When it comes to Twitter, the question most asked is usually, “How do I gain more followers?” Celebrities have millions. Your best friend who never leaves her room somehow has 500. Even your boss’ 13-year-old daughter has 200 more than you. What are these people doing that you are not? And how do you go about gaining more? (Of course, I’m assuming you’re not Ellen Degeneres or Lady Gaga.)
There are some people who take the easy way out and simply buy a following. We’ve all come across these Twitter bots and spam users. (In all honesty, they are fairly easy to spot.) Buying followers is fast and easy. But what does that do for you in the long run? Sure, you may wake up to a heaping amount of these bot followers, but other than being able to brag about your follower count, how much influence do you actually have? Bots won’t read your content, buy what you’re selling, shell out $20 for your book at Barnes & Noble or contribute any measure of merit to discussion. And spammers? Those people will do more harm than good, often chasing away potential followers by annoyingly over-sharing your content.
So how do you gain Twitter followers without succumbing to these maddening and utterly unethical tactics?
The most important tool to possess (or acquire, in most cases) is often the hardest. You need to have a voice. The silver lining? Everyone has one. Your experiences are unique to you and only you, and those experiences have shaped your voice. Still, it can be extremely difficult to pin down exactly what your voice is or what your voice will be. (Oh, and then condense it into 140 characters.) Some people naturally have a voice—it comes through in their writing almost effortlessly. But the majority has taken the time and effort to cultivate a voice. And believe me, that is not always an easy task.
Let’s break it down to this: What do you have to say that no one else can? And how do you say it? Constantly retweeting celebrities and posting inspirational quotes may get you a handful of new followers quickly, but people aren’t going to stick around for long if you don’t have something worthwhile to say that is exclusively you. If people wanted to follow a quote factory, they would follow @GreatestQuotes—and most likely they do.
Once you know your voice, engage with users. Follow people, join trending debates, favorite tweets you like, retweet what you really like (albeit sparingly), tweet and share informative content and good links. Realistically, you will need to devote a lot of time and effort into Twitter to get a solid ROI. You won’t magically gain one thousand followers overnight. (Unless you are using bots and spam accounts, but we’ve already covered why that’s a bad idea.) Engage with people, and they will engage with you. Spam and over-share things, and people will run far away from you. The best way to look at it is to think of the relationships you have offline. You want to engage with people who bring something to the table, not the people on the street corner who tries to coerce you into taking a survey every day on your walk to work. Be a friend, not a pest.
Like all hard-earned things in life, gaining followers takes a lot of time, dedication and patience. After all, would you rather have 200 real followers who find your content worthwhile, or 10,000 imaginary friends you had to pay for?