tutorials - by on Friday, June 26, 2009 14:18 - 3 Comments

How to attract followers on Twitter and build a useful network

Twitter’s power only becomes apparent to new users once they get some followers and find worthwhile people to follow.

Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to attract followers or build a community on Twitter. Without a good community of people that you are following and that are following you back, Twitter offers little value. But Twitter is a fantastic tool for journalists, content creators and just about anyone really, and that’s why if you take a little time to first build your own little community on Twitter, you’ll find much better results in the long run.

Twitter is a phenomenal powerful reporting tool. We have a tutorial that will help you learn how to use Twitter as a reporting tool.

Thankfully, it’s not hard to build a community on Twitter that will offer you real value. Always keep in mind that Twitter is not about you. It’s about being social. It’s about the community.

Here is a little guide to getting people to follow you:

  1. Make your account complete before anything else — Don’t have a profile photo? Don’t list a real name? Don’t have any profile information? Then you’re not ready to attract followers. Have a profile photo, use your real name, link to your personal site/blog/company, write a thoughtful profile and pick a background that works for you. This must be done first if you want to be taken seriously on Twitter.
  2. Join the community – If you’re using Twitter for work (or to talk about your favorite hobby or personal branding purposes or whatever), there is a specific community that you want to connect with (or should want to connect with). If you’re a education reporter in Baltimore, you want to connect with educators, school administrators, parents and students in the Baltimore area. These are the first people you should target to follow and engage with.
  3. Find followers — Wait, isn’t this post about attracting followers, not following other people? Following relevant people is a good way to attract followers. Sites like WeFollow (a Twitter user directory) can help you find followers to get started and doing a few Google searches will help yield quality people to follow as well. If a colleague recommended joining Twitter, go through their friends list and follow relevant people on it. Once you start following people (and you enjoy their tweets), start looking through those users’ friends lists to find additional people to follow. The #followfriday hashtag isn’t a bad place to look for people to follow either. If someone you really enjoy following recommends someone, then that person is probably worth following too. Also, search.twitter.com is a good place to search for topics and find people to follow based on those topics. Here is a tutorial on getting the most out of search.twitter.com.
  4. Don’t follow people blindly — Finding value on Twitter is all about building a quality community. If you indiscriminately follow people, your Twitter stream may be all but worthless to you. Back to our example, if you want to find value in the Baltimore education community, you should primarily follow people in that community.
  5. Offer value — Perhaps even before you join the community and start following people, you need to begin offering value. It doesn’t matter if you have zero followers, because if you start following people before you offer value, they won’t follow back. If you want to enter the Baltimore education community, start tweeting links relevant to that community, ask questions and offer some of your thoughts on education in the Baltimore area. That way when people come across your page, they’ll know what you’re about and will be much more inclined to follow you.
  6. Start discussions – Once you’ve joined a community, started following relevant people and started offering value, it’s time to start conversations. Twitter is a social media site. You need to be social. One of the best ways to be social on Twitter is to start discussions. Ask questions and respond to @replies.
  7. Be social — Starting discussions is part of being social, but it takes more than that. Monitor your Twitter stream and engage people when they say something interesting or link to something worthwhile. The @reply is your friend. Don’t be afraid to have back and forth exchanges on Twitter. It enriches everyone’s experience. And retweeting (RT) is fine as long as your retweeting something of value (especially to your followers). Better yet, add your own take to that RT. But be judicious with RTs, because too many RTs — especially those of dubious quality — will not please your followers.
  8. Don’t just be about yourself — One of the biggest traps people fall into (especially those coming from traditional, one-way media) is that they make their Twitter account all about themselves. These people just link to their existing content (such as newspaper stories they’ve just written). Others just talk about themselves. People who are all about themselves rarely, if ever, interact with other people on Twitter and don’t understand that social media is all about being social. Unless you are Oprah or someone similar, you need to interact. Otherwise, you’ll never have a chance of building a worthwhile network on Twitter. Is you’re not prepared to give something to the community on Twitter, you will not find success on Twitter. It’s that simple.

If you find this post of value, you might find my Twitter account, @jiconoclast, of value too.


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  • http://www.yourwebchick.com @yourwebchick

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Great points! A pet peeve of mine is when people follow me with incomplete profiles and no tweets at all to base a decision on whether to follow them or not. I will usually “being a Mom type” DM them and say…. you would get more followers if you’d fill out your profile and give people a preview of what you might say in the future.. MOST never respond…. oh well… Thanks for the post!

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BeatBlogging.org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. BeatBlogging.org offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.

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