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How To Grow Your Twitter Audience (ethically)

One of the things we get asked the most is how to get Twitter followers. Over the years we’ve researched a number of ways to promote twitter accounts, and we want to share some of these ideas with you. Many users first start out by trying to buy Twitter followers, not realizing that this is against twitter’s rules. Buying followers is a zero sum game, as many of the operators that try and sell followers use unethical means to add followers to your account.

The good news is that there are a number of ways to promote your twitter account safely and ethically. Some are easy to do, some are little more complex, and some even give you ways to get more twitter followers for free. We’ve broken them up into methods you can use online, things you can do on Twitter itself, and real-world methods too.

Things you can do online
Advertise on Twitter

One of the most effective ways to promote yourself is on twitter itself. They offer solutions for promoting your profile, promoting your tweets, or promoting trends. Each method gives you a slightly different way to get your message across. This form of promotion is really powerful when used in combination with one of the other methods listed below, such as running a contest. Promoting your profile will help you grow your following directly, while promoting tweets and trends will allow you to drive other initiatives used to get exposure for yourself.

Run a contest

Running a contest is a great way to attract new followers. Offer a good prize and make sure you clearly communicate the rules of entry. If your prize is related to your brand then it can also help find targeted followers who are interested in your area of expertise.

Be creative! Try giving away an experience, a vacation, a meeting with a celebrity (maybe you?) Contests draw attention! Offer multiple prizes, including a grand prize, 3-5 mid-level prizes, and as many small prizes as you feel like. Set a hashtag for your contest like #mycontestisawesome or #winmystuff, and include it in every tweet about your contest.

Launch your contest through Twitter and any other mediums you are using. Blogs are great at driving contest traffic, because they can explain the prizes and rules in greater detail. Then just tweet about your contest as often as you feel like until you reach your milestone, and award prizes!

Directories - e.g. Twiends!

There are dozens of directories of Twitter users online, including Twiends, WeFollow, and Twellow. Add yourself to as many directories as you can find under the proper categories, and you will begin to see some users following you from these sites. When someone follows you through one of these directories you will receive a notification email from Twitter - if you have these turned on. In these notifications you can see which directory they followed you through.

Guest Blogging

Even if you don’t have a blog of your own, you can easily gain notoriety by writing posts for other blogs. Running a blog is hard work, and most people and companies welcome well written posts to give them a break. If you do score an opportunity to guest post, link to your blog if you like, but be sure to link to your Twitter account as well. Some people will follow you if they liked the post.

This strategy works very well if you can give readers an incentive to follow you. Will they hear about more posts like the one you wrote? Is it the only way to find all of your guest posts? Do you tweet the location of buried treasure on International Talk like a Pirate Day?

Give them a reason to follow you, and you will be amazed at how effective this strategy can be.

Blog about your Twitter account

On the same note, if you do have a blog, write a post about your Twitter account. Post about how you like Twitter, how you hate Twitter, different types of Twitter people and posts you like or dislike, who you follow… Anything, really. Make sure to mention your Twitter account (and suggest that people follow you) at least once in the article.

You can also write a post about what you would say with more than 140 characters to certain Twitter celebrities. Do you wish you could tell Shaq about your “random act of Shaqness”? Want to get @NotTinaFey to read your latest comedy script? Social media is all about being unique – find something that is memorable, and gently remind people that your tweets are memorable, too!

Do podcasts

Podcasting is a great way to get attention, it showcases your expertise, and helps gather an audience. A podcast is much like a blog, but it is recorded audio instead of written words.

Creating your own podcast is simple. All you have to do is download a program such as Audacity (or, if you’re on a Mac, GarageBand works well.) Record your audio, edit out long pauses or background noise, add in any music you like for an intro or outro, and at the very end, mention that people can follow you on Twitter “for more podcasts like these!” Now create an account at a podcast hosting service like PodStrike! or PodBlaze, upload your content, configure your settings, and you are good to go!

You can create your own podcast, or be featured or interviewed on a popular podcast. Either way, make sure you mention your Twitter account at least twice during your podcast – once right at the end – to get the most followers on Twitter from this method.

Add a Twitter Widget

Did you know that you can add a Twitter widget on LinkedIn that will display your recent tweets? How about on your blog? There are many places online that will allow you to display a list of your latest tweets, and these widgets are a great source of new followers!

Few people integrate their Twitter account with LinkedIn, but if you are well networked on LinkedIn, it can help you encourage colleagues and friends to follow you. Placing a link to Twitter on your blog is obvious, but actually listing your tweets is an even more effective way to gain new followers. You can even get a customized widget from Twitter itself that works on any site, from static HTML sites to Tumblr, Blogger, WordPress, and anywhere that will allow you to add custom code!

