By Brian Patterson on Sep 02, 2011 2
We’ve been managing a number of Twitter accounts for a while now, and have concocted and tested several different strategies to increase follower counts. Some of the things we tested were very ‘white hate’, while others…. lets just say they were probably on the wrong side of Twitter’s Terms of Service. What I want to talk about today is one of the methods that has proven successful in gaining new followers for brand Twitter accounts. While this method could be used with some success on personal accounts, my focus for this article is on Twitter accounts that are associated with websites in a particular niche.
You’ll hear a number of gurus say, “it doesn’t matter how many followers you have, its all about engagement.” While this may be true, if you only have 20 followers, there isn’t a lot of engaging to be had. Sometimes you need more followers, and this method works.
Hat tip to Michael Gray for the ideas introduced in this article! We executed it slightly differently, which is why I wanted to write a post about it. Michael uses some different tools and methodologies, but the concept is the same.
What I love about this method is its elegance in simplicity. While there are a ton of tools and methods out there that can help get you followers, this strategy is both easy and doesn’t require much more than Twitter.com and a ManageFlitter account.
ManageFlitter is a Twitter approved tool that allows you to manage who your followers are, and who you are following, in a number of different ways. The interface provides several different filters to slice and dice these users into groups. For the purposes of this article, we are most interested in the features which tell you, of the people you are following, who:
These three features will help us measure our success and continually manage who we are following in an intelligible way.
We are undertaking the tried and true method of following users in the hopes that they follow you back. As ‘played out’ as that sounds – it still works very well. Lets do some math!
On the account we have performed this on the most (10 times), we are seeing an average ‘follow back’ rate of 32%. We generally do this on 200 followers at a time, which means for each run we gain roughly 64 followers. If we did this once a week, we’d have 3,328 followers in a year. Do you know how many people would kill to have that many real accounts following them?
So here is the method, step-by-step, to gaining more followers.
Let’s say you run a grilling website, and are trying to build up followers for the associated Twitter account. The first thing you need to do is determine who on Twitter currently has followers that may be interested in following you. As a grilling fan, I know that people hold Steven Raichlen in high regard – he runs BBQ University, has grill training excursions, hosts a BBQ show on PBS, writes tons of great grilling books, etc. His followers are definitely interested in grilling.
I checkout his profile on Twitter and I see that he has 2,206 followers. Wow, not as many as I expected, but good enough for our example.
You’ll want to find 5-10 “Steven Raichlen’s” if you will…5 to 10 people/brands on Twitter that have followers who would be interested in your grilling site/account. I don’t know a ton of other professional grillers, so I simply Googled ‘Twitter Grilling’ and found this article:
From that article I found 4 solid accounts to follow:
Perfect, now we know of five accounts that could potentially send plenty of followers our way.
The next step is pretty simple, we start following their followers. But, before you do this, login to ManageFlitter and note how many people are not following you back. This is critical to ensure you know how many followers this method helps you gain. Its a good idea to track this all in a spreadsheet like this so that you can see your progress over time:
To start, we would go to Steven Raichlen’s account at twitter.com/sraichlen. Then, click the ‘Followers’ tab, and ‘All Followers’ from the drop-down list.
This will bring up a list of every user following @sraichlen. The list is ordered by when they began following his account, with his newest follower at the top and oldest follower all the way at the bottom.
From here, just start clicking the ‘Follow’ button all the way down, counting each time you click. As I mentioned before, we like to follow 200 users at a clip. There are some loose rules I have about whom I don’t follow, and they are:
Once you are done here, your new ‘not follow back number’ will be whatever it was previously +200. Update the spreadsheet to reflect the old number + 200 as your baseline (column C2 in the example above).
The waiting game begins. I generally don’t revisit this again for two days. If I start following people on Monday afternoon, I’ll login to ManageFlitter on Wednesday afternoon and note down how many people are not following back. The difference between what it was at the beginning, and what it is now, is how many followers you have gained from this process. There are some circumstances where this number can be off by a bit, but for the most part its a pretty solid and consistent metric to go by.
Not everyone is a social media junkie (like us) that logs into Twitter 83 times a day. As such, I like to give people 7 days to follow back before I ‘close’ the run and generate the final number of followers I’ve gained. This is how the ‘not following back’ number looks in ManageFlitter:
In the fictitious example above, you can see that our users gained 68 new followers, which is a ‘follow back’ rate of 34%. If you remember, we ran this against just one of the 5 twitter accounts we identified. The next step would be to run it against the others, spread out over time so as not to mix up the data. Once you’ve run the process against all of them, you can see which account’s users have the best ‘follow back’ percentage. Going forward, you’d then want to target the accounts that have users most likely to follow you back.
After a run is completed, we now have the opportunity to unfollow some users. Because you can get into a sticky situation called Twitter Follow Churn, I’d highly recommend taking it very easy in unfollowing users who do not follow you. I generally only unfollow users once every few months. I’ll routinely unfollow users who have gone inactive or have deleted their bios or profile images, but I’ll only bulk ‘unfollow anyone who isn’t following back’ once ever few months.
So there you have it, a safe and effective way to get more followers. If you have any thoughts on gaining Twitter followers, please share it with us in the comments!