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How to Quickly Find and Grow Your Twitter Following The Right Way (Part 1)

How to Find and Grow Your Twitter Following The Right Way
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Are you using Twitter or are you just on Twitter?

Wondering if there’s a special secret to growing a large following?

With over 310 million active users (65 million US), you can be sure that your prospective customers are out there… Somewhere.

Finding them is the easy part, which I will go over below…

Convincing them to sign up to your blog list, free tool, or, even worse, buy something from you is a much more strenuous endeavor.

But before you go about finding your audience on Twitter, you have to have a really good idea of who they are.

Disclaimer: There is so much trash out there on buying Twitter followers… There are so many spam accounts on Twitter… What I’m talking about is true, authentic growth. Buying fake followers is not going to help your business, give it up… If that’s what you’re here for please leave and never return.

Understanding Your Target Twitter Follower

Much like creating a target customer persona, understanding your target Twitter follower is pivotal to success. But this is noticeably different than understanding your target buyer, because you have to understand a few things about Twitter, and social media in general:

  1. Getting in front of one person is hard work. But getting someone to actually read and engage is even harder.
  2. Most people are looking for great content on Twitter. No one is looking to be sold, and they especially don’t care about your business.

  1. Many people on Twitter have their own audiences, which you can easily leverage.
  2. People care more about themselves than anyone else. Something you can completely use to your advantage simply by being nice to them, providing value to them, complimenting them, and making them feel special.

With that in mind, here are 5 questions that you can ask yourself to help determine who you want to target on Twitter (I recommend writing down your answers):

  1. Who exactly is your ideal customer? You obviously have to know this really well before you begin.
  2. What types of words would this customer use to describe themselves?
  3. What types of hashtags would this person use when Tweeting (or searching)?
  4. Who else wants a following of people like your ideal customer?
  5. Of those people/companies, which ones would be interested in what you do? 

You can see we’ve got two paths to choose from here:

  • Target your ideal customers
  • Target the influencers of your ideal customers

And you can do both simultaneously… Just remember that both audiences have different mindsets and will require different messaging.

Personally, I prefer to focus on the influencers first, as those are the people that will actually drive your business:

Tweetable Content Via TweetDis
Credit: TweetDis.com

But if that seems unattainable for you, then focus on the customers. The best situation is when your customers are influencers.

Hashing Out Your Target Keywords

Next up, your job is to find the people who fit into your target audience, starting with understanding what they tweet about and why they are on Twitter.

If you have any followers, customers, or prospects at all, I’d recommend starting by stalking their Twitter bios. Here’s a Twitter bio of someone I’m (politely) stalking right now:

Politely Stalking Hayden Richards

With just a quick glance at his profile, we can quickly see what keywords Hayden identifies with and what hashtags he’s using.

Write these down for 10-20 of your customers and look for patterns. What are the 2-3 that come up the most?

Or, if you want to shortcut this method, you can use a tool like Audiense to give you a cloud tag for your followers. Here’s ours:

Our Twitter Follower Tag Cloud Rebrandly

Finding More Followers Like The One’s You’ve Already Got

If you’re following along properly, you should now have a good grasp on your 3 main hashtags.

Hopefully, these are broad terms that 1,000s of people are using on Twitter. If not, then maybe your target market is too small, or maybe they really aren’t on Twitter (if your target hashtag is #GreatGrandMa you might be outta luck…).

Now there are a few ways to go about finding your followers. My favorite is Audiense, but let’s start with the free and easy way:

How to Find Your Followers Using Twitter Search

Twitter Search allows you to search by top posts, photos, videos, people and other criteria:

How to Sort by Accounts in Twitter Search

You can also use Twitter’s advanced search to further refine your search if necessary. This can be especially helpful if you run a local business:

Twitter's Advanced Search Feature

So what next? It’s kind of obvious, but we’ve got a few choices:

  • Easy: Follow these people.
  • Medium: Retweet some of their Tweets or @mention them.
  • Hard: Hunt them down outside of Twitter (probably through their bio links, website, or Google search).