Webinars

Webinars are essentially online seminars, so the exposure is similar to an offline seminar. The advantage of webinars is that they are typically for mixed online/offline audiences, and in addition to online and/or telephone audio, you can also display on screen slideshows and links with the appropriate software or service. This is a perfect medium to get Twitter followers, since you can link directly to your Twitter account during and after the webinar for attendees. You can begin by creating a template for your slideshow that includes your Twitter information in the bottom right hand corner. Many attendees will automatically look in that corner of the presentation last, while listening to your information. It is the perfect place to put information that you would like them to act on, as they will be available to follow you during the presentation.

Encourage Twitter users to follow you throughout the presentation, offering more tips, tricks, reports, discounts, and offers via Twitter. Another seldom used strategy is to actually offer to interact with webinar goers via Twitter during the event. If you plan on hosting a Q&A session, rather than asking participants to submit their questions via email, tell them to follow you on Twitter and tweet their questions. Not only will this get you immediate followers from the participants, but their followers will see the questions being posed to you as well, and may follow if you can offer expert advice.

Do support through Twitter

Now, we're not suggesting you throw away your helpdesk, but add Twitter as a support channel. You may find that users are already tweeting questions at you. Most good helpdesk software already offers Twitter integration.

Some people like posting support questions via Twitter, as they feel the public nature of it will lead to a faster response. Some prefer using private channels and may not use Twitter, but adding it will win you some new followers providing you offer good timely support through it.

Video tutorial

People love to watch video's. For many it's their preferred route for learning something new. Some people have difficulty learning from written guides, and prefer to learn from content that is easier to absorb. Creating video tutorials for your area of expertise is a great way to get 'relevant' exposure for yourself.

Place your Twitter username in various places in the video, including the end, and if people feel they have learnt something from you then they may be inclined to follow you. There are also plenty of places to upload your videos, including YouTube and other specialist tutorial sites.

Become a forum moderator

Consider becoming a forum moderator in a forum you're knowledgeable about. You can usually include a link to your Twitter in your forum bio, and by being active in the forum you can position yourself as an expert in your field. By being helpful to others you can easily win over some loyal supporters.

Things you can do in the real world
Speaking at conferences

While most people already know that the exposure you can gain from speaking at conferences is great for business, few people bother promoting their social media accounts through these mediums. The next time you’re giving a presentation at a seminar or conference, mention your Twitter account. If you are using presentation software or an on-screen image during your speech, display your username on screen.

If your audience likes what you have to say, they may just follow you later! You can even host the conference yourself, including your Twitter information on conference tickets and tweet the events as they happen. When it comes to live events, the sky is the limit!

Hosting tweetups

Most of the time, offline strategies involve people finding you offline and connecting with you online afterwards. Tweetups are exactly the opposite - they allow you the opportunity to connect with Twitter users in person, even if you have never met before. Because the group of Twitter users that meet is often diverse (and often inviting their own followers and friends,) you will likely gain at least a few new followers from a tweetup.

You can start a tweetup simply by asking around your circle of twitter followers. Offer to host the event at a coffee shop, conference, restaurant, or even your offices. Create a dedicated web page or blog post for the event, a hash tag (for example, #mytweetup) so that users can follow the event, and encourage tweeters to share with their friends and followers as well. You can gain large amounts of exposure from something this simple!

Radio interviews

Much like speaking at conferences, radio interviews are a great way to get attention. Whether you’re through AM/FM, satellite, internet, or even Blog Talk Radio, the interviews can be used to gain some positive and wildly popular PR. To be interviewed on the radio, you need to make yourself available as an expert. Watch your local stations for requests (they often publish them via social media,) list yourself in expert directories, and even contact the station directly and ask if they have any upcoming opportunities for experts.

While you won’t have a visual medium to display your Twitter account, repeating your Twitter username a few times during your interview can help you gain new followers. You can also use your interview time to promote contests and upcoming events through your Twitter feed, which is sure to get you some new followers in no time at all!

Host a debate

In junior high, debate class was the space for aspiring politicians and others with a need for extra-curricular activities. In the adult world, debates are an essential forum for communication on key issues like the environment, finance, politics, and more. If you work in an industry with many insightful leaders and a “hot topic” worthy of debate, hosting a debate yourself can be very lucrative and offer high levels of exposure.

Aside from the attendees, debates often gain media exposure through both traditional outlets and trade publications. Quotes and footage from debates can even go viral through social media sites, gaining further attention.

