I know what you’re thinking: another article about how to get more Twitter followers. Sigh. What I hope differentiates this piece from others you might have read is its pragmatism. No touchy-feely gobbly-gook – just some straightforward tools (bookended with some cynicism) to help you grow your Twitter followers.
How many Twitter followers do you want and need? Many people have strong opinions of this, and most people’s opinions are wrong (given the proper context). For example, a person that is just using Twitter to keep in touch with a small group of friends isn’t interested to grow their network unless a qualified person comes along. A geographically specific business may not want to grow too much its audience out of their area.
For many businesses a big social audience matters. It’s not because social is an efficient means to communicate with people, because it most certainly is not (scale somewhat compensates for this). It may partially be so that customers and prospects have an outlet for social care. But whether we tacitly acknowledge it or not, social network scale imparts authority to a business or person agnostic of the source or constituency of the network. I’ll give a couple of examples of this in a little bit.
What I want to do is discuss a few methods for gaining Twitter followers. If you want scale, you should be able to easily get 2000 followers and then be able to manage your network up from there (I’ll share the practical reasons why this is the case in the next section).
Acquiring your targets
The first thing you’ll probably want to do is to determine who your target follower is. Are they local? Do they have a specific interest? What do I expect them to do? Are they following me for deals, customer service, anthropomorphized companionship, or something else? I don’t really have an answer for you, except that I want to plant a seed: do you need to target anyone specifically at all? More bluntly, do you have resources behind your social goal or is a Twitter follower contributing +1 to an obtuse number? I will argue later that using follower count as a vanity metric is both common and reasonable.
Once you know who you want to follow you and to how you expect to interact with them on Twitter you can start to acquire these followers. However, let’s take a look at the limits that Twitter puts on accounts to understand how you need to build your empire:
You can follow your first 2000 people on Twitter without any problem. If you do a good job of following people who will reciprocate your follow then you can grow rather quickly. However, until 1819 people follow you back, you can’t follow another person. That’s because for all follower counts over 2000, you are allowed to follow 10% more people than follow you. If you have 2000 people following you, you can follow 2200. 3000, 3300. So on and so forth. So the process of following people accelerates most at the beginning and then is largely dependent on reciprocal follows. And realistically, if you’re not managing follows or buying followers you are going to have less than 2000 followers for a very long time.
Tools like justunfollow, manageflitter and socialbro have tools to help you determine latent accounts and accounts that don’t reciprocally follow you back, allowing you to create space to follow and build your Twitter audience, but going through that process sucks and can mitigated somewhat by properly targeting to begin with (disclosure: socialbro gave me a free account because I wrote about how cool their features were a few times).
If your goal is to get a reciprocal follower, you should be targeting people who have about the same number of people following them as they follow. Odds are better that these people will follow you back than people who have a large discrepancy between followers and followed. It’s not difficult to segment your audience and target in on people, but converting a segmented Twitter audience into customers is a hell of a lot more difficult in practice than it is in theory.
So you know who you want to follow you: who they are, where they are, what they do, etc. Let’s take a look at some tools that can help you to segment in the Twittersphere and do some ice-breaking.
Know these tools.
Twitter. Of course most of the segmentation data that you’ll use to find your targeted followers is housed by Twitter (unless you have some sort of social CRM that gives you additional details such as LinkedIn or Facebook data), so it might make sense to gain followers organically using Twitter’s promoted accounts feature. Basically, you’re paying somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.50 – $4.00 per follow. The way it works is that your account is featured in their “Who to Follow” discovery section.
ManageFlitter. Probably one of the more intuitive Twitter tools out there, ManageFlitter has a screen called “Power Mode” where you can type in your segmentation options, find and filter prospective users quite easily. It also has a neat feature where it will process queued Twitter transactions to a daily limit, meaning that you could theoretically queue 4000 follows and ManageFlitter would process them over the course of the next six weeks (that’s actually not a theoretical, I haven’t been managing my Twitter follows well and have to catch up).
SocialBro. If not for ManageFlitter’s queueing function, SocialBro would be my favorite targeting tool and it’s not hard to see why. SocialBro gives you fine-tuned control of your targeting, which for a person suffering from analysis paralysis (as I do) gives me the exhilaration of having a lot of control coupled with the license to fiddle with the targeting tools for hours at a time.
One of my favorite features of SocialBro is its capability to export to an Excel file so that you can analyze certain data sets in spreadsheets. If I get too involved with SocialBro, I can get lost in my pivot tables for days….
