Back in December, I passed one thousand followers on Twitter. Since then, I’ve continued gaining new followers at an average of 100+ a month. A lot of people have asked me about my strategy, so I decided to compile all the lessons I’ve learned through experimentation, research, and careful studying.
In other words, I’m telling you all my secrets.
While today’s blog post isn’t about storytelling, it is still mighty useful for all ye writers out there, because we all know that building an audience is critical (if we ever want anyone to read our books). >_>
Disclaimer #1: I am not professing to know everything about Twitter. Heck, 1k is just the first milestone, and I still have sooo much to learn! But I want to share with you everything I’ve learned so far. Perhaps when I reach my next milestone, I’ll have even more to share. *winks*
Disclaimer #2: There is no one way to use Twitter, just like there’s no one way to write a book. There is a lot of advice about there for how to use Twitter that I vehemently disagree with. Also, I will say some things here that others will disagree with. The important thing is to find what works for you and your audience. So, take all this with a grain of salt! 🙂
1. Choose an audience (and stick with it).
When I first started using Twitter seriously (back in the summer of 2014), I made a common mistake: I just tweeted about my interests. My two passions are writing and filmmaking, so I wrote abundantly about both topics.
But, I soon encountered a problem.
Whenever I tweeted about filmmaking, I would lose writer followers. Whenever I tweeted about writing, I would lose filmmaker followers. Truth is, it’s very rare for someone to care about both topics, like I do.
I realized was trying to reach two difference audiences. The result? I was reaching neither.
So I had to make a decision: Who is my audience? When I decided to focus on writers, my follower count started consistently climbing for the first time.
Side note: Just because you have one audience doesn’t mean you must stick to one topic. For example, I don’t always tweet about writing, but I do always make sure my tweets are somehow relevant (or at least funny) to fellow writers.
2. Remember: It’s not about you.
Another common mistake people make on social media is assuming that their accounts are… well, about them.
It’s not about you, friends. It’s about your followers.
This was an enormous lightbulb moment for me. Rather than hopping on Twitter to express myself and shout nonsense into the world hoping someone would listen, I chose to ask these questions: “What do my followers want to see? What would help them? What would brighten their day?”
When I made that mental switch, I noticed a significant increase in the amount of engagement with my tweets.
4. Ignore the follow-me-back-ers.
That isn’t a real word, but that’s what I call people on Twitter (or any social media account) that follow you just so you can follow them.
**Red alert!** IGNORE THEM.
Do not feel pressured to follow them back. And do not feel guilty if these people unfollow you again after a few days. These aren’t the kinds of followers you want, anyway. You want people who care about your content, who will be engaged… not just random numbers!
Also, one of the things that makes Twitter so amazing (especially for writers) is the incredible, uplifting community that’s available… if you tap into it. Your experience on Twitter will be shaped by who you follow. If you follow noisy, self-absorbed, obnoxious, or whiny people… well, Twitter simply won’t be as fun. Follow people whose content actually interests you.
5. Don’t be a follow-me-back-er.
If you have to follow people in order to get followers, then please hear me: You are wasting your time. This is not an authentic way to build an audience. If you follow thousands and thousands of people, then that “follow” means nothing.
Instead, if no one is following you, then focus on improving your tweets. Make them funnier, or more useful, or more original. If your tweets are good, the followers will come. They’ll come and they’ll stay because they actually like seeing your content in their newsfeed.
Isn’t that what you want, anyway?
6. Treat your followers like people, not numbers.
If you become overly focused on counting your followers, believe me, you are asking for them to leave.
Instead, focus on providing value and building relationships. If you do, the followers will come. But remember: the quality of your followers matter. It is far better to have a few followers that are very engaged and interested in your content, than to have lots and lots of “fake” followers who never pay attention to your updates.
Also: Never, ever, under any circumstances should you buy followers. It’s a waste of money. Those artificial numbers provide no actual value. What you want is real people who really care about what you have to say. Let your followers come naturally, even if it takes a while at first. The rewards of this approach are far more worth it.
7. Use hashtags like salt, not sugar.
Hashtags are very important, especially when you’re first starting out and you want people to see your content. But, it’s critical that you use them correctly.
Be intentional. Never add hashtags randomly. Hashtags are used for joining global conversations; so, research the hashtags that are prevalent in your community (e.g. writing, politics, or sports), and make sure you understand what they mean.
For example, in the writing community, some common hashtags include: #amwriting and #amediting (for updates about your writing progress), #writetip and #writingtip (self-explanatory), and #writerproblems (for relatable and funny tweets about life as a writer).
When you love writing… but sometimes you wish you could just press a button and let all your story ideas write themselves. #writerproblems
— Brianna da Silva (@Brianna_daSilva) April 28, 2016
But hashtags become tacky really, really quickly. It’s ideal to never use more than two in a tweet. It’s better to only use one. It’s best to use none at all.
Hashtags are great for getting discovered by potential new followers. But if you overdo it, it makes you look desperate, which will make people want to follow you less, not more.
8. Be positive.
The most successful accounts on Twitter are typically the funniest ones. (Great examples: Very Lonely Luke, Brooding YA Hero, and Exploding Unicorn.) Also, an encouraging or helpful tweet can go a long way. (See also: Dale Partridge, Greatist, and Kid President.)
But do you know what doesn’t attract followers?
This isn’t to say you can’t ever be real or authentic when you’re having a bad day, but make sure you’re not getting on Twitter to complain. Honestly, not to be harsh, but as soon as your voice becomes whiny, people will tune you out.
There are enough negative voices on the Internet. Make it your mission to shine light into your follower’s lives.
9. Post frequently.
Twitter is one of those beasts where you have to post frequently, or you might as well not be posting at all. There’s so much content out there, and sporadic tweets just get lost.