Publicizing your Twitter account as you host the event and broadcasting the key points of the debate via Twitter for those who may not be present are both great ways to gain new followers. If you are lucky enough, some quotes from the event may go viral on Twitter, and yes – they will have your username attached to the “retweet”. Do not underestimate the power of offline events in the online world!

Newspaper interviews and articles

If you can somehow tie your business or industry to a current event, it can be easy to get an article in the traditional press that includes your information. You can distribute your own article via press release, or make yourself available for expert interviews through directories and by approaching the media directly.

If you have the resources, hiring a public relations firm can be a great help with this. They can get you expert interviews in many newspapers and national publications, and because of their existing relationship with the editor, you will often be allowed to include a bit more company information than the average submission.

If you don’t have the resources (or just prefer DIY methods), write a compelling press release that ties your business to a current event. Distribute it to the local media, and call to follow up. Create a media kit or press kit for distribution when someone asks for information about you and your business. Getting interviews in traditional press isn’t difficult for a small business owner, but it does take an investment of time and some persistence.

When you do gain some media exposure, while most companies are just now beginning to include links to their website in the article, you can include links to social media accounts like Twitter to get new followers and exposure for your expertise.

Networking events

If you run a business, you likely have a local networking event that you do or can attend. Publicizing your Twitter profile at events like these through your business cards, stickers, and stamps can gain you a large number of targeted Twitter followers very quickly! Be sure to offer an incentive for following you, such as free reports, discounts, or updates.

Write a book/eBook

Few things say “I’m an expert in my field” like being a published author. While print titles still have more clout with traditional audiences, eBooks like those for Kindle and other e-readers are gaining popularity. If you’re looking to establish yourself as an expert, traditional publishing houses may get you the most notoriety, but self-publishing with a good public relations agent can get you similar results today.

Being sure to include your social media links – including Twitter – is a great way to allow readers to connect with your expertise after reading your book. Start by offering your Twitter ID on the inside front cover, where many bookstore shoppers will look for your bio; then include your information on the back cover, in the introduction, and throughout the book.

If you are willing to think outside of the box, you can even include your Twitter ID in the footer of every page. Even if they don’t follow you immediately after reading the book, they will subconsciously recognize your account in the future and be more willing to follow you if they come across your name again.

Several prominent social media celebrities even use Twitter to launch subsequent titles, so don’t overlook the possibilities here. The opportunities are endless!

Research and publish a report

Reports and white papers are still an essential form of communication for industries and markets around the globe. If you have any data or research to share, or even just helpful ideas, publishing a report or whitepaper can successfully get you the attention of industry leaders, media, and yes – social media.

You can get your white papers and reports distributed by trade magazine distributors across North America, which will often give you the customers’ information. Offer the report or whitepaper on your own website, as well as on Twitter itself. You may find that the link to your report gets retweeted, getting you valuable exposure!

As with other forms of offline publishing, be sure to utilize your author’s bio and include links to Twitter and other profiles.

Tweeting and Retweeting
Tweet the “Right” Content

Take a look at what those in your market with the most followers are tweeting about. Do they consistently post a certain type of content? Do they discuss one particular topic a lot? Take notes. Obviously they have so many followers for a reason. Tweet as they tweet, but put across your own personality.

Some basic guidelines to follow include tweeting about the future – making predictions, talking about upcoming news, and other future-based topics make you more interesting than the Twitter user who only talks about things that happened last year. You should also tweet about anything that is a little bit unique, off beat, or relatively unheard of in your industry.

Tweets that apply current events to your industry are also engaging. For example, for someone in the financial services industry, a tweet that says “How will the upcoming summer affect your financial planning?” will start more conversations than “Come see me today for a report on your net savings allowance.” Be creative. Use Twitter as a medium to express your wit, personality, and let your fun side come out a little bit.

Use #Hashtags

Hashtags are more than just a trend; they are a unique way that Twitter allows users to track content. If someone wants to see everything happening on Twitter about the latest celebrity mishap, they’ll search for a hashtag like “#______rehab” or “#dui______”. The same holds true in your industry, and for your individual company. Tagging your posts with things like “#convention2011” or “#newproduct” can help people find and notice your tweets. Obviously you can be a bit more creative than the examples above, but they will get you started. Watch how the most popular users in your industry are using hashtags, and follow by their example.

Interact

This is something many new users miss on Twitter. To be perfectly clear, Twitter is not a medium to broadcast like television or radio – it is a medium to broadcast AND interact, like face to face meetings. You want to reply, retweet, comment, and mention others as much as you possibly can. When you start your account, spend most of your time replying, commenting, retweeting, and mentioning others. Even when you post content, recommend it to someone by including their username. Over time you can start including some broadcast style tweets, and eventually some sales messages. Just keep in mind that even if someone only has 50 followers, it only takes one to make a difference. Having your Twitter ID in front of their followers can make a big difference for you.

