20 Days to a High-Quality, Highly-Engaged Twitter Following (in just 20 minutes a day)

I said it during the 2010 Successful Web App Metrics Event and I’ll say it again…I’d rather have 100 highly engaged followers than 100,000 unengaged followers.

The more engaged the follower, the more likely they are going to exchange value with you…whether by subscribing to your blog or actually paying you money for your product or service.

But how do you get that quality following without buying followers or simply following 1,000 people and hoping they follow you (which is a terrible strategy)?

Well, you can have this sort of following in just 20 days, only spending 20 minutes a day, and by engaging in the following activities.

Let’s start from the beginning.

Day 1 – Create A Short, Unique Name

Your first step to creating a massive following is to create your account. And your first step when it comes to creating an account is coming up with a name.

The best names are short and memorable.

If your first and last name are short enough, then use it as your twitter handle…that is if it isn’t already taken. But you don’t have to use your name since your identity will show up on your Twitter account.

Here’s mine:

Neil Patel Twitter Name

You can also use keywords for a Twitter handle or your blog name.

Create A Twitter Handle

Day 2 – Show Your Face.

It doesn’t take much, but putting a decent photo of you in your Twitter profile can lead to ten times as many followers:

effect of profile picture on followers

It won’t take you twenty minutes to upload the photo, but it might take you that long to take a shot of a photo that you like.

If you have an iPhone, try these apps that will help make just about any photo cool looking:

Day 3 – Create Your Bio

If you want more high-quality followers, then you need to describe yourself and what you do in your bio. This will give people a reason to follow you.

One neat trick you can use is think about a theme…like your area of interest or expertise. Check out Mark Shaefer’s collection of Twitter bio’s for ideas:

You could easily spend a day messing around with your Twitter bio. And you will probably mess with it every day after that. So don’t worry if you don’t have it nailed down in 20 minutes.

Day 4 – Give A Specific Location

For any Twitter account that is meant for business, it’s important you leave a specific city or region in your profile.

Why is that important? This will help you out in local business, making connections with people nearby. As you meet more and more people online through tweeting or guest posting, you will be surprised at how many people are close to you and reach out to tell you.

So plug that city and state into your bio because it’s a great way to network and pick up new followers.

Day 5 – Build A Nice Twitter Background

Design is everything these days…and your Twitter account landing page is no exception.

Fortunately you can find a lot of free Twitter background designs out there, but I’d recommend investing in something that allows you to customize the background so you can give additional information:

Mashable Twitter Background

For $89 you can customize a beautiful background from Twitter Backgrounds.

Day 6 – Start Tweeting

People will follow you for two reasons.

  • Who you are…this is why celebrities have so many followers.
  • What you tweet…you provide useful, funny and interesting content, which is how you can eventually become a minor celebrity.

It’s probably easier to give you a list of things not to tweet about than it would be to give you a list of things you should tweet about.

So, don’t tweet about:

  • What you are eating.
  • What you are doing every hour of the day.
  • Where you are going…people who care will follow you on FourSquare.
  • Your Klout score.

Instead, tweet about relevant articles, inspiring quotes, awesome videos and ask interesting questions. And twenty minutes a day tweeting is sufficient.

Day 7 – Time Your Tweets

There’s a science behind when you should tweet so that your tweets get the best exposure…and if they get the best exposure, they are more likely to get retweeted. And if they get retweeted, they’ll get in front of more people…which means more potential followers.

So when is the best time to tweet? Turns out around 5PM EST:

best time to tweet

So on this day time your tweeting around 5 PM EST to get the most exposure to new followers. Later on down the road, you can test when your optimal tweet time is.

Day 8 – Follow People You Know

One of the easiest ways to pick up new followers is simply to follow people you know. Find their accounts and click “Follow”:

Follow Mashable on Twitter

When you join Twitter, Twitter has a great function that will check out your email contact list to see if its database has any matches…then shows you the results. If they are your friends, start following them.

Day 9 – Follow Your Friends’ Friends

After you’ve picked up a number of followers by following friends, look through their list of followers and who they are following, find interesting people, and then follow them, too.

Twitter Tip - Follow Your Friend's Friends

Day 10 – Reply To People

You can attract attention by engaging people, and one of the best ways to do that is to simply start replying to tweets in your stream.

Twitter Tip - Reply to People

There is a trick to this. Just don’t say, “Great tweet!” Instead, offer something of value.