I’ve found that, in order to have a healthy, growing Twitter account, you need to be posting at least four or five times a day. More is better, so long as you’re not draining yourself or posting mediocre content because you’re running out of ideas. Don’t spread yourself thin!
Also, if you have something important to say, you may have to repeat yourself a few times. Accommodate users with different schedules and time zones. (Be creative about it, though; don’t become a parrot!)
10. Take breaks.
It can be exhausting coming up with original tweets all day, every day. So take breaks. If you feel drained, just stop. Don’t force it. Allow yourself to recharge and get re-inspired, just like you would with any other creative pursuit.
In my case, I give myself one day a week where I don’t have to tweet at all. It’s my primary safeguard against burnout.
11. Post at the right times.
Experiment to figure out when your audience is online. For me, my audience is all over the world in all sorts of different time zones, so I’ve found that no matter when I post, someone will see it. That being said, certain times perform better than others. Whenever I post something, I try to post at one of these favored times so I can reach as many people as possible.
Here are the best times for my tweets (all in EST), but find what works for your specific audience:
- 6:00 a.m.
- 9:00 a.m.
- 11:45 a.m.
- 2:00 p.m.
- 5:00 p.m.
- 7:00 p.m.
- 10:00 p.m.
- 2:00 a.m.
12. Be a real person.
There’s a common maxim that says, “People follow people.” In other words, people will be far more interested in you if you feel like a person, rather than an account or a business.
What does this mean, practically?
- It means your profile picture should show you, not a logo or cartoon. Now, I hear all the shy people of the Internet moaning and howling like werewolves. Let me just set this straight: You are beautiful, my friend, and we want to see your real face! 🙂 Trust me with this one!
- It means you should craft the wording of your tweets so they feel authentic and personable.
- It means you should show vulnerability. Share your struggles as well as your joys. Nothing shouts fake more than a person who pretends to always have their life together, because none of us do. Just use tact, because once something is public, there’s no going back.
13. Retweet rarely.
Retweeting is an awesome way to show support for fellow tweeters, but don’t overdo it. People follow you for you. What is your unique voice? Do you have one? If all you can do is restate other people’s ideas, why should they follow you?
Also, remember point #2: Keep your audience in mind. Before you click “retweet,” ask yourself: Do you want to retweet this just because you like it? Is it something your followers would like, too? If you can’t confidently answer yes to the second question, then resist re-posting it. Too much retweeting can become tacky, just like excessive hashtags.
14. Use images.
According to research, tweets with images get 313% more engagement. Whenever you can, post a photo! I upload images straight from my phone, although I usually do some light editing on them first. Here’s a secret: I add a teensy bit of blue to all of my images, to make them feel subconsciously consistent with my brand. 😉
I'm at the library again, and this time it's to – *gasp* *wait for it* – FINISH MY NOVELLA. 😬😬
…I'm going to cry. pic.twitter.com/a4HpX1GV96
— Brianna da Silva (@Brianna_daSilva) May 4, 2016
15. Find your unique brand.
Be different. Discover that part of your personality that stands out, and express it through your bio and tweets. Now, don’t tell me, “I’m boring, I’m not unique, bla, bla.” That’s ridiculous. Every single human on this planet has something distinctive and interesting about them. You just have to figure out what that is for you.
Also, it’s impossible to capture your entire, complex personality online, so don’t try. Just focus on one aspect (or several aspects) that you can be consistent with.
For example, my online presence reflects the squealing, excitable, optimistic side of my personality that loves books and enjoys encouraging people. Of course, I’m not always like that. (Not in the least!) But it is me. And it’s the side of me I’ve chosen to focus on for my brand.
16. If you can’t be on Twitter… schedule.
Let’s face it: we have lives. We can’t be on Twitter all the time. (Nor should we!) But if you want to reach your full audience, you’ll need to have tweets going out throughout the day.
The solution? Scheduling.
I used Hootsuite for times when I know I can’t be on Twitter, but my followers likely will. I know I can always check notifications later. I allow myself to respond to people in my own timing. If I didn’t, Twitter would devour my life like a hungry cyclops.
Rule Twitter. Don’t let Twitter rule you.
17. Use lists.
It can get overwhelming trying to keep track of everyone you’re following, even if you are selective with who you follow back. Experiment with making lists (perhaps private ones) to keep track of your best friends on Twitter, or to organize all the information on your newsfeed.
18. Be relatable.
The greatest way to gain retweets (which is honestly the best method for obtaining new followers) is to put words in your followers’ mouths. Say something that they’d want to say. Put into words what they’ve already been feeling.
Do you ever feel like you have so many stories burning inside you? You wish you could write them all now, but you can't…
— Brianna da Silva (@Brianna_daSilva) April 23, 2016
19. Invite discussion.
Don’t let your account be a one-way conversation! Ask questions. Post polls. Get your followers talking. And don’t forget to respond! There’s nothing more frustrating than responding to a question but not having the original account respond back to you. Start the conversation, and finish it. Do better than just “liking” their comment… unless you literally have nothing to say, which happens to the best of us. 😛
20. Be attractive at a glance.
There are hundreds of millions of accounts on Twitter. If you want to stand out, you’ll want to catch people’s eyes right away.
How do you do that?
- Clear bio: The very first words of your bio should speak directly to your audience. E.g., if your audience is writers, then you should have “writer” or “writing” at the beginning of your bio. Also, the rest of your bio should express exactly what you are about, nothing more. Don’t say “I love pilates” if you never tweet about pilates!
- Balanced tweets: Alternate the types of tweets you publish, so that new visitors to your profile can tell right away – without scrolling – what kind of content they can expect from you.
Are you on Twitter? What are some tips and techniques that have helped you? Share in the comments below!