By Matt Visiwig Sep 17, 2021
Twitter, at its core, is a conversation app.
Companies and startups see Twitter as a marketing channel, but when you treat it as such, promotional tweets quickly fall into the void. When you share promotional content or links, your reach is limited. Instead win hearts and ears by consistently adding value and sparking curiosity.
So how do you grow a Twitter following?
The answer is by improving your engagement. Engagement is the key metric that helps some accounts grow faster than the rest. Unless you’re a celebrity, you can’t simply tweet and grow organically. Tweeting value is important, but the missing piece for many accounts is attracting engaged followers. I’ll break down how.
I’ve tried an endless amount of tips and tricks to build my following and I have slowly, but surely, grown. But, there is one set of repeatable actions that I’ve found has a high success rate at growing engaged followers. I’ll explain that system, but it is useless without a foundational understanding of best practices and how Twitter’s algorithm works. Lastly, you need to accept that Twitter growth takes a boatload of time and manual work. No way around that.
If you search for advice on how to grow on Twitter, there is common advice you’ll keep seeing. The reason these tips are everywhere is they work. I’ve compiled these best practices in to a single list:
If you can follow these best practices, you will do well. This is especially true if you have a basic understanding of the Twitter feed algorithm and learn how to grow engaged followers.
The Twitter algorithm decides what content is displayed in your Twitter feed. It’s in Twitter’s interest to show everyone the most interesting content, to keep them coming back for more. If your feed was 100% self-promotion of uninteresting products—would you stick around? NO.
Without diving into all the complexities that makeup Twitter’s algo, let’s break down some of the basic factors you should consider when tweeting.
Content is time sensitive
A tweet doesn’t get much more than a 24 hour shelf-life. If you look in your feed, you see newer content. You can see an old post, but this is because there was new activity associated with that old post. Maybe someone added a comment or someone retweeted that old post. That’s why posting regularly and fresh content is important in the scheme of things.
There are various engagement actions
When a user interacts with a tweet, it’s considered an engagement. There are different forms of engagement. Clicking an image, liking, commenting, retweeting are considered engagements, but it’s worth noting that all engagements are not weighted equally valuable. You should experiment with various media types over time, as your audience may interact with different formats in ways you don’t expect.
Your followers make or break your content
When you first post a tweet, it won’t show up in random feeds. Instead, it get’s viewed by some of your followers. This is why connecting with the right people is important. If your followers don’t interact with your content, that likely will be the end of your tweet. However, if a user engages (let’s call her Tina), suddenly your reach can expand. Tina’s reply may end up in her follower’s feed, despite you having no connection with Tina’s follower. Your tweet now has two degrees of separation. That brings us to the next point.
Bigger engagement = bigger reach
Engagement helps your content spread outside of your direct network. If your tweet receives five comments, plus a retweet, your tweet will likely earn even more impressions then something with zero engagement. Look at your tweet stats and you’ll notice a trend that the higher the engagement, the more impressions your tweets get in general.
Now that you understand the basics of the algo and know best practices, you’re ready to proceed to finding and gathering engaged followers.
Warning: this takes a ton of work and time, shortcuts lead to bad follows.
Let’s get right to the system and then dissect each step:
I recommend you understand why and how this works, or you’ll fail. With the right approach, not only will this help you build your following count, but you’ll start to see these converted prospects engage with your tweets.
Step 1: finding the right prospects helps you locate engaged users. Leaving this up to chance will work, but will lead to lower engagement and conversion. Afterall, who wants to work harder for a lesser reward.
Step 2: interacting with your prospect increases the chance of a follow. You get the best odds when you both engage on their channel. If you’re able to add value, they will likely be interested in keeping the connection.
Step 3: following someone often results in a profile view and consideration of a follow back. You can trigger this moment once per user, don’t waste this key action. You could follow a bunch of people and get a few follow backs. But this is a terrible spammer technique that fails. However, when you engage with qualified prospects (step 1 and 2), they’re more likely to see value in a follow back.
Step 1: create a new private list. Any time you discover someone who is a good fit, add them to this list as a prospect. I have detailed the criteria to determine good prospects in the next section.
Step 2: view this list from time to time as you will see the latest tweets by your prospects. Reply to recent tweets so long as you add value. This gets easier as your list grows, because you’ll find not all active users tweet daily—some consume or join conversations. You should remove prospects that aren’t as good as you first thought.
Step 3: follow your prospect at the optimal moment—when you both have engaged in conversation. While it’s ideal to have a back and forth, at minimum you should wait until they respond back before you follow them. Sometimes they won’t respond right away or at all. That’s okay, wait, try again later, or move on.
This is the most critical part of this process. You can take shortcuts and skip this part, but you’re doing yourself a disservice that will add more work. Even worse, you’ll get a higher percentage of bad followers. Having a high follower count is meaningless if they’re inactive and don’t engage—your tweets are penalized for low engagement afterall.
Some prospects are better than others. You’ll need to review their profile to determine if they’re a great fit.
Look for users who:
You can find users in many places on Twitter, but the number one place to find engaged users for this strategy is in the comments. Find a big account or viral tweet and hop into the replies. Note: If your account has a bad ratio (not following enough others) you might also discourage the reciprocal nature of this technique from working.
Twitter, at its core, is a conversation app.
That’s how I opened this how-to article and it’s crucial to keep this in mind. If you’re not prepared to have conversations, you’ll have low engagement. The best way to make this work is to find interesting people and be interesting to those people. If you see Twitter as transactional, you’re missing the point and will ultimately have a steeper hill to climb.
Last thought: This strategy aims to find great people and interesting conversation. The conversation shouldn’t end once they follow. If you keep the conversation going on your tweets and their tweets, you’ll both benefit from the engagement.