  • Share a link to a relevant article or video.
  • Ask a question if you want to know how they felt about that tweet (this works when someone tweets about a potential interview or something similar). It could be as simple as “Can you expand?” or “Have you thought about X?” The idea is to keep the conversation going…and questions are great way to do that!
  • Make an introduction between two Twitter users who might be able to add value to each other.

Day 11 – Compliment People

On day 9 your focus is going to be on complimenting people through Twitter. This is different than replying because you may be complimenting people on stuff they did off of Twitter.

Twitter Tip - Compliment People

For example, say somebody wrote a great article. Send a tweet to that person telling them how much and why you liked their article.

Then tweet a link of the article with the writer’s Twitter handle.

Day 12 – Retweet

Today you are going to retweet (RT) a whole bunch of tweets to pick up followers. The number one rule behind RTs…give credit to the original tweet and user.

Twitter Tip - Retweet A Lot

This way you are being honest about where you found the content…but also it will bring you attention to that person. Your RT will show up in his stream as a “mention.” He or she then may follow you back to your account and follow you.

Quick tip…instead of sending 25 RTs from 25 different people…send 25 RTs from 5 different people. That way you get their attention.

Day 13 – Find Trending Hashtags

If you look up trending hashtags on Twitter you can find topics that are relevant to your field and then jump into the conversation.

Twitter Tip - Find Trending Hashtags

You can reply with a comment or question, retweet or check out and follow some of the more interesting people.

Those who you reply to or retweet will then follow you back to your account to check you out. If they like what they see, they’ll follow you.

Day 14 – Use Hashtags

Once you’ve got a handle on what a hashtag is and how it works, why not give it a try to help you gain some traction. If you come up with an interesting angle on a hashtag, people may pick up on it.

Here were the top 10 best hashtags in 2011 according to Twitter:

Twitter Tip - Use Hashtags

As you can see, three of them are meme-based. Get the right kind of meme and your hashtag may go viral.

Day 15 – Host A Twitter Question And Answer

As you gain momentum with followers and the number of tweets you’ve posted, create a Twitter chat session with followers. Follow these steps:

  1. Schedule when you will hold the Twitter chat session…make it a 20 minute session. Say 4 to 4:20 PM on a Tuesday.
  2. Announce the session a day ahead of the scheduled chat.
  3. Remind your followers the morning of the session.
  4. Announce the session is live at the determined time.
  5. Answer as many questions as you can in that 20 minutes.
  6. Announce when the session is over.

Finally, do a summary of the session as a blog post so you can expand on your answers. James Altucher handles this nicely with his Ask James Twitter session summaries.

Provide useful answers and content and you will definitely pick up new Followers.

Day 16 – Share Your Twitter Handle Everywhere

The reason I waited until day 16 to tell you to do this is I wanted your stream to get some meaningful and quality content going before you made it public, so to speak.

Where should you share your Twitter handle:

  1. Blog – Some people think this distracts from the true purpose of a blog, but I find it very helpful in driving new followers. Also think about using Twitter in blog comments as well.
  2. Email signature – If you email a lot, people will definitely get exposed and check out your Twitter account.
  3. Post on other social media sites – Include your Twitter handle on Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
  4. Business card – People who get your card will make it to your account eventually.

Day 17 – Go On A Tweeting Frenzy

This is the day you consider ignoring my advice about just spending 20 minutes on Twitter and go nuts. I’m talking about tweeting every five minutes.

If not more.

When @unmarketing got big on Twitter it was the month that he tweeted 10,000 times. That’s over 300 tweets a day…about 20 an hour (I calculated that you will sleep for 8 hours).

Go on a tweeting frenzy

Why does this work? If you think about it, the more you tweet the more gets retweeted.

Sure, you’ll lose some people who just don’t want that many tweets in their stream, but for the most part, as long as you are sharing useful and relevant and funny content, you will pick up more followers.

So think about how much effective tweeting you can do in a day, and test hyper-tweeting out.

Day 18 – Write A Guest Post

Any time you go outside of your circle and present in front of someone else’s audience, you will pick up new followers.

That’s true when you guest post.

Now, even though there are some people who think you can create good content in under 20 minutes, this will probably take a lot longer.

If you are new to the guest posting scene, check out my Quick and Dirty Guide to Your First Guest Post. It’ll show you how to find the right blogs to post for, how to approach them and what to write.

Day 19 – Host A Tweetup

A Tweetup is a small, casual event where you invite your Twitter followers. This helps you put a face to a name, building stronger bonds with that person. You will also gather other followers as people are likely to bring their friends who are on Twitter.

