can sell on your mailing list, but don’t sell or aggressively promote anything on social media. That’s just plain wrong.
In general, you should avoid being an aggressive salesperson on Twitter, but when you’re launching a new product, or you want to get more people to read your posts or download an Ebook (even if it’s free) it’s more than OK, it’s a must.
Content marketing is about providing value for your followers and engaging through interesting and engaging content. If your product / blog post / Ebook has real value (and I hope it has!) feel free to drop in a clear call to action along with the content you post regularly.
For example, Gary constantly shares valuable content without asking for anything in return, but when it’s sales time, he would literally post a link to his book on Amazon saying “buy it now!” or “buy 5 copies now!” (It’s not a real quote, but you get the point).
Take Retweeting for example: Do you know what are the best methods to getting more retweets? It’s asking people to retweet your content. You get a 12% more chance of getting retweets if you simply ask for it.
Same goes for downloading an Ebook, reading a new blog post of buying your product. If you provide the right context a direct call to action will significantly improve your chances of getting people to take the desirable action.
Which counterintuitive tips might you use?
With the evolution of social media and inbound marketing over the past 5 years a lot of what was considered as rude or ill-advice on Twitter has become obsolete.
You are no longer struggling on creating the best content out there, but to get noticed and acknowledged by as many relevant readers as possible. Like every meaningful growth, you will never achieve it by doing what everybody else is doing, only by finding the right combination that works for you.
What are your biggest Twitter tips that were counterintuitive to social media expert advice?