Let me start by saying that I am NOT a social media expert. I am NOT an SEO specialist. I do not have a PhD in twitterology. I can’t even claim to play any of these roles on television. I’m just a guy who has learned a few things; mostly by trial and error, who is willing to share these things with you.
I opened my Twitter account in 2010, but didn’t do much with it because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Why didn’t I jump on board sooner? That’s simple: I thought Twitter was just the silliest thing around and had no use for it at all.
But, once the “marketing” folks began seeing the potential Twitter offered and invaded, I too began to see some functionality. But, some of the old limitations still existed: simply tweeting “buy my book” (or “visit my blog” or “use my service” or “does anyone know how to remove an amorous armadillo from under my porch?”) isn’t going to get you anywhere if no one is reading your stuff.
For a long time I was piddling along with 400 to 500 followers. Earlier this month (June 2011) I decided to see what I could do with this and came up with some strategies to make it work. The results were:
The huge leap you see was the result of focusing on this task for one weekend. The steady rise you see afterward results from working this system for a couple of hours, twice a week – and a little time being ‘social’ each day as needed. In two weeks I broke 1,500 followers. I admit, that’s not exceptional – only average. But I think it is noteworthy because of the way I got these followers.
My method is a bit different from what the SEO and Marketing folks seem to say. They rely on a “follow everyone you can find and hope they follow you back; it’s all about numbers” sort of thing. I disagree; I think it’s about relationships. I think it’s about building value. What does that mean? Here, have a cookie. Do you need a refill on your lemonade? Fine; sit back and let me tell you.
Social networking is about being social. But being social is not standing along side the highway and shouting at cars as they whizz past. You have to actually connect with some of them to do any good. Here’s how I do that.
Lock Phasers on Target
First I target who I follow according to my interests. I’m an author, writer, self-publisher. I’m interested in hooking up with other authors, publishers, agents, editors and writers who aspire to be authors. Those who identify themselves in their bios as SEO Specialists, Marketing Experts, Entrepreneurial Consultant, Hot Salsa Dancer or Mom of three with no life so I tweet constantly, get passed by. I will have little or no interest in what they tweet about and they will not give a hoot about what I say.
Avoid the Numbers Game
Someone out there is thinking, “Yeah-but… if they follow you and you follow them, you both get a larger audience. How can you lose? “ And I say, “No, you don’t.” You do get to post a larger number for everyone to see, but what does that really mean if half of those people are completely ignoring you?
I learned this long ago on my blogs. If I spend 20 hours a week going out and commenting on other peoples blogs so they will in turn come and leave a comment on mine, my numbers all look great. But if only one in ten of those commenters really has any interest at all in what I’m saying, how does that benefit me except in bragging rights? There may have been a little SEO value, but with the latest changes to Google’s algorithms links in comments are being treated like exchanged links, which have been treated like purchased links since late last year (2010). Meaning that they may count against you if there is not a strong tie of relevance between the article the comment appears on and the site it points to. But, I digress.
Big Twitter numbers can be deceptive ego-strokers. If people are following you only to build their own numbers then when you put out a call-to-action (buy this, subscribe to that, send me chocolate) your tweet will fall mostly on deaf ears – or rather unseeing eyes. If you were at a party or conference with 2,000 other people all in one room and everyone is talking at once, are you going to be able to hear everything that everyone says? No, you’re not. Will they hear you? No, not all of them. It’s the same with social networking. When you log in you’ll see what the people you follow have said recently. You can use lists to filter out a few people you especially want to keep up with, and you can use third party tools to track people or search for topics. Your followers will do the same. To have an actual “audience” you want others to put you on their list, because they want to know what you have to say.
To get on those lists you have to actually say something worth reading. Providing good information or links to good information, offering insightful or funny conversation, inspiring quotes are popular, and of course making people feel special.
When I get a new follower, I post a tweet introducing them to my followers and using the info they provide in their bio. So instead of a tweet that looks like:
@JoeBlow @JackSprat @LittleLulu @BugsBunny @DonaldDuck
@MinnieMouse @whochiecoochie @Ben&Jerry @AliBaba
Which tells you nothing about these people or why you would want to follow them (which doesn’t matter if you simply follow everyone you can find). I like to do this instead:
Say “hey” to @JoeBlow an aspiring author who writes books about the history of bubble gum.
This does two things. One, it is far more likely to catch the attention of people who are looking for new people in this niche to follow. Second, it generally elicits a response from the tweetee of something like “Wow, what a great shout-out. THANKS!!” and, this makes them more inclined to return the favor. Sometimes I’ll even suggest that they could help me by mentioning my book.
On Writer Wednesdays I use FollowFridayHelper.com to find out who has been most active in mentioning me in their tweets, and reward them with a personal recommendation. Some are consistent in their support and I will go to their blog or web site to ferret out some bit of info not available from their bio. On Follow Friday I do the same with followers who are not writers/authors; but are within the niche.
Doing this has developed a list of several dozen people who follow my tweets closely, retweet my stuff frequently to their followers, read my blogs, tweet about my blog, recommend my book, and are willing to engage in conversation when we are both available. Considering that I am not a NYT best seller, (or even an Amazon best seller – yet), not a TV celebrity, or an Internet guru, I think that’s doing pretty well – for having been at it seriously for only a couple of weeks. There are a couple of hundred others who make it a practice to put my @AllanDouglasDgn “out there” at least once a week. As of this moment I’ve been added to 138 Twitter lists.
From here it should snowball nicely. Yes, it does take some effort on my part. No, I can’t just automate it like those who Direct Message me to say, “Thanks for following, now please LIKE my Facebook page.” But I feel it’s effort well spent, and I’ve even met some great people by doing it.
So, if you want MY advice (and since you’re STILL reading this you must), don’t focus on numbers so much, work instead on building relationships.
Other articles in this series:
- For Twitter Newbies: Nuts & Bolts
- Follow, Follow, Follow the Twitter Brick Road
- Jedi Mind Twits: #Hashtags
- Jedi Mind Twits: Messaging
- Jedi Mind Twits: Follow Limit