JustUnfollow. Probably the most unfortunately named app for people intent to acquire new followers, sufficed to say that you can do more than just unfollow people with this one. The developers of this app (Nischal Shetty and Sameer Mhatre) have a pretty extraordinary resume of social tools having also developed the excellent GrabInbox app. While JustUnfollow doesn’t have the bells and whistles of ManageFlitter and SocialBro, it does allow for you to find geolocated fans by keyword.
You can see that we’re digressing a bit in our targeting capability. Maybe it’s time we had the talk.
Let me qualify the talk first by showing you this (source):
This is just to show that I’m not trying to justify my personal activity. That said, I don’t think it’s wrong to grow your Twitter following with inappropriate targets or even fake followers. Because most people don’t use Twitter (source), and because most Tweets aren’t seen by the majority of their intended audience, follower count as a vanity metric is a completely reasonable, rational tactic. You may disagree with this and I don’t have heartburn with people who view social media with idealism (I respect that point of view very much, actually), but pragmatically I don’t see any fault in pursuing a strategy of number acquisition. In fact, the New York Times calls fake followers the “worst kept secret in the Twittersphere,” while discussing how widespread the practice is.
I’m going to introduce a few tools to grow your follower count with less-specific (or no) targeting, and then conclude discussing purchasing zombie Twitter followers (although zombie is probably a misnomer since they have never been alive).
TwitterCounter. TwitterCounter offers acquisition for around .50 per follower, with the caveat that you can only segment by location. There may be some instances where geography-only would be an appropriate target, but for the majority of businesses this enters the gray area of acquisition for acquisition’s sake.
Twiends. This is an interesting concept – you earn points for every person that you follow on Twitter or Instagram, and then those points are passed on to other people when they follow you. You can also purchase points. You can see how the pass-it-forward arrangement is less than ideal when you’re acquiring nonreciprocating fans (many who will probably unfollow you in a certain period of time), but this may be a way to acquire followers especially if you pay instead of participating in the game. I also wanted to point out that pretty well-known people boost their Twitter accounts using these tools: Marcus Lemonis (my heterosexual man crush, if you’ve ever seen the program “The Profit” you’ll understand) just happens to be boosting his 223,000 Twitter fans using Twiends as I took this screenshot.
Clicked on Twiends and….
How to acquire Zombie Twitter followers
There’s a social media “expert” that used to get my goat, because he had over 100K followers and he’d clearly purchased the majority of them. How could he speak with authority about social media when he was the product of tens of thousands of automatons?
Had I given it two seconds of time or thought, I’d have realized that nearly every musician, politician and celebrity buys fake Twitter followers. In the rare event that anyone calls them on it (it’s not like the celebrities themselves are doing it, but someone promoting them is), they simply say that they haven’t bought fake followers and there’s really not much more to say about it. It’s not like they have a receipt. It’s not like fake followers put your Twitter account in jeopardy, either. How would Twitter prove that you were the purchaser?
That said, there are qualitative differences between fake Twitter followers. In theory, you get what you pay for. The reason for the qualitative difference is pretty straightforward: it takes more sophistication and resource to fool Twitter’s spam filters over a period of time than it does temporarily. It needs to be difficult for Twitter to differentiate between a latent account and a fake account, or else the fake account would be whisked into the zombie abyss leaving you with nothing (source). So, if you are in the market for fake Twitter friends, you want to buy higher priced followers and look for reviews before purchasing. You want to buy your fake followers like you buy your bed sheets: higher thread count is better but don’t ask me why because I don’t know.
Which is not to say that anything you buy unregulated on ebay, fiverr or someplace else is any better than anything else… because I don’t really know. Either do you.
In any event, what I wanted to do was to show that you can acquire Twitter followers with strict targeting, loose targeting, no targeting, or flat-out buy them. Despite the judgement that circulates about the ethics of some of the tactics at the shadier end of the spectrum (it is unethical, right?), the practice of purchasing followers is widespread and rational. Segmentation and targeting are likewise widespread and rational.
Every business can easily acquire 2000 Twitter followers, and can increase their follower count quite rapidly with these account management tools. I hope that’s evident from the piece. There are plenty of other tools that can help to grow follower count besides that ones that I mentioned – they are just some prominent examples.
If I left anything out or if you have experience with these tools I hope you’ll leave a comment and share.