Of course, doing all 3 gives you the best chance of getting noticed, but if you aren’t targeting people properly, or if you don’t have the right message, that’s also a great way to piss people off.

Think about it like this:

The more important the person (or business), the more time you should spend trying to grab their attention.

The simplest thing to do is follow them. This just requires going down the list and clicking the button:

Following Twitter Accounts that use a certain hashtag

It’s not a perfect strategy, and you really haven’t done anything valuable or engaged with them just yet, but people notice followers and tend to check out your profile and follow back if they see fit. So it works OK.

We will get to a more advanced strategy using Audiense in just a second…

How to Properly @Mention Your “New Friend”

Whether following someone from your personal account or your business account, it will be tempting to start blabbing about yourself in an attempt to get them to notice you. Don’t!

Remember, what I said earlier. It’s worth repeating again:

“People care more about themselves than anyone else. Something you can completely use to your advantage simply by being nice to them, providing value to them, complimenting them, and making them feel special.”

(Yes I just quoted myself from earlier in the article.)

So what should you say to them?

How Rebrandly Works

Start by getting to know them better, by reading their bio and following their bio link. You can also do a quick Google search to see what comes up (and maybe follow them on a few other channels while you are there).

Before resorting to a simple @mention, take a deeper look at their profile by going to the Tweets and Replies section and see if there aren’t any conversations you can chime in on.

If there’s nothing, here are some good one-liners that have worked out fairly well for me:

  • I enjoyed your article on Y, what projects are you planning for the future?
  • What’s your favorite part / least favorite / problems with / future of about [Their Industry]?
  • I was hoping you could answer a question for an upcoming blog post I’m writing… Then include the question in image format by using Pablo (Buffer’s cool little app), like this one:

One Piece of Business Advice Question

This one typically gets the greatest response rate, because it directly plays to helping promote the other person.

And it’s great for you too, as you get to create content off the back of it. Simply compile all of the answers in a doc or spreadsheet. Save the original links to their Tweets, as you can embed those. And once you have 10-15, create a blog post out of it.

How to Get Even More Targeted with an Advanced Following Strategy Using Audiense

If you can’t tell, I love Audiense. I use the product almost every day, and am happy to pay for the service. Yes there are other services like Moz’s Followerwonk, CrowdFire, and Sprout Social, but Audiense is my personal favorite.

If you have an account with under 5,000 followers, you can sign up for a free trial (with limited features) in order to run through this tactic. I highly recommend it for any serious Twitter user. 

Here’s exactly what you need to do:

Start by going to Discover New Twitter Users:

Discover New Twitter Users in Audiense

Click on the advanced search function on the left-hand side and input these variables:

Advanced Filtering in Audiense to Find Your Best Customers

Followers – over 1,000. We want to start with the people who have audiences of their own in hopes of increasing our viral coefficient – the number of people each one person refers to us (if you get over 1 you are going “viral”). If you have your own Klout or are feeling ambitious, you can raise this number as you see fit, but 1,000 is a good place to start. Also, almost forgot, you can limit the upper bound of followers. Chances are influencers with over 100,000 followers are not going to be interested in following you back, so consider taking them off the list (unless you think you can really impress them).

Following – Why would you care about their following? Well, because we want them to follow us, and chances are, if they aren’t following more than 100 people, you are not going to become #101. Find people that tend to follow back.

Account Age – This one is HUGE. There are tons of fake Twitter accounts out there, and they will do us no good at all. Twitter frequently flushes out fake accounts, which means most of them are going to be only a couple months old. Crank up the account age to at least 5 months and you will instantly avoid the pitfalls of following (and engaging with) fake followers. There’s nothing worse than wasting your time on a fake account.