Retweet the right stuff

Industry leaders, celebrities, gurus, and others with large followings love getting retweets. Some of them will even occasionally thank you for your retweets by mentioning your name e.g. “Hey @awesomeco4444, thanks for the RT!”. The benefits, just like replying, are that your name gets out in front of everyone that follows them!

There are a few tricks to making this work for you. First, make sure to only retweet content that you feel would be interesting to your readers, as they may retweet as well (which sometimes broadcasts your name to their followers, too!) Second, avoid retweeting old content. Twitter is all about relevance and so the timeliness of your retweet is almost as important as the content.

Retweet important news

How many times have you seen news break on Twitter? How many times have you seen interesting stories related to your market being discussed via tweets? If you haven’t joined in yet, now is the time! Many people will follow the tweets of interesting news stories and articles, Tweets about current or upcoming events, or industry related gossip. Getting in your two cents could do more than just satisfy your inner need to be heard, it could get you some more Twitter followers!

For example, some Twitter users have gained followers by tweeting about space shuttle launches. Of course not everyone is interested in the content, but those who are were paying attention to anyone commenting about the final launch of the NASA program. In the weeks before the final launch, some users went from relative obscurity to thousands of followers just by piggybacking off of the popularity of the news they were tweeting about.

In Print
Print ads

Print ads are one of the more expensive forms of advertising available to small businesses today, so every time you invest in that type of advertising you need to maximize your return. A great way to do this is to include links to your social media accounts (like Twitter) in the ad.

Entice customers with offers of deals, discounts, and coupons via Twitter and they are sure to follow you. This allows you to get repeated contact with potential customers from just one investment in advertising, exponentially increasing the potential for return.

Magazine articles

Like newspaper articles, magazine articles can get you great attention from readers and potential customers. Unlike newspapers, however, they can be much longer in length, explain things in much more depth, and offer more opportunities for promotion.

Go to the website for your favorite industry magazine and look for a link to their publishing schedule. There, magazines will list topics that they are going to be covering in the coming months. If you feel you can contribute to one of these topics, contact the editor with a proposal for your article. Do not send the whole article! Editors need a quick glance to determine if your content will be worthy, before approving you to begin work.

The great thing about working with magazines is that in certain circumstances, you can even get paid for your submission. How many opportunities do you have that allow your advertising to pay you? Magazine editors will typically allow for a longer author’s bio, offer more opportunities for promotion, and may even extend offers for inexpensive advertising in exchange for your contribution.

Feature columns

Even more powerful than individual newspaper or magazine articles are feature columns. If you have the dedicated time, offering to write a feature column for a magazine or newspaper will not only assist the editor with their workload but give you more opportunities for promotion.

Often times, feature columnists will get their bio published with the column monthly as well as in the front of the magazine with the other staff writers. Including your Twitter link along with your other biographical information in the magazine can get you more followers while building expert status.

Book contributor

Even if you do not have a book “in you”, there are many ways to get your biographical information into print. One way is to contribute to a book that is being published in your field. Many times, when someone wishes to publish a book, they may not have the required expertise to complete the information by themselves. If you can contribute information to this book, your information (including your Twitter account) can be included as a contributor or co-author.

Look for authors in your industry, and watch what industry leaders are doing. See if there are any books currently on the market in your niche with multiple contributors, and follow up with the publisher or author. Perhaps you could even be the primary author of your own book, and allow others to contribute.

If there are multiple contributors you may not get as much attention as if you were the only author, but if the information you contribute is valuable, you can get a fair amount of new followers from just a small amount of information shared.

Other bits and pieces
Put Your Twitter Link Everywhere

This means online and offline, everywhere you can put it. Link to Twitter from Facebook, from your blog, from your guest posts, from your videos, in your email signature, and anywhere else you can think of. Include your Twitter ID on your offline materials as well, from business cards to brochures, signs, flyers, or even on your shirt. By putting an “@” sign in front of your username (like this – “@yourusername”), most people will understand that you are listing your Twitter name.

Use a Quick Response (QR) Code

There are several services online that allow you to create quick response or QR codes. These codes are simple square barcodes that are gaining massive popularity with smartphone users, as they can be used to direct any phone to a specific web address just by taking a picture.

Create a QR code that links to your Twitter profile, and put it up everywhere – on your website, on your business cards, on any signage outside of your office or store, or anywhere else you can think of that might attract enough attention to be worth a snapshot.

