I do a good job pretending to be a marketing content writer, but mostly, I’m a poet. And being a poet is not just about pounding away on a laptop in some hideous, dusty garret — it’s also about actively giving back to the local poetry community.
Not for me, thanks. Source
That’s why I also help run GHOSTS & PROJECTORS (G&P), a nonprofit poetry reading series that brings nationally-renowned poets to Boise to read with local writers.
A few weeks ago, I gave myself the challenge of seeing how many new followers I could get our long-neglected Twitter account in one weekend. While a diverse population attends our events in real life, we weren’t reaching out to them online, which is why our follower count numbered a pitiful 45.
As someone who works in marketing, I know that it’s important to have a lot of followers if you expect anyone to follow you back. The bigger our follower list, the more successful we look to our target audience. And the more successful we look, the more additional followers we attract. It’s like a Twitter FOMO feedback loop.
A high follower count would provide social proof that legitimizes our organization while also driving more traffic to our site. Plus, it would mean more chances to spread the word, which would hopefully lead to more people attending our events.
So how did the challenge go?
In one weekend, I was able to grow our followers from 45 to to 270. That’s a jump of 225 in three days. For a tiny niche like a local poetry community, thats a pretty big deal. It’s also a pretty big deal because our new followers were qualified — they all had direct interest or stake in the organization.
That means I boosted our follower list without resorting to potentially seedy shortcut tactics, like:
- Paying for followers.
- Paying to promote tweets.
- Following random, unqualified people hoping for a followback.
- Getting a tweet to “go viral.”
Instead, I used some simple tips and tricks that any small business can use to grow their local followers on Twitter.
If you want to grow your follower list the right way — by getting qualified followbacks — consider using these three strategies:
- Revamp your Twitter profile.
- Load your feed with recent, relevant, high-quality content so potential followers will know what they're getting when they follow you.
- Research and follow only people relevant to your industry to get qualified followbacks.
1. Revamp Your Twitter Profile
What’s the first thing you notice when you visit someone’s Twitter profile?
If you’re like me, you notice what that profile is wearing, so to speak.
You notice the avatar, the background images, and what the bio says as much as the tweets themselves. A profile’s appearance can be the distinguishing factor in whether or not you decide to become a follower.
Whether we like it or not, we’re all hardwired to make snap judgements based on first impressions. I’ve certainly decided not to follow a person or company on Twitter because the profile just didn’t appeal to me.
This means revamping your profile can have a real, immediate impact on how people respond to your profile.
This is why I tinkered around with the look of G&P’s profile before I tried to do anything else. I wanted to make sure our images and bio fit with our branding and organizational image before I tried to entice new followers.
The Importance Of Images
Because we process images 60,000 times faster than text, a major part of making your first impression a good one is carefully choosing images that convey what your business is and what it values.
That’s because images aren’t just pretty background noise; they also help give visitors subtle answers to two questions:
- What kind of person or business is this? What do they value?
- Is this business legitimate? Can I trust it?
When it came to images, the G&P profile was hit and miss. It had a great logo for the account avatar, but the cover photo was missing entirely — which made the profile look unprofessional or fake. Because I didn’t take screenshots, I’ve created this handy mockup to show you what G&P looked like visually before any changes:
Adding a great cover photo to the G&P profile would be an easy way to draw the eye while also making the profile (and the organization) look more legitimate.
For our new cover photo, I started thinking of images that would look great with the logo and say something about G&P. I decided I wanted a black-and-white photograph because it would mirror the look of the logo itself.
I decided to find an image that illustrated what the name of the organization meant.
For me, the name evoked the idea of the artifice and pageantry of what a poem does in order to tell us something about the real world. Poems are kind of like Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in that they project a ghost-like image of a subject on a wall for people to see. The image represents the subject without being the subject at all.
While this was somewhat abstract, the idea of a photo of a sort of blurry picture projected on a wall seemed doable.
So I looked for a black-and-white pinhole photo that also showed an image projected on a wall.
