Professional social media marketers know that Twitter is a great way to reach out to fans and influencers, to interact and build a network of professional acquaintances, to gain exposure and, ultimately, to help sell products to a customer or fan base. The logic is, of course, that the more followers you have on Twitter, the larger your marketing reach. There is a lot of debate about whether it’s better to have more followers (“quantity”), or a small group of egaged followers (“quality”). This depends to some extent on one’s business goals, but as one blogging social media expert points out:
As much as you’d like to say that quantity doesn’t matter, well it does. – Jeff Bullas
Follow Others To Increase Your Twitter Following
If you have a Twitter account, you may already know that the best way to grow your followers is to actively follow others, and some percentage will follow you back. The more things you have in common with a user, the more likely they are to follow you back, so it’s a good idea to follow others based on a keyword search of their profiles or tweets. The problem is that this is a time-consuming process when done manually – one can spend hours a day doing it.
Twitter used to have a feature called automated following, but they recently disabled it. They have done this largely because of the proliferation of fake Twitter accounts which have been used by unscrupulous marketers to inflate Twitter accounts. Along with this change by Twitter, automated Twitter follow tool TweetAdder has settled their lawsuit with Twitter and changed their product, requiring all users to upgrade. Because of the changes Twitter has made to try and address its fake follower problems, TweetAdder and other tools based on Twitter’s automated follow feature are no longer as effective as they used to be.
The truth is that building a large Twitter following has never been “organic.” As far as I can tell from the last 18 months of research and observation, unless you become a YouTube sensation overnight, growing a significant Twitter following quickly requires one of the following four practices:
- Paying shady operators in Singapore or other offshore locations to inflate your numbers with fake accounts. I definitely don’t recommend this. I’ve included a band case study on that further down.
- Using an automated software tool such as TweetAdder. This is still better than manual following, but it remains to be seen if TweetAdder will stay in business after the changes it was forced to make. Other tools have gone away as a result of the Twitter lawsuits against them. I personally have never used TweetAdder or any tool like it.
- Paying Twitter (Twitter Ads self service) to promote your account and/or your tweets.
- Manually following Twitter accounts by the dozens or hundreds daily, which must be done carefully, and only up to Twitter’s limit. One digital media agency employee personally told me they used this technique very effectively to quickly grow the following of a teen musician. This is completely legal, but it is time consuming.
(…and I also have my “Secret Sauce,” the things that work best for me to incrementally help grow one’s following).
Buying Twitter Followers: A Band Case Study
I can tell you, without naming any names, about one band that took the first route and paid for Twitter followers. Below is a chart of their actual follower numbers for the past year, (which I dowloaded using a service called TwitterCounter). I won’t tell you who they are, because they told me their story in confidence. But I do know they spent a relatively minimal amount of money to buy Twitter followers, with these results:
Can you tell approximatley when they bought their followers?
I think the most interesting thing about this stratgegy is that this band went from almost no Twitter followers (under 100) to still having tens of thousands of followers five months later – almost 30,000 at the time of this writing. You can see the highest follower count they reached was somewhere over 600,000, although I think these are monthly averages, because I think I recall they actually hit 900,000 followers at one point.
Since their one-time transaction to pay for followers, they have not used any additional follower purchasing techniques. In fact, they have begun using some social media management tools to try and clean up their Twitter following and block the fake accounts they acquired. I’m not sure if it was my advice that did it, but I pointed out that if their goal was to attract a label or manager by having a huge Twitter following, just about anyone with minimal social media savvy could run their handle through a few tools (Social Baker’s FakeFollowers Check tool, now in beta, or the better known Status People’s Fake Follower Check) and figure out what was going on. At one point, 98% of this band’s followers were deemed fake by Staus People’s algorithm, although their percentage of fake followers has now, of course, dropped significantly.
Beside, I said to this band, the real goal for bands in having thousands of followers on Twitter is to increase their genuine (not fake) fan base. Twitter is a fantastic tool to communicate with fans, draw more attendees to shows, bring fans back to a band website, sign them up on their email list, and ultimately, to sell music, merchandise, or otherwise create a connection. A fan is someone with a recurring relationship with a band. It’s not a fake Twitter account in Singapore. If having all these hundreds of thousands of fake Twitter followers is not helping achieve any of a band’s actual business goals, what use are they?
