How do you gain followers?

This is the question I am often asked.

“Do I buy followers?” No. In fact, most of the time people can tell when you have bought followers, as my colleague Carol Stephen describes in her post here. This strategy sort of backfired for former Speaker of the House and Presidential Candidate, Newt Gingrich, too.

Twitter is one of the major spokes in the social media wheel. Social media, people seem to forget, is about being social.

During the question and answer period of the Digital Influence panel at ACEC California’s April Conference, I was asked what the best practice for Twitter is.

My answer: “The most important thing for you is to be a human being.”

In fact, my social media strategy revolves around being a polite, helpful person.

That seems to do the trick.

How does this work.

1. I avoid Twitter’s Retweet button.

This is controversial and everyone has their own opinions. Read my blog post here.

I did say I’m full of opinions and I give unsolicited advice. Why not try retweeting the #OldSchoolRT and see if your engagement goes up?—
Bridget Willard (@YouTooCanBeGuru) February 22, 2013

2. When I do retweet, I add a comment first.

This continues the conversation the original tweeter intended, presumably, when they sent the tweet in the first place. Awkward sentence? Sure. But the point is that Twitter is a conversation. By that logic, every tweet is potentially a conversation starter.

3. Ask Questions.

People love to be able to express themselves and to have those opinions validated and/or regarded. It’s true. We as a species strive for acceptance. When people respond to your question, respond back.

Example: “What’s your favorite vacation spot?” If someone says, “Rio” then you can ask them what their favorite restaurant was there, etc. You can tailor the question based upon your array of interests, but you get the general drift.

4. Be Retweetable.

I have an entire blog post on the Ten Ways to Be Retweetable. Basically, design your tweets so that people will respond.

5. Search Twitter for Topics.

This is how you can use the power of the hashtag. For example, if you’re interested in flowers, search the twitter box for #flowers, find tweets that are interesting, and respond to them.

6. Manners Matter.

It’s amazing how manners have eroded over time. For example, many people accept a retweeted tweet as a substitute for “thank you.” I don’t.

Since manners are on short supply, this is a great way to rise above the crowd.

  • Thank people who retweet you (old school or otherwise). Sure, it takes time, but they’ll be more likely to respond to you and share your content in the long run, over time.
  • Spend five minutes a day in your home feed as well as on your lists talking to OTHER people.
  • Check your mentions column and answer people who are tweeting to you.

Guru Lesson:

Twitter is about people and relationships. If you want to build relationships it takes time just like in real life. Twitter isn’t Sea-Monkeys – you don’t just add water. You have to work it.