Share By Sachin Shenolikar
Admit it: The first thing you look at when you visit a brand’s Twitter page is its follower count. Like it or not, that number is important. Social proof matters in building trust with an audience.
“If you’re an unknown brand with no followers and no engagement, you can be seen as a huge risk for a new customer,” says Shea Bennett of MediaBistro’s AllTwitter site. “Who are these guys? Why is nobody following them? So, while followers are just a number, it can absolutely matter for an SMB [small and medium-sized business] or startup looking to make waves.”
Here’s the catch: Building a Twitter following these days is hard. Really hard. Users are extra-picky about whom they follow and tweets fly by so fast that many don’t get read.
It can be tempting to boost numbers by buying followers from a third party (yes, some shady websites sell them for cheap). But let’s make one thing clear: That is never a good idea. “These are fake accounts [following you] and may get you banned by Twitter,” says social media strategist Andrea Vahl. “Any work you had done would now be down the drain in addition to your branded Twitter name.”
The good news: There’s still hope. You can build a following organically, with a touch of skill and a dab of patience. Real Business asked Bennett and Vahl for tips on how become a master of the Twitterverse:
Bio 101: Keep it Simple. When it comes to your profile bio and photo, being mysterious won’t cut it. “People using Twitter for fun can get away with anything in their profile, but brands need to play to type,” says Bennett. “Use your brand logo or No. 1 product for your avatar and write a bio that explains exactly who you are and what you do for a potential new customer. And always link to your website.”
“Consider adding hashtags of things you regularly tweet about, so that a [potential follower] can easily see the topics,” adds Vahl. “Using humor is a big plus too, if you can fit in something funny.”
Talk With Others, Not To Them. A constant stream of posts about your product is monotonous and will turn off potential followers. “Twitter is about conversation, not broadcasting,” says Vahl. “It’s important to retweet others’ content, start conversations with people, and participate like you would at a networking event.”
It’s also important to connect with users within your niche. One way to do that is by joining Tweetchats. This site lists hundreds of them organized by subject matter, day of the week, and time. Another strategy is to connect with influencers in your area of expertise — and their followers. Follower Wonk and Commun.it are two great resources for that.
Tool Time. Cheap tricks such as joining auto-follow-back lists (#teamfollowback) and buying fake followers never work. However, using Twitter’s Promoted Accounts tool, combined with paid Promoted Tweets, is a surefire way to drive engagement. Promoted accounts connect you with and place your tweets in the feeds of users who could be potential customers. (You’re only charged when a user follows you through a promoted tweet.)
“If you want to use Twitter and actually make it work for your business, it’s money that, in my opinion, you have to spend,” says Bennett. “And it’s an investment that will continue to pay off, as you’ve built an audience that is actually interested enough to click on an ad.”
Double the Fun. Your follower numbers are on the rise and you’re posting great stuff. Things are looking up. Here’s one final tip to keep you on top: Tweet your best content twice per day — once in the morning and once in the late afternoon or evening.
“Twitter moves so fast that at any given time your carefully crafted, world-beating tweet will scroll by so quickly that only a tiny percentage of your followers will ever see it,” says Bennett. “So, put your best stuff out there one more time later in the day. Twice more if it’s really great. Mix up the wording to keep it fresh. It’s a very effective way to boost your return with minimal extra effort.”
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