I'm not a Twitter expert (is there such a thing, do they teach college courses on Twitter?) but this week for social media Sunday, I thought I would share a few things I have learned along the way that have helped me grow my Twitter following.
The first couple of years I was on Twitter, I largely ignored it. I had a handful of followers and I didn't pay it much attention. It was always my smallest social media presence, my Facebook fan page was my largest. Things sure have changed.
Then my blog started to grow and I realized that a larger Twitter following would allow more of the opportunities I was pursuing. I didn't really "get" Twitter at first, but I realized that it was important enough to start paying attention.
A few things I learned pretty quickly (probably the hard way). Here is what NOT to do when trying to grow your Twitter following.
How NOT to Grow Your Twitter Following
1. TrueTwit Validation
TrueTwit is a validation service for Twitter that is intended to protect your account from spammers, but in reality it just blocks potential followers. I personally have never experienced a huge spam problem on Twitter. Every once in a while I need to block someone, but it is not a big enough problem that I need accuse every person who attempts to follow me of being a potential spammer. If someone uses the TrueTwit Validation service and I receive a direct message asking me to prove that I'm not a spammer, I get annoyed and immediately unfollow them. If you use this service, you are likely annoying and losing potential followers and readers. This guy says it better than me.
2. Protect Your Tweets
If you protect your tweets then I can't see them and neither can anyone else. If you want a private account, that is fine. But if you are trying to grow your Twitter followers, please make your tweets public so everyone can see them. When I see an account with protected tweets, I assume that they don't want strangers to follow them. I respect their privacy and do not request to follow (or follow back) private accounts. If you have protected tweets, you are inhibiting your growth.
3. Don't Follow Back
I follow everyone back who follows me unless they are clearly a spam account, porn, offensive, private, in a language I can't read, or claim to like the band Nickelback. It's just the right thing to do. Remember that unless you are a celebrity or a pretty big name blogger, most people follow you simply because they are hoping you will follow them back. A recurring theme in my social media Sunday posts, it is not all about you.
4. Don't Try to Grow your Following
There is nothing wrong with sitting back and letting your following grow organically, but if you aren't that patient, there are some things you can do to speed up the process.
I use the app (or site) JustUnfollow to help grow my following. It has a feature where you can copy the followers of similar Twitter users or search for people to follow using relevant keywords. It suggests people to follow who are most active on Twitter and most likely to follow you back. The free version limits you to follow 50 new people a day. As it's name suggests, JustUnfollow also shows you the people who have unfollowed you or are not following you back. I usually follow 50 people who have similar interests (running, fitness, blogging, dogs) wait 48 to 60 hours, then use the same app to unfollow anyone who has not followed back. Repeat every few days to grow your following just a little faster.
5. Only Share Your Own Blog Links
It is absolutely fine to share your own blog links on Twitter. Twitter moves so fast, I think it is acceptable to share your own link multiple times a day because it is very unlikely that the same people will see it each time (unlike on Facebook where people might get annoyed seeing the same thing over and over again).
Twitter is social media, so get social. Share relevant content. Share the blog posts that you love. Retweet (RT) the things that you find funny or interesting. As a general rule, for every one link of my own that I share, I try to share at least three from other people.
Start conversations. Talk to the bloggers you love. Ask questions. Get to know people. Be social on social media. If you are only sharing your own content, you're doing it wrong.
6. Don't Say Thank You or Return the Favor
Bloggers are generally pretty good about saying thank you when I share their blog post or retweet their links. I would guess about half say thank you. It is nice to hear from them, and I appreciate that they took the minute to recognize that I went out of my way to share.
As nice as it is to say thank you, it would be even nicer to return the favor. If someone shares my content, I scroll through their Twitter profile and look for something they posted that I can share or RT (that makes sense for my audience). It just takes a few seconds and is a nice way to show your appreciation. Twitter should be more about giving than receiving.
7. Don't Use Hashtags
#Hashtags are important because they are a way that non-followers can find your tweets and hopefully be converted to followers. Think of Twitter as a search engine where people use hashtags to search for content that they are interested in reading. If you don't have many followers yet, it's OK, people can find your content using the hashtags in your tweet. I often use community hashtags (#Fitfluential, #SweatPink #GirlsGoneSporty) and hashtags relevant to my content (#running, #runchat, #fitgear, #healthyeating).
8. Send Auto-DM (direct messages)
It may just be me, but it annoys me when I follow someone and I immediately get an auto-DM that says "Thanks for following, now please check out my Facebook page." It is worse when they include a link to something they are selling. I just followed you, please don't spam me. Depending on how aggressive the sales pitch, sometimes I just ignore and delete the message, but sometimes I unfollow. It feels very spammy to me. I would never follow a Facebook page because of a DM message (no matter how great the page), simply because I do not want to encourage that behavior. It's not polite.
I really don't like any auto-direct messages, but the ones that I don't mind as much are ones that are not as self-promotional or at least a little less blatant about it. How about this for an idea?
"Thanks for following! I look forward to checking out your tweets. If you tweet me your FB page link, I'll be sure to follow you there too."
See how that works? It's not all about me. I'm not spamming someone asking them to follow me. People want to share their own Facebook page so they will be more receptive to this message. I think it is much nicer and probably more effective in getting a return Facebook follow. Don't you think?
9. Stay on Twitter all Day and Night
I know what you are thinking, "Ain't Nobody Got Time for That!" And you're right! Social media can be so time consuming, especially considering that most of us have families, jobs, and other responsibilities. I don't do it every single day, but if I have a blog post that I am promoting, I like to spend 15 minutes in the morning and schedule some tweets for the next 24-48 hours.
I use HootSuite to schedule Tweets for the day. I usually share my own link three times, around 9am, 3pm, and 7pm with slightly different text and hashtags each time for the same link. Instead of just typing out the name of my post, I try to ask a question, so that I can spark a conversation.
Remember what I said about sharing three links for every one of your own? In between my own three shared posts, I'll schedule three other links to share, so tweets are scheduled to go out about every hour or two, all while I am busy going about my day, not spending time on social media.
Do you have any other tips for what NOT to do on social media? Do you have a Twitter account? Leave your handle in the comments or send me a tweet @gealenders so that I can follow you on Twitter! (See what I did there? I am asking to follow you, not begging you to follow me.)
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