This past week­end marked 2 years since I quit my job and start­ed work­ing on Hot Pep­per Com­mu­ni­ca­tions full-time. This week­end also marked my pass­ing 10,000 fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, a far cry from the 50 I had when I con­vert­ed my side busi­ness into a full-time busi­ness.

Grow­ing my fol­low­er count by 10,000 in 2 years has tak­en a lot of work, includ­ing a lot of tri­al and error. It all comes down to 10 secrets in 3 areas: rec­i­p­ro­ca­tion, con­tent, and fol­low­ing. I’ve decid­ed to share my 10 secrets, so you, too — with hard work and a lot of time—can build a mas­sive fol­low­ing.

Reciprocate engagement

One of the most impor­tant things you can do to build engage­ment and increase fol­low­ers is to rec­i­p­ro­cate engage­ment oth­ers send your way. If some­one retweets you, retweet them back; if they fol­low you, fol­low them back; if they men­tion you, men­tion them back.

1. Respond to mentions

When I open up my Twit­ter account, I imme­di­ate­ly open the “Noti­fi­ca­tions” tab. One of the first things I do is check for any men­tions I received since the last time I logged in. They could be com­ments, ques­tions, or shoutouts.

Depend­ing on the nature of the com­ment, I thank them for the com­ment or con­tin­ue the con­ver­sa­tion. For ques­tions, I sim­ply answer the ques­tion, hope­ful­ly point­ing them to a page on my web­site for more details or to a recent arti­cle I read. For shoutouts, I sim­ply thank them for men­tion­ing my name.

I try to favourite the men­tion, as well, to give them anoth­er nod, but main­ly to help me know what con­tent I’ve already inter­act­ed with. I don’t use favourit­ing as a pri­ma­ry engage­ment tool, how­ev­er.

2. Retweet the retweeters

The next thing I look for is any­one who retweet­ed one of my tweets. I thank each of them, and I bring up their pro­file to see if they have some­thing I can retweet in return that is relat­ed to my indus­try (writ­ing or social media, pri­mar­i­ly). Retweet­ing those who retweet me is a way to say thank you, and it pop­u­lates my time­line with orig­i­nal con­tent I don’t have to write.

3. Follow the followers

The third thing I do is check for new fol­low­ers. I usu­al­ly fol­low them back (unless they are bots or poten­tial­ly offen­sive accounts) and add them to lists I’ve cre­at­ed as a way to man­age my time­line.

4. Search for engagers

Not all who engage with your con­tent will show up on your “Noti­fi­ca­tions” feed. For exam­ple, if some­one shared one of your blog posts direct­ly from your web­site and didn’t include your user­name, it wouldn’t show up.

One way to find con­tent like this is to do a search for your web­site address. (Here’s my busi­ness, for exam­ple). Also, search for your com­pa­ny and prod­uct names.

When you find con­tent here, thank them and retweet it.

Provide compelling content

If you want to get more engage­ment, don’t just retweet what oth­ers tweet. You want to cre­ate con­tent that peo­ple will com­ment on and retweet them­selves, and you want a bal­ance of orig­i­nal con­tent (dri­ve traf­fic to your site) and curat­ed con­tent (increase inter­est from oth­ers).

5. Curate content

I try to find con­tent to share as orig­i­nal tweets. I do this via 4 streams: accounts that recent­ly retweet­ed me (see #2), my Twit­ter lists, enewslet­ters I received that day, and RSS feeds I sub­scribe to.

Once I have half a dozen or so poten­tial­ly engag­ing arti­cles, news sto­ries, or blog posts, I sched­ule them in a ser­vice like Buffer to pro­vide con­tent when I’m doing client work and can’t be on my account. I use a com­bi­na­tion of men­tions, hash­tags, and images to make the posts more com­pelling (see 6 – 8).

6. Use images

One of the draw­backs of the Twit­ter time­line — espe­cial­ly if you have many fol­low­ers — is that it’s easy to miss con­tent as you’re scrolling through dozens or hun­dreds of posts at a time. That means your tweets might be get­ting missed on oth­ers’ time­lines, too. Luck­i­ly, includ­ing an eye-catch­ing image is one way to get peo­ple to stop scrolling — even if for just a moment. If they stop to check out your tweet, they might be more like­ly to click on it, retweet it, or com­ment on it.

If you’re shar­ing an arti­cle that uses a pho­to, here are some tips for get­ting a bet­ter ver­sion for your tweet.

7. Use hashtags

Find out what hash­tags are pop­u­lar in your indus­try — or for the top­ic of your tweet — and include them in your tweet. Peo­ple sub­scribe to pop­u­lar hash­tags and review them reg­u­lar­ly, which increas­es the chances of more peo­ple see­ing your tweet. Bonus tip: if the text of your tweet con­tains one of those hash­tags, sim­ply con­vert that word into a hash­tag.

Hash­tag­i­fy is a great resource for find­ing pop­u­lar hash­tags.

8. Mention others

One thing I like to do in my tweets is men­tion oth­er peo­ple using their Twit­ter han­dles. This is par­tic­u­lar­ly true when I am shar­ing an arti­cle and I men­tion the article’s author by name. Peo­ple love it when you share their con­tent, and you may get a retweet or a fol­low out of the deal.

Follow others

The key to get­ting more fol­low­ers is fol­low­ing more peo­ple. Not every­one you fol­low will fol­low you back, but many will.

9. Follow more people

Look for key influ­encers in your indus­try who fol­low a lot of peo­ple. Key influ­encers who fol­low few peo­ple will unlike­ly fol­low you back or engage with your tweets. Also, run through their list of fol­low­ers. Peo­ple who recent­ly fol­lowed them will probaly fol­low you, espe­cial­ly if you share com­mon inter­ests.

10. Clean up followers

From time to time, I use a ser­vice like Tweepi to cleanup my fol­low­er list, unfol­low­ing those who unfol­lowed me and those who haven’t tweet­ed in months.

There is some con­tro­ver­sy among social media man­agers around unfol­low­ing those who unfol­low you, but I’ve found that most of those who unfol­low me only fol­lowed me in the first place to get me to fol­low them back in an effort to boost their num­bers. If I man­aged my account full-time (I have clients to ser­vice, too, you know), I’d be more selec­tive in who I fol­low. I just don’t have the time for that lux­u­ry. Some see my meth­ods as crude, but they build fol­low­ers and engage­ment in the long run.

These are the 10 secrets I used to build my fol­low­er list past 10,000. If you think 10 things to do is too many to remem­ber, then remem­ber just 3:

  1. Rec­i­p­ro­cate engage­ment
  2. Cre­ate com­pelling con­tent
  3. Fol­low more peo­ple

What secrets do you use to increase your own Twit­ter fol­low­ers? Share in the com­ments below.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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