Tag Archives: the twitter way

So, You Don’t Understand Twitter, Let Me Explain

We need to get a few of the fundamentals straight about Twitter.

Your reach is directly proportional to the number of followers you have. An average Twitter account has around 500 followers. Some Twitter Pros have hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers. Most of us, working in the middle, have somewhere around 1,500 followers. I’ve been working Twitter quite hard since launch, and I’ve got 23k followers. But it didn’t happen by accident. It didn’t happen because I have great content and ask for the follow at the end of every post I’ve ever written. Nope. The simple “grind” of following a ton of like-minded Tweeters, over and over, day after day, is why I’ve built my Twitter following. If you’re promoting your Twitter account but not doing the detail work to build your following, you’re wasting your time.

Twitter growth without an aggressive following strategy will gain you from 5 – 10 new followers a week. And this is from generating a ton of content, a ton more tweets and retweets, and asking for the follow. That’s about all your going to get. And that rate will not get you near your goal, if your goal is reach and influence.

Mind you, Twitter following growth is a pain in the ass.

And if you don’t believe me, well, try it for yourself and see what results you have. I’ve been growing this account for more than 5 years and I’ve tried everything short of paying a spammer for 10k followers for $19.95. I’ve never paid for followers. If you know what a spammer account looks like, you can see why they are of no value.

So what is the value of a follower on Twitter? Why do we do this? What’s so great and different about Twitter?

First let’s break down some simple numbers on your average Twitter reach and influence. Let’s say you’ve done some homework, you’ve been following new influencers, and you’ve grown your account to 2,000 followers. And let’s say you over-tweet and share 10 times a day to get your message out. (I typically tweet between 20 – 30 times a day.)

With the typical 3% reach, we can estimate that each of your tweets reaches 60 people. And if you repeat this process 9 more times, you’re liable to reach 600 followers, and mind you some of them will be overlap. Either way, you’ve tweeted 10 times and you’ve reached a little over 1/4 of your audience. Do you see a problem with our strategy?

You have to tweet more frequently to increase your reach. I recommend using #hashtags to create unique tweets and tweeting them in real-time using a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootesuite. I do not believe in pre-scheduled tweets as these have ZERO chance for starting a conversation. If you’re going to tweet at least do it as a human and not as an auto-bot.

Okay, so you’ve got two new tasks on your to-do list.

  1. Follow a lot more like-minded tweeters
  2. Tweet a lot more frequently, but don’t spam

So how do you find people to follow?

The simplest way is to look at who’s following you and follow who they follow. Find leaders in your industry and follow who they follow. And if you’re lasy, use the “Who to follow” section of Twitter.com and click away.


While Twitter’s algorithm get’s off on some weird tangents, you can follow a lot of people quite quickly by using this little widget.

The real drudgery is the unfollow process. I’ve been using the free version of Manageflitter to help season my list. In the same way, “who to follow” puts all of the potential follows in a little window, Manageflitter can show you a list of “who does not follow you back.” It’s then a grind to click on each unfollow button, but it’s better than trying to do it without the tool.

I often season the list for a week before unfollowing people. And I go through my followers daily and follow back all the real people, who seem legitimate. This is partially to keep them from unfollowing me in the same way I do, using Manageflitter, but it’s also to grow my list of potential influential followers. If they found me they are often real people with like interests. That’s the idea.

Recap: 1. Follow Many. 2. Tweet Often. 3. Unfollow non-followers every week. 4. Follow new followers back.

If you don’t grow your Twitter reach intentionally it will probably not get as big and powerful as it might. Work it.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Adding Reach on Social Networks Takes Work, Tedious Work

So what’s your Twitter growth strategy?

  • Post great content.
  • Tweet great tweets.
  • Occupy a great hashtag with authority.
  • Ask for followers.
  • Buy followers.
  • Use your Twitter link in your email signature.

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Well, I can tell you, after years and years of working Twitter hard, the organic growth strategy will not produce 14 followers in one day, no matter how badass your tweet is. (Public speaking and conferences with solid #hashtags are an exception.) If you want to grow your reach, you’re going to have to reach out first. It’s a grind and it’s not very interesting, but the results are worth it.

Today, Twitter drives 1/3 of my overall traffic to this website. (1/3 organic search, 1/3 direct) And in the course of a week, that’s a lot of traffic. And it’s ALMOST free. The wear and tear on my fingers and keyboard notwithstanding. Here’s a recent snapshot of my referrers.

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And there you have it. Want more Twitter referrals you need to grow your Twitter following. Here’s how you do it.

  • Follow quality people in your segment of business. (In my case, digital marketing, social media, analytics, small and medium business)
  • Thank everyone who RT’s or responds to any of your tweets. (Good etiquette goes a long way.)
  • RT others quality content. (I’m amazed by how few people do anything but toot their own horn.)
  • Engage in conversations on Twitter when they are about a topic you care about.
  • Use hashtags randomly. (I’d say sparingly, but I think more is better. As long as they are on target with the tweet.)

Remember this a long-term growth strategy. You can’t add 2,000 twitter followers in a week. First Twitter will hit you with a speed limit violation and second, you’d be verging on spammy growth. So go gradually and steady. Follow other great tweeters. And keep following small pockets of people until you hit your Twitter limit.

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That is not a failure, it means pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Then comes the ugly part. This is the part that your friends and followers will abhor, but you simply apologize and move along. Are you in this to make your friends happy or win over more influencers?

Unfollow your non-followers. Don’t take it personally when you unfollow Scoble for the 20th time. I’m sure he doesn’t mind or notice. Some of your friend and colleagues will ask, complain, and whine. “You keep following and unfollowing me? What’s up?”

Here’s my actual response. “I’m sorry if that bums you out. I occasionally purge all people who are not following me back. It’s not personal.”

And this local journalist said, “Oh, well, I try to keep my tweetstream very focused on topics I’m interested in.”


Of course it would’ve done no good to ask her, “Um, why after all these years of knowing each other are you still not following me on Twitter?” Because we shouldn’t really care who’s following us on Twitter, only that we’re growing our following base in a very strategic and targeted way.

Segmenting your Twitter accounts.

One other learning I’ve had over the years is about segmenting your audience. This account @jmacofearth is my main social media and marketing account. 90% of these people are interested in digital marketing. Period. I used to throw subjects in from my other blogs, and soon realized I was polluting the stream for the marketing-focused people. So I started a few other Twitter accounts for other blogs and other topics. Using a tool like Tweetdeck I can tweet, listen, and respond to all four of my main accounts at once. I really know I’m hitting a home run with a post when I can see how it stretches across all four accounts. (grin)

Follow to be followed. Unfollow to open up some more following slots. If you’re not reaching them on Twitter they might never hear about you.

Last tip. Use LISTS to keep updated on your REAL INFLUENCERS. I have a “trust” LIST that has all of my 100 Proof sources. I never miss their tweets, even if I no longer follow them.

And while this post is primarily about Twitter, the growth strategy works on most other networks. (Facebook, Pinterest, and G+ included.)

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)