Time Since Last Tweet – We only want active users, because those are the people that are more likely to follow back. If you are in an industry where the customers tend to be fairly inactive on social media, you can make an exception, but, in general, start with the active users, and then move onto the less active.

No Eggheads – Not shown in the image above. Hit the globe icon and select “Avatars” and “Only profiles with customized images.” Never follow eggheads.

Now that we’ve got that set, you can input your hashtag (and location if necessary) and get your results:

Reading Bios from within Audiense

Here you can see a whole bunch of Twitter accounts, and can hover over each one to get the user’s bio. From there you can determine if you want to follow them, mention them, or reach out to them…

Or, if you’re satisfied with the quality of your search and all the users look good, you can go into “follower” mode (which is totally addicting by the way):

Fast Follow Your Followers

This allows you to follow a bunch of users really fast (without violating some of the rules about mass following that Twitter has in place).

Repeat This Process Every 3 Days

Now we’ve followed up to 1,000 of our new closest friends. Let’s see who engages with us and follows back. Over the next 3 days try to “politely stalk” as many of these users as possible by favoriting and retweeting any relevant content. See if you can’t join in on their conversations. And most importantly:

Give before trying to get…

See if you can’t provide any value to them.

It’s OK to link them to relevant content when appropriate, but it doesn’t have to be just self-promotional content, and it almost certainly should not be to your product page.

After 3 days, come back into your Audiense account and go to your “Not Following You Back” tab:

Not Following You Back on Audiense

And you can go into follower mode and remove everyone that didn’t follow you back.

Remember, you are following people specifically to drive your account growth… If they aren’t following you back, then there is no need to follow them… Unless they are a thought leader or influencer and you’d like to keep them around. But for the most part, you can monitor accounts using a tool like Hootsuite and don’t need them directly in your native Twitter feed.

Final Thoughts

This is the only the first step to growing your audience on Twitter. Next up we will discuss content curation, then auto-mentions, and then deeper engagement strategies like Twitter Chats. If you enjoyed this article, bookmark the page to come back later for more updates, or better yet, subscribe to our blog.

What do you think? Are you using a follow/unfollow strategy on Twitter? Do you have any questions about how and why the strategy works? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Originally Posted: July 12th, 2016.

Post Updated: November 23rd, 2017.

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Head of Growth at Rebrandly. Derric is a lifelong entrepreneur and passionate about helping startups and marketers not suck. He speaks, practices, and blogs about growth and digital marketing on Rebrandly and across the universe.
  • Selvakumar R

    Good explanations and great article for twitter beginners. As you mentioned we all need to unfollow the inactive twitter accounts.

    • Ideally you never follow inactive accounts in the first place!

      • Selvakumar R

        after some time, the account may be become inactive, that is where we have to unfollow those accounts. having the right followers is important than having more number of followers.

        • Yes of course. But unfollowing an inactive account really isn’t a big deal, it has no actual marketing value, right? It just shows you are following less people by a little margin.

  • It’s a great tool, but don’t do it without also having a content curation strategy as well. Here’s the part 2 blog post on content curation: https://blog.rebrandly.com/content-curation-twitter-quickly-find-grow-twitter-following-part-2/

    And here’s a talk I gave on the exact process I use to do this: http://derric.link/speaking4

  • This is great stuff. Thanks for sharing. Did you ever follow up with info on targeting Twitter chats?

    • I never got around to Twitter chats. It’s probably one of my weakest spots on Twitter. I have a feeling you might have a link for me 😀 If so, please share.

  • Good list tips and really well explained. Where I really struggle is in the repeat every 3 days part. In my last startup I tried doing it first. But then I could not do it regularly – later on recruited a team member. However as time passes the effectiveness goes as it becomes routine.

    What I felt is we as human beings are more better in engaging humanly with creativity. Have a look at this cool tool I am building: https://www.cloohawk.com. The aim is to take away the monotonous audience and conversation identification, but focus more on engagement.

    Tnx for the well done article.