Add Twitter to your packaging

Do you ship products? Is your Twitter link or QR code on your packaging somewhere? If not, it should be! What better way to encourage people to follow and tweet about you than to announce your presence on Twitter right as they receive your product? For example, some companies have not only mentioned their own Twitter ID, but have printed a random tweet from a customer on the outside of their package. By leaving the “@ourcompany” in the tweet, they can gain new followers. By including a testimonial on the outside of the packaging, they are making a more memorable experience for their customers that will likely mean more purchases in the future. This strategy can help your business in more ways than one!

Address labels

Did you realize that your address label is an advertising and branding opportunity? While typical address labels will include the company name and address, and perhaps a logo, some emerging companies are beginning to include their URL as well. Be ahead of the pack, and include your Twitter information right on the outside of your packages and envelopes! When your customers or suppliers receive mail for you, they will look at the address label to see where the letter or parcel came from. You can also put your Twitter ID on the back of the envelope, on or just below the flap. This is a perfect opportunity to stay in touch, long after the final invoice is sent!

Company Checks

Another often overlook branding opportunity is the company check. While most banks will limit the amount of information you can have printed, custom check companies and check printers will allow you to include more information – from your URL, to your phone number, address, and yes – even your Twitter account. When your suppliers receive a check from you, or your customers receive a referral bonus, they will look to see who has sent them a payment. What better way to say “I value our relationship and want to stay in touch” than to offer your social media information directly on the check?

Pens, notebooks, letter openers, etc. (aka swag)

Whether you call it promotional items, promos, gifts, or even swag, getting custom printed office supplies like pens and letter openers is no small investment. While it is important to include your logo, business name, phone number, and URL, if you have the space you should include your Twitter name as well. The point of these types of promotions is to have your contact information handy any time they use your item. Imagine seeing your Twitter ID every time they sign their receipt!

Company vehicles

Your logo, your company name, your phone number, and your website address. These are the typical things you may include on the decals for your company vehicles. Something you may not have considered was to include your social media information, like your Twitter account, right on your company vehicle. Imagine how many new followers you can gain by driving your Twitter username around town, arriving at clients’ homes with your social media information displayed clearly for all to see.

Phone book

While many companies are beginning to reduce the size, cost, reach, and frequency of their phone book advertising, it is still a large percentage of the advertising spend for small businesses. Stretch your dollar even further by including your Twitter account information right in the phone book ad. Directing potential customers to follow you on Twitter right in the phone book can be a powerful strategy.

Stickers

A great alternative to the rubber stamp is the sticker. Stickers are fun, easy to use, inexpensive, and can be stuck virtually anywhere! Try getting your Twitter ID made into a sticker, and putting it on everything from the backs of chairs to cash registers, the bumpers on company vehicles, receipts, packaging, shopping bags, and more. Even more creatively, try giving the stickers out to customers with the backing still attached. Tell them to feel free to put it anywhere they like. Be sure not to stick them in places that will annoy people though..

Offer discounts and deals in store to followers

While many of these methods are about print advertising and getting in front of large amounts of people, never underestimate the power of your office or retail location if you have one. Especially for retail and food service businesses, your physical location is an ideal place to publicize your social media links. Imagine walking into a store, and seeing their Twitter ID posted on the counter? Or walking into a restaurant and seeing their Twitter ID or QR code on the menu?

You can’t simply post your Twitter account everywhere, however. You’re going to need to entice your customers with something. Offer daily deals, specials, coupons, or discounts to customers who follow you on Twitter. An inexpensive way to do this is to get a rubber stamp customized with your Twitter ID on it, and simply stamp your ID on everything. No new printing costs, no need to change the receipt printer – just stamp, stamp, stamp away!

Summary

As you can see, offline methods for finding Twitter followers are only limited by your imagination. Pubs and restaurants can publish their ID on coasters and napkins. Magnets with your Twitter ID are a great “leave behind” for moving companies, and custom Twitter signs inserted into baked goods are a great way for a local bakery to get their information in front of consumers. Don’t be shy with your Twitter account; if you really want to gain a large, targeted following, you have to go after it!

That should give you a good base of Twitter followers to begin with. Remember to tweet content more often than you try to sell, especially as a newer Twitter user. The longer you have been established and the better your relationship with your followers, the more you can promote, but never promote more than 50% of the time. Over-promoting can lead to a loss of Twitter followers and sabotage all of your hard work.

Remember that quality is more important than quantity. 1000 unengaged, irrelevant followers will be less useful to you than 10 followers that regularly talk with you, reply to and retweet your content, and encourage others to follow you.