Today is 8 Sept 2010 – 08/09/10 for everybody except you guys in the USA – and I bring you our weekly roundup!

Today the topic is TWITTER, and how to get a lot of twitter followers quickly, and why I think doing that is a bad idea.

The Challenge

Get as many followers as I can, in as short a time as I can.

The Account

@quintinza – my personal twitter account.

Where it all began…

One week when I was a guest on the Lets Talk Geek podcast @bazzareido mentioned how he was aiming for 1000 followers in one week.

We chatted briefly about this, and it kinda got stuck in my mind, 1000 followers. Wow, I wonder if it could be done? That was more than ten times the amount of followers I had at that stage, being stuck on 67 followers.

Looking at that figure it was closer to twenty times as many followers as I had then.

Naturally I watched @bazzareido’s activity closely. In a day or so he had moved onto 75 followers. He was methodical about getting new followers – tweeting often, tweeting themed tweets, hashtagging, trying to build retweet chains.

I decided to take him on, but try a different angle…

Getting 250 followers in two days.

I started researching how to get more followers, and one method stood out as the most effective – follow the right people.

It turns out that following people with many followers makes you a blip on the Twitter radar, but you have to be smart – follow Twitter users who follow back. You see, if a power tweeter follows you back you will appear on the top of their “following” list for a short while, and this causes other people who follow them, or who are looking at their profile to see yours and follow you.

What I look at in a Twitter Profile

I look at three things:

  1. Ratio between followers and following.
    If a person follows 10000 people but has only 1000 followers I generally suspect they might not have a lot to say. Why are more people not following them? There are accounts that follow thousands of people but only have a few hundred followers – they usually tend to be spammy accounts.
    I prefer if a Twitter account has a nice balance, that means a tweeter might follow you back if you follow them, and that they are worth following.
  2. Read The Tweets.
    I go and read some of the tweets in an account timeline when I want to follow someone. Is it noise of signal? Will this twitter account add to my information feed or not? It can be anything from industry specific news like @techsmartmag or another industry player like @interexcel or @iburst or even someone who’s tweets add to my day in some positive way like @chriscalitz.
  3. Bio.
    I like to read the bio of a Twitter profile, especially if there is a link to a website. I like being able to “scope out” the person I am following before I make the decision to follow them. A good bio is a plus for me.

So taking my three rules into account, and taking the “get followers quicks” advice I went hunting for new followers. Guess what happened.

Immediate results, no long term staying power

I carefully scoped out my targets. Looking for lists of recommended Twitter users, applying my three rules and following those that I thought would be the most beneficial to my quest.

I quickly discovered that most of the top 1000 odd Twitter users are marketing types – network marketers.

Twitter has become a magnet for people marketing get rich quick schemes. Since I was looking for followers and these guys had lots and seemed to follow their followers back I added about a hundred or so of them.

Within minutes I began getting new followers. Within an hour I had added an extra 100. Then next day I followed 80 more, and added another 80 or so followers. When the people I followed followed me back I started playing the game. I followed those back that followed me.

Two immediate things became apparent – the people I was following added nothing much of value to my stream.

The people following me fell into two categories – dead fish, and people waiting for me to follow me back and then unfollowing me once I added to their numbers.

My followers fluctuated between a maximum of 279 and 170 in a few days, and eventually stabilized somewhere in between. I am up to 179 now, and it seems to be slowly moving up from there.

(I fully expect to lose some followers after they read this article though – would be interesting to see if I do.)

Did I benefit?

Yes and no. Well more no than yes.

You see, these get rich quick, network marketing, “SEO Guru” types do a few things that irritate me immensely.

  • When you follow them you get an automated direct message “Hey thanks for the follow, have a look at my new book…” or “Check out my free DVD series on how to make money…” etc. It gets irritating very quickly and I actually unfollowed a few of them very quickly because of this practice.
  • They tweet a lot of crap. Seriously – “See my new article on making money…” , “…social media secrets to gaining online presence…” , “…10 reasons to write articles…”
    It gets tiring. Very few tweets seem like they come from a real person. (of course I did not quote any tweets verbatim, I do respect the humanity of these people enough not to finger them directly…) They tweet A LOT of that stuff too. From the 230 new people I follow I get about 500 to 1000 of these useless “noise” tweets that fill up my stream every day with nothing but the drivel reserved for spam mails and the stuff that fill the get rich quick segments of classified pages.
  • They do not retweet your tweets or click on your links. I had three to four times as many followers as before, and I got nothing out of the deal. While this seems selfish, let me make it clear that everyone wants Twitter followers for the sake of exposing your stuff to a wider audience. If the people who follow you do not click your links to your content or content you want to share your gain in exposure is zero. If they do not retweet your content the gain in circulation is also zero. I do recognize that a part of the problem is that the new followers who might have been interested in my kind of tweets were in the minority. That brings me to:
  • Knee-jerk followers. A lot of the followers I gained did not have anything in common with me. There was no reason for them to follow me except for them to possibly expand their networks. A lot of them – as noted above – simply followed me until I followed back and then unfollowed me, moving on. Why follow me if you really are not interested in me or the subject matter I tweet about?

