Want more Twitter followers? Me too. Here is what it looks like when you do the wrong thing for a year, then figure out how to do the right thing and do it for just a few days: If you are a company or an individual interested in Growth Hacking, you are trying to figure out how to make hockey sticks like this. If you are like me, you are trying to build “your platform”. Your platform is your virtual podium that you can stand on to get your message out. You deserve a big platform! You are awesome! The bigger your platform, the more people are part of your own personal community. I am writing a book and everyone tells me that I need a platform. Noah Kagan and Andrew Chen, some of the leading growth hacker practitioners on the planet, are obsessed with “growing their platform”. If these guys need one, you should have one also. There are many different ways to build a platform:
- Blog readership
- RSS subscribers
- Email marketing lists
- Twitter followers
- Facebook followers
RSS is dead (Bye, Google Reader) and I am not particularly interested in Facebook at the moment, but blog readership (hey there!), building my email list (go subscribe!), and growing my twitter followers all seem like worthwhile activities. One area that I felt like I should focus on was increasing my Twitter followers. Generally speaking, if I feel this way, you should also. For more than a year, I followed the conventional wisdom trying to grow my twitter followers. Growth hackers would say that I tried to do “marketing” when I should have been “hacking”.
People talk about a lot of different approaches to increasing your Twitter followers and it turned out that these approaches all sucked. The three most common methods you hear about are:
- Tweeting more frequently
- Tweeting at the right times
- Using hashtags
I tested the first two extensively. I tested the last very little because I am interested in a specific type of Twitter user and attaching the hashtag of whatever the current meme is serves me not at all. If you want to test using hashtags like a mad man, send me the data.
Tweeting More Frequently Doesn’t Grow Your Twitter Followers
Tweeting more frequently did not help. People cite studies saying that it helps, but I found that to be baloney. Here is a graph showing some variance in tweeting over a week. You can see that it had little or no effect on my readership. The day I tweeted the most frequently readership was flat. Readership grew in mid-January even as I tweeted less frequently. When I tweeted more in early February, readership declined. (This cool graph courtesy of http://twittercounter.com/)
What caused my sudden massive growth in readers at the end of December? It wasn’t some ramp in tweeting, clearly. Tweeting more or less seemed not to matter at all.
Tweeting At The Right Times Doesn’t Grow Your Twitter Followers
Here is a graph of my tweets for 2013: This chart shows the investment I made in using tools like HootSuite and Buffer to schedule my tweets. I used these tools for much of 2013. You can see the results: Tons of tweets at 9am, another wave of tweets at noon, and a third wave of tweets at 5pm, with the occasional bunch of tweets at 9pm.
This is the “Buffer best practice” as far as Tweet scheduling. Unfortunately, as the chart that opened this article observed, this failed to grow my twitter readership in any meaning way. The growth of my Twitter readership did not change from the prior year when I just tweeted whenever the heck I wanted. So all this really consisted of was being annoyed by Buffers plugins and eccentricity.
No One Wants To Follow And Be Followed By Twitter Bots
I was pretty down in the dumps at this point. I had friends with more followers than I did and it seemed like they weren’t trying all that hard while I was working my butt off to try and get one or two followers per day. Something had to change. It was time to start crazy things.
It was only when I abandoned the conventional wisdom and started testing my own ideas that I hit on success. The good news for you is that after that foolishness and testing, I found a replicable technique that dramatically grew my Twitter followers from under 500 to nearly 750 in just a few days. It is incredibly easy and it will be something that you can do also.
Why Following Lots of People On Twitter Sounds So Dumb
My hypothesis began with the number of auto-followers that seem to be found on Twitter. Many people have some automated script that follows people who follow them and some sites even offer as a service a tool that will observe whether someone you followed “follows you back” and if they don’t, then it unfollows them as being “unproductive”.
I had always devalued this “follow me and I will follow you back” automation as being low value across the board. You are attracting followers that are bots, that have tens of thousands of followers so they can’t possibly read their twitter stream, and people that you have no interest in or relationship to. How could that be productive? How does that grow your platform?
My perspective was the difference between 100 people reading my tweets and 100 people and 100 bots reading my tweets was that the value was the same. So while I could follow 100 bots and they would follow me back, that was not accretive to the platform, it just made my twitter stream spammy. Regardless, I figured I had tried everything else, it was time to start following more people.
Growing Your Twitter Followers The Fast And Easy Way
I followed a few people on that first couple of days. I followed 9 or 10 people per day. Those days instantly turned into the biggest jumps I had experienced in some time. The next day I followed a few hundred. I was rewarded in hours with huge boosts in followers. I expected these to be people who were automatically following me back. But I was wrong. Even crazier, they were not the people who I had followed.
Instead, I was suddenly, spontaneously, attracting all kinds of new followers. Many of them very active twitter people without significant automation. My new hypothesis: Following lots of people makes you a better fit for Twitter to recommend you to users. You can’t show up as “You might also want to follow” if you had not followed some similar people. But maybe there is no penalty for following different people. I don’t have some great way to validate this hypothesis, but there is some data to show that something good happens. For example, we know that there is a correlation between the number of people one follows and the number of followers: And my data sample shows a tight fit where the number of people I follow is tightly linked to the number of people who follow me. That is pretty incredible correlation. If those lines are not in love with each other, I don’t know how to read a chart. Increasing the number of people I follow almost directly turned into people following me. It seems reasonable to believe that if I simply followed even more people, then I would have that many more followers. As the below table of Twitter follower data demonstrates, this one act propelled me into the top 1% of all Twitter followers. Now you can be too. Get following! The clear takeaway from my year of experiments is that the single fastest way to grow your twitter followers is to aggressively follow more people. When I started following people, for every 2 people I followed, I gained a follower. And generally speaking very, very few of these were automated follows, they were real, meaningful people making my platform stronger. Since executing this strategy my retweets and favorites have skyrocketed as has the Twitter traffic to my blog.
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