TweetAdder: A “Black Hat” Tool or Invaluable Helper?
I have informally polled most of my Twitter acquiantances who have over 5000 followers, and many times TweetAdder has come up, sometimes in a whisper. At least some folks, like social media experts Daniel Sharkov and Garin Kilpatrick, as well as music marketing and social media guru Chris “Seth” Jackson of HowToRunABand have blogged about it. Most social media marketers have kept TweetAdder in their secret portfolio, however.
This is because using TweetAdder, which allows you to set criteria for following other Twitter accounts and simply run the service in the background, has been viewed by many as verging on the kind of “black hat” social media practice that is generally frowned upon by many social media experts, including music marketer Michael Brandvold, as “spammy” or “dishonest.” It’s not surprising TweetAdder has this kind of a reputation, given its use has been interpreted as violating Twitter’s Terms of Service (TOS) at worst (it was sued by Twitter, after all), and at best, as an integral tool of the more smarmy side of social media marketing. Posts like this one don’t help much:
The best way to make money with Tweet Adder is to have a number of accounts set up that grow slowly over time. Slow growth mirrors realistic use. No matter how stupid you consider the Twitter masses to be, most people can still read the difference between a human speaking and a robot spitting programmed drivel. Your ability to nurture accounts and slowly establish authenticity is the vital ingredient to cashing in. – Finch, Affiliate Marketer from London, England
TweetAdder claims they are still a useful tool for building a Twitter following, but it’s hard to see how they, like most of their competitors, are not being put out of business by Twitter in its quest to clean up spammers and fake accounts. So that leaves us with the other two options listed above.
The Bottom Line: It Takes Time and/or Money To Build A Following
Right after it was made available to all Twitter accounts, I tried Twitter advertising self service for a few weeks, both promoting a few different tweets, and also promoting my account. Like Facebook advertising, it’s a bid type of advertising system. You can promote tweets to targeted users by location, interests, gender, and device. You can also target users based on specific keywords in their tweets. I found it did not have a significant impact on my following, and it was costing me $30 a week (my maximum), so I quit using it. An expert in Twitter advertising could probably have done a better job with targeting, but I found it has been a more effective strategy (and free) to simply take a few minutes to follow people Twitter recommends for me every day.
If I were dedicating myself to building my Twitter following by sitting at the computer for 8 hours a day and focusing solely on Twitter, or I hired an intern, I could probably spend the time to dilligently follow relevant, real accounts (using keyword searches) up to the limit Twitter would place on my account (1,000 or less). I’m positive I could grow my Twitter following much faster than I am right now – but not as fast as the band I mentioned above. I’m not trying to actively sell something to my Twitter following, though, so at this point, I am happy to continue to build my Twitter following slowly. I am proud to say that, according to Social Bakers, my fake follower percentage is 0, and my inactive follower percentage is 1%. I’m very satisfied with those KPIs.
Solveig’s Secret Sauce
I have found that the activities that increase my following most noticeably are
- use hashtags to highlight searchable terms in tweet headlines (2-3 per tweet, no more)
- participate in Twitter chats
- include my Twitter handle on my business card, website, and email auto signature
- live tweet events
- participate intelligently in event hashtags even when not present by engaging in conversation and retweeting (note: this does NOT mean spamming an event hashtag)
- engage with those who follow and engage with me
- make personal connections with Twitter peeps outside Twitter
- curate (retweet) content useful to my followers
- create useful content, like this blog post
Here are a few other links I have found that offer helpful tips on growing your Twitter following:
- Twitter Guide For Musicians, HowToRunABand’ (Chris “Seth” Jackson): http://howtorunaband.com/twitter-guide-for-musicians/
- 10 easy Ways To Get More Twitter Followers, HeartFib: http://heartifb.com/2013/04/25/10-easy-ways-to-get-more-twitter-followers/
- Study On How To Get More Twitter Followers: Be Positive, Informative, Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-kanalley/how-to-get-more-twitter-followers_b_2767710.html
- How To Use JustUnfollow To Gain More Quality Twitter Followers, Smart Savvy Living: http://www.smartsavvyliving.com/how-to-use-justunfollow-to-gain-more-quality-twitter-followers/
What experiences have you had in growing your Twitter following? Have you tried any of the four techniqes I listed above? What kind of results did you get? I’d love to hear.