My surefire method to build a Twitter following

By Matt Visiwig Matt Visiwig Portrait 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.

The basics to Twitter growth

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:

  • Start engaging with big accounts
    Everyone starts with zero followers and before you have a buzzing audience, your tweets don’t travel. If you want attention, you’ll need to go where the conversations are happening. Find big accounts with active conversation relevant to what you tweet about. Try to be one of the first to add value to their latest tweets. 
  • Tweet often, but don’t spam
    Each tweet is an opportunity to get new eyes. As with any craft, you’ll get better with practice. Twitter provides stats of how your tweets perform, which will help you determine what is working and what isn’t. Take a look and adjust accordingly.
  • Always add value
    Valueless content adds nothing to the conversation and gets low engagement. You’ll want to say more than “I agree” or “haha, so true”. Providing value could be sharing well thought out insights, something you learned, resources that save time, etc. When you add value, you give a reason for others to connect.
  • Respond to every reply
    When you tweet and are lucky enough to have someone reply, you should take the time to respond back. It sends the signal you’re approachable and may spark others to join the conversation.
  • Scale skews what works
    What works for the biggest accounts, won’t work for you. Instead take note of tactics  used by accounts in a similar stage compared to you. You’ll see a clearer picture of what they did right to get there.
  • Stay on topic
    Going off topic pollutes people’s feeds with unexpected content that isn’t aligned with their interests. The last thing you want to do is tweet content that isn’t interesting to your audience, as low engagement kills reach.
  • Answer “why follow?” with you profile
    Your profile is the screen people use to decide whether to follow you or not. Give your best pitch: have an authentic profile pic, a bio explaining who you are and what you tweet about, and make use of your banner and pinned tweet. Bonus points if you can convince prospects they will get value when they follow.
  • Skip the hashtags
    There was a time when adding a handful of hashtags expanded your reach. Hashtags were abused and are now associated with spam. The exception seems to be using a single hashtag associated with a specific campaign like #100DaysOfCode or #Tweet100.

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. 

Understanding the Twitter algorithm

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.

The surefire way to build Twitter 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:

  1. Create and maintain a list of prospect followers
  2. Reply to their freshest tweet with value
  3. Follow them once they respond back to you

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.

Why does this work?

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.

How does this work?

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. 

Finding the right prospects

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: 

  • Share your Twitter interests:
    If you BOTH tweet and share similar content, engagement will naturally happen.
  • Have a good follower ratio:
    If you see someone who doesn’t follow many people, you’re less likely to get followed back. As long as their ratio isn’t worse than 2:1 (followers:follows), prospecting them is reasonable. Ideally, target users with a follower count that is less than the number of people they follow.  
  • Have a following count between 100-999:
    This rule has wiggle room, but you’ll notice big accounts follow back less, while you’ll see more reciprocal follows from accounts within this stage. Following accounts with less than 100 is fine, the problem is some of these accounts are inconsistent or don’t understand Twitter yet.
  • Don’t retweet constantly:
    You may hope targeting these accounts will spread your tweets farther, but they’re more likely to be consumers over conversationalists.

Where to find prospects:

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.

What we learned about growing on Twitter

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.

Matt Visiwig Headshot

Hey, I'm Matt , the creator behind SVG Backgrounds. I produce free and paid resources every month, sign up for alerts.

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