Once I found it, I uploaded the new image, changed the color scheme from teal to gray to go better with the monochromatic palette, and I was done.
Compared to the old profile, the new profile looks more polished and professional, and it says something about the organization to boot. Not bad for just a few minutes work.
If you want to know more on choosing the right cover photo, this article from Social Media Examiner has some great tips. You can also check out some examples of great business cover photos here and here.
What’s In A Bio?
Like your profile images, you profile bio is another part of your profile people will judge “at a glance.”
And while it may seem easy to get right (it’s only 160 characters), people come up with bad Twitter bios surprisingly often.
Part of this is because people forget that your bio is also your sales pitch. You want to tell people who you are and what you do, and you want to sell them on why they should follow you.
Sure, there are lots of cool or interesting details about you or your business that could go in your Twitter bio, but you should only include the ones that will most resonate with your target audience's needs and interests.
G&P’s old bio wasn’t bad, but it didn’t sell the organization.
Here is a mockup of the old version:
While this version provides what the organization is and where it is located, it doesn’t distinguish G&P from similar organizations or provide social proof through listing accomplishments.
Of course, the easiest way to fix this is to try to figure out what your industry or community values, and then add in details that speak to that.
Since my target audience is fellow writers, I wanted to add some details that speak directly to them. Like most people, writers value perceived prestige and authority in their industry. Perceived authority on social media platforms actually gets more people to follow you, no matter who you are.
Since perceived authority for writers usually takes the form of things like plum publications or arts grants received, I decided to add some language about the fact that G&P gets some of its funding from grants from Boise City Department of Arts and History and the Idaho Commission on the Arts.
Here is the new version:
This tells potential followers who we are, what we do, and that we are a legitimate organization with authority in our community. Perfect!
2. Load Your Feed With Recent, High-Quality Content
You can have the most beautiful, compelling Twitter profile in the whole wide internet, but if you haven't tweeted in six months, few people are going to follow you.
Why? Because accounts that tweet regularly (2-3 times a day is considered ideal) attract more followers and have more follower engagement. And it makes sense. After all, you wouldn’t eat at a restaurant that serves food only on random days, would you?
Unfortunately G&P’s Twitter feed was updated haphazardly, usually to promote readings pretty intensively for a week or so with gaps of weeks (or months) of complete inactivity. Here’s an example:
That kind of inactivity looks bad, especially if you’re trying to entice new followers. (We also were only tweeting promotional content, instead of following the 80/20 rule that most experts recommend.)
So I decided to revamp our Twitter feed by strategically hiding our infrequent account activity under a barrage of varied, recent, high-quality content.
First, I came up with about a dozen or so tweets that showcased the type of awesome content one would get if they followed G&P. For balance, I chose to retweet a couple of writers or arts organizations that had something interesting to say, and to tweet a couple photos of our most recent events (to give people a sense of what the series actually looks like).
Then I used Buffer to tweet six times spread out over the course of 24 hours (no dreaded Twitter bursts here!) and 2 tweets per day after that. Voila! G&P’s profile looked active while boasting much more varied content.
Since you only see the most recent tweets above the fold on a Twitter profile, I made sure to tweet out my absolute best content last. That way, it would be the first content people would see.
Alternately, you can also “pin” your best content at the top of your feed so it’s always seen first!
Want other strategies for high-quality, varied content? Check out this Buffer article on the five best types of Twitter content to foster engagement.
3. Research And Follow Only Relevant People
Follower count is usually touted as a successful indicator of your online presence and reach. The reality is often much more complex. That’s because there is a huge difference between followers and qualified followers.
In the age of automated everything, many people buy fake followers to boost their numbers.
Obviously, a robot can’t do things like engage with your brand or purchase your products and services. (You know, that whole why you’re in business thing.)
A loyal, engaged fan is much more valuable than a robot or a random, indifferent person who followed to get a freebee.
I only wanted real, engaged followers for G&P.