What did I gain then?

Some legitimate followers. Once the people who used me to boost their follower numbers abandoned me I had about 160 -170 followers left. People in my industry who came across my tweets or retweets and checked out my Twitter profile actually began following me. You see, I am not the only one playing the mental numbers game when deciding if someone is worthy of my Twittertime. If you have less than 50-100 followers I scrutinize your tweets and your bio much more closely before deciding whether to follow you.

Other Twitter users do the same. If you have an active and engaging Twitter stream and 150+ followers you are more likely to garner followers if you have an active and engaging Twitter stream and 10 followers. This scales a lot.

What can other Twitterati take away from my experience then?

If you are reading this you may scoff at my 193 followers. (Yes I gained a few while writing this entry. 14 in fact.) You may literally have a thousand times more followers than I have, but take note of this:

  • It is very easy to gain followers quickly. Follow a bunch of people and you will gain a bunch of followers very quickly. Hundreds per day even.
  • Your “quantity of network” may increase, but your “quality of network” might not. Pick your follows carefully.
  • Follow a range of people. Especially you SEO and SM (Social Media) “Gurus.” Your Twitter streams are preaching to the choir 90% of the time. Most of the people in your Twitter network are people who are trying to do exactly what you are trying to do, its like car salesmen going door to door to other car salesmen trying to teach them to sell cars.
  • Aim your content at a wider audience. Re-read the point above. Do not keep your tweets one dimensional. One of my best discoveries during this experiment was @JayOatway. He is one of the more prolific tweeters, but he keeps me engaged by not being a one dimensional marketing bot. Sure a lot of the time I skim his tweets, but once in a while there are some real gems, and because of that I keep following him. It’s all about the signal to noise ratio.
  • ENOUGH WITH THE AUTO DIRECT MESSAGES. Geez. I got tens of direct messages, often more than once from the same people until I simply unfollowed the tweeps. A direct message on Twitter is a very personal thing for me. If you DM me you better have something specially for me to say. A mention is enough for any other things you want to bring under my attention.
  • Show me there is a real person behind your account. A lot of the “How to Tweet” guides I read advises against this, but I don’t mind reading something personal in your Twitter stream once in a while. If you are a real person I will give more weight to your Twitter opinions than a tweet bot. Look at @lancearmstrong’s Twitter feed for one of the best follows around. I have absolutely nothing in common with him, but I keep following him via one of my other accounts because he lets me know what he eats for dinner from time to time. He engages his followers, often directly, he shares his music tastes. Often via his streams I feel his frustration at constant drug tests, his joy and pride at his sons birth, how awesome the people are who work with him. @redhourben (Ben Stiller) is another excellent example of this. Look out for him offering you opportunities to help those in need in Haiti via his tweets. Two of my best follows.

Suggested Follows.

I named a few in the articles as specific examples, here they all are for you, along with some other examples of Twitter accounts I find a lot of value in following.

Article Example Accounts. Many are good follows in their own right.

@bazzareido – Barry Reid. One of the guys behind LetsTalkGeek
@techsmartmag – South African Tech Magazine
@interexcel – South African ISP – New Account, not much going on yet.
@iburst -  South African ISP and great example of a business Twitter account.
@chriscalitz – Internet Professional and Entrepeneur. Great example of a balanced Twitter stream
@JayOatway – Good follow. Keeps me interested by tweeting a wide range of content.
@lancearmstrong – A great stream to follow. Makes you feel like you know the guy. He makes great use of his Twitter account. Highly recommended.
@redhourben – Ben Stiller. Good follow. Engages his followers and puts real effort into the causes near his heart.

Other Suggested Twitter Streams – Good examples of “how.”

@Seacomlive -  A good example of a corporate Twitter account. Not too much traffic, keeps content industry related. Official Twitter account of Seacom.
@radar – The O’Reilly Radar Twitter account. Keeps the content related and doesn’t flood me with thousands of tweets.
@climagic – An example of a novel Twitter feed. Useful commands for the Linux shell squeezed into 140 characters. Shows what can be done with ingenuity.
@SabestMarketing – A SEO company that is working hard on their Twitter account. Good follow and nice content.

Summary

A lot of people will have you believe that Twitter is all about the numbers. It isn’t. It is about the quality of those numbers. My Twitter account would mean absolutely nothing as a marketing tool if I had 400,000 “SEO Gurus” following me. If I had 1000, or even 100 people following me who were interested in my industry and wanted to hear what I had to say my Twitter account would mean a lot more to me.

If you want to build a large number of followers there are quick and nasty ways of doing that. I could probably add about a coupla hundred followers a day form days on end, but they would mean very little to me in the way of real world benefits.

My Twitter stream would also be cluttered with thousands upon thousands of useless tweets, adding to the noise. Eventually my Twitter account would become just another email box crammed with spam.

If you utilize Twitter wisely and be smart about how you go about it the results will be very positive.

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