I remember reading a book when I was way, way younger, about a puppy that wandered around meeting all sorts of other animals, and plaintively asked them, “Will you be my friend?” The other animals always seemed too busy, and so he kept going from page to page, asking the same question over and over. I just don’t remember how the story ended, but I’m guessing it was a wonderfully happy conclusion. It was, after all, a children’s book.
We’ve grown up, but many of us ask that question over and over again today in places like Twitter, not to mention Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and lots of other strange new places. And sadly, like in much of the adult world, we may not be finding anywhere near as many friends as we want.
If that sounds like you, don’t walk away with your tail between your legs, but don’t keep doing the same thing over and over either. If you’re having trouble, it’s no doubt for a reason. Here are seven steps to getting new followers on Twitter. Even better, here are seven steps to making new friends…
1. Know who you are.
Why are you on Twitter? What do you want to accomplish there? Meet new business contacts? Keep track of the latest news about a hobby of yours? Have a few laughs? Just see what all the fuss is about? All great answers, and Twitter should be able to help you fulfill those wishes and more. But the better you understand what you want to do, the better you’ll be able to identify the types of people you want to follow, and who are more likely to follow you back.
2. Complete your Twitter profile.
Every new profile has a picture of the Twitter egg. Your first act on Twitter should be to replace it with the picture that will come to signify you. Nothing makes you look more like a spammer than leaving this undone. Your next act should be to tell us a little something about the part of your life that best fits your reasons for being on Twitter. Just a sentence or two is all you need, but you do need them. Because you can’t really expect us to follow you when you won’t even tell us who you are.
3. Deliver some value. And be nice!
A lot of interesting things are happening on Twitter, but we’re all constantly searching for more. If you generate interesting comments or even if you just sound like a nice person, chances are good that we’ll follow you back if you follow us. If your tweets are especially interesting, there’s a good chance that others will soon be retweeting you. However, tweets like “Please follow” are virtually never welcome, and give a very poor first impression. Generate some real content and be nice to the tweeps you meet, and you’ll have trouble getting people to not follow you.
4. Use Twitter Search to find people who interest you.
This is where it’s easy to lose heart on Twitter.You’ve heard it’s a fun place with lots of things happening, but here you are staring at a blank screen with nothing happening whatsoever. Or you may be following a few people who were suggested to you, but they’re not saying much to win you over. It’s time to find the people that you want, and that’s actually quite easy to do on Twitter.
Up at the top of the Twitter screen you’ll see a search bar. Type in some words that interest you and hit Enter. You’ll see a number of recent tweets that contain the word you entered. Click on the photo or name of any of the people shown, and you’ll see more tweets from that person. If he or she seems interesting, click “Follow” and you will then see that person’s tweets whenever you are on Twitter.
For a more advanced search, just click on the cogged wheel to the right of the search field. You can then search for specific people, phrases, or hashtags, or tweets from whatever location you choose. Within just a few clicks, you should find yourself following exactly the types of conversation or people you’ve been dreaming of.
Don’t stop there though. Hold your cursor over the tweets you find interesting and click on Reply to send them a tweet of your own. Not everyone will reply back, but if you are polite and conversational, most will, and you are now well on your way to being hooked on Twitter!
5. Don’t run up your follows.
This may be the easiest mistake for beginners to make. There are lots of interesting people to follow on Twitter, and if you’re just starting out it’s tempting to start following them all. That can create problems though. Someone who is following 800 people but is only being followed back by 80 is clearly not generating enough interesting content to attract followers. The rest of us would feel it’s not likely you’ll be interesting enough for us either. So don’t rush things. Grow slowly. Build some relationships. It generates better results, and is a lot more fun for you… and the rest of us too.
6. Don’t auto-tweet and don’t auto-DM!
I know you’ll find lots of people telling you you can “turbocharge” your time on Twitter by using programs that automatically send tweets or Direct Messages to people on Twitter. It may even sound tempting and logical. In reality though, it’s a huge turnoff for lots of us, and many people will unfollow you as soon as you send them a DM, especially if you have a link tucked in there. And don’t try to make it sound all wonderful by calling your link a gift or special way of saying thanks. Talk to us in the Twitter stream; that’s more than enough thanks for us to keep following you and helping you feel right at home here on Twitter.
7. Share and reshare.
Once you’ve made a few friends on Twitter, start offering your own thoughts or links to articles that you like. If you’re a blogger or business owner, avoid the temptation to continually promote yourself. Twitter is a social event, and people are there to share and learn, not to have people push things at them. If more than one in every five of your tweets can be seen as a sales message from you, chances are good you’ll be losing followers before you know it. Just tweet and retweet things of genuine interest, and you won’t have to look hard to find new friends on Twitter.
The best news is that you can apply these principles in virtually any social media platform — and in real life too! — and start seeing some real results pretty quickly. So take heart, and take action. And hey, if you want at least one more friend on Twitter, you’ll find me right here.