However, getting those kinds of followers isn’t simple — finding them takes a little bit of homework.
I first outlined what my objectives were for boosting the follower count. What did I actually want a higher follower count to accomplish for the organization in real-world terms?
I came up with two objectives. By increasing followers, I wanted to:
- Get more name recognition for G&P in the poetry community.
- Get more actual people to come to events.
In order to accomplish both, I would have to target two different audiences.
Targeting An Audience For Greater Name Recognition
After some thought, I decided that there were three groups that I wanted to target to boost our name recognition. They were:
- Poets who have read for the series and are not currently followers.
- Influencer poets in the writing community.
- Poets who look interesting and might fit the series’ aesthetic.
For the first group, I noticed that even though G&P has hosted nearly 30 readings, few past readers followed us on Twitter. This seemed to be a missed opportunity because past readers were already invested in the series and might be more likely to share out our events or updates. So I searched for every past reader on Twitter and followed them, hoping they'd follow us back.
The first place you should look for new Twitter followers are among current or past customers that don’t already follow you.
I searched for the second and third groups together. First, I followed influencer poets whose aesthetic fit in with the series.
Then I scanned the “followers” lists of those influencers to further find poets with a similar aesthetic to follow. (Remember, Twitter accounts of a feather flock together!)
Now I just had to wait and see how many qualified followbacks I would get from my efforts.
For more advice on finding industry influencers on Twitter, check out this great article from ProBlogger.
Targeting An Audience of Potential Customers
With the first objective under my belt, I could move onto getting more local followers who might actually come to events.
For this objective, I decided to target three groups — two that comprise our target audience, and one that frequently comes into contact with our target audience. I looked for:
- Every local writer in the area.
- Non-writers that have come to events.
- Complementary businesses and local news organizations.
For the first group, I combed my Facebook “friends” list (and the Facebook “friends” lists of friends) for every local writer I knew. Then I searched for each of them on Twitter.
For the second group, I made a list of people I knew who had come to events but were not writers themselves. Then I found and followed them, and then scanned their follower lists for other relevant local followers.
To ferret out the third group, complementary businesses and news organizations, I checked out the “followers” lists of local arts organizations we already had close ties to that also had Twitter accounts. For example, the “followers” list of a local gallery space with similar objectives as G&P contained numerous other complimentary, local arts groups and news organizations that weren’t already on our radar. Sweet!
To do the same for your business, you could try checking out your competitors’ “followers” lists.
If you want some extra help, check out this article of tips on who businesses should follow on Twitter.
The Final Outcome
So what was the final outcome after all that hard work? We got a ton of new followers.
After I painstakingly revamped the profile, loaded the feed with content, and searched out the right kind of followers, it was pretty rewarding to see the followbacks start rolling in by the dozens every hour or two.
While we started with just 45 followers, we ended the weekend with 270. And that number just keeps rising. As of today (a little under four weeks later), we have 396 followers, which is totally respectable for a tiny, nonprofit arts organization.
But the best part of all is that our new followers are all real people who are actively engaged in some way with what we do. You can’t put a fake follower price on that!
Over the coming weeks, I hope to build a relationship with our new followers with the hope that some of them will become new readers and audience members for our future events.
I know our current ratio of followers to following may not be ideal, since many claim that Twitter accounts that follow more people than that follow them look bad. But it can be impossible not to have a negative ratio when first starting out, and in a few weeks, I’ll start to gradually reduce our following number to get it closer to our follower number.
If you are embarrassed by your low follower count or simply can’t seem to get the kind of Twitter traction that you’d like, consider following these three easy steps to grow your follower list. If you want to grow your followers the right way, consider:
- Revamping your Twitter profile.
- Loading your feed with recent, relevant, high-quality content so potential followers will know what they're getting when they follow you.
- Researching and following only relevant people to your industry.
After all, it only takes a weekend!
What did you think of my strategies? Would they work for you and your business?
Share with me in the comments or shoot me a tweet @HRodabaugh.