Your tweetup is as simple as asking your followers if they would like to meet for a drink or dinner. You can meet at a coffeehouse, bar or even someone’s house. This also works if you are traveling.

If you want to make it more formal and attract more people, create a hashtag for the event and an invitation page.

A service like twtvite can help you set one up:

schedule a tweetup

Day 20 – Run A Contest

You can attract followers by giving something away. It could be a podcast or e-book, but make it valuable enough.

Suggest that people will get the link to the resource once they follow you. You’ll then DM them the link. Then encourage people to share the contest via a hashtag.

The downside to this approach is that people may stop following you the moment they get the free resource. Sure, that will happen, but the upside is that if done correctly, your Twitter profile will spread far…attracting the right people.

Conclusion

Of course, you’ll only perform some of these activities once…but others you’ll perform every day. And as that accumulation of activity grows…so will your highly-engaged following.

See, that’s the beauty of this process…it’s not just about getting as many followers as possible…it’s getting as many high-quality followers as process. When you do that, you are bound to succeed!

What other ways are there to attract high-quality, highly-engaged Twitter followers?

About the Author: Neil Patel is the VP of Marketing of KISSmetrics and blogs at Quick Sprout.

  1. Hey, thanks for including me in this and posting the link to my Twitter Q&A posts. I find “appointmnet twittering” to be very powerful.

  2. This is one of the most useful post I ever read about using Twitter. Twitter is more about conversation than picking up followers when you use it in this way you pick lots of followers as well.

    Thank you Neil for another awesome post

  3. Neil, super dig this article. Thanks for forwarding. I have a lot of love for Twitter on a personal level and actually appreciate the difficulty in acquiring followers – it means the ones you get are earned.

    Re: timing of tweets – I’ve never thought about that and will use it going forward, thanks again.

  4. Twitter has never worked for me before, however these tips are something worth trying.

  5. Will these get me more followers? Will be applying them.

    • Obinna,

      If you stick to Neil’s 20 techniques. I’m positive you’ll be able to get more followers on Twitter, plus build up your number of relationships online.

      Jared

  6. Great ideas, I have tried a few and think that a tweeting frenzy may be a good idea to try, I can focus on engaging properly with people that way. Thank you

  7. Love the point about it’s better to have 100 engaged followers than 1,000,000 non engaged followers. Great stuff, thanks for posting.

  8. Hey Neil,

    Glad to see you finally created a post on how to create a REAL Twitter following, not a junk account with random and non-responsive followers that just makes you look like you have a big number.

    I remember I asked you about this dilemma awhile back, so thanks for helping folks find other ways to gain a following.

    One thing you didn’t mention was tanking new followers: it engages them and let’s them know that you are active in the process. Don’t use an automated program for this, do it manually, and I like to take a look at their profile and website and comment on it in some way — either offering them help, kudos or a mild critique.

    This breeds even more loyalty.

    Chris

  9. Neil – Great post for people like me who want to get on the Web for information sharing and learning, but were not able to. Once I am done with all these steps will get back to you with my experience and more meaty feedback :)

  10. Angela Marinelli Feb 28, 2012 at 6:39 am

    This is great info laid out in a clear process. My biggest struggle being self-employed with 2 businesses is time. I do everything. Your title got me – 20 days/20 minutes. But, I get so engaged reading the awesome info from the people I follow (yours included)…20 minutes a day? Not for me! And then I’m right back to my lame little band of nothing. :(

  11. Neil,

    As someone who’s just beginning to figure Twitter out, I thought your article was very insightful.

    Regarding your comment about not tweeting what you had for breakfast–I concur. But I’ve also noticed that people like Brian Clark and Darren Rowse do tweet on personal matters from time to time. One of my followers told me that all the quotes and article links are nice, but he’d be more inclined to RT me if I occasionally tweeted something personal, like what movie I took the kids to. I’d be interested to hear your take on that. Thanks!

  12. Amazing article, well written simple and neatly structured.

    I will be trying the hashtag. Was just wondering whether you can use the same account for business and personal tweeting. I will also be sharing my tweeter handle everywhere, i was going to do it here but i don’t want to seem too opportunistic.

    Thank you for a great article.

  13. I would have loved to read this post on my iPad, but this site is very frustrating. That floating share box on the left side obscures the main page after I zoom in. Did anyone test this on the iPad?

    /Peter

  14. Some really simple yet great points in this article. Thanks for pointing us Twitter-newbies in the right direction. I am one of the many that are only just beginning to understand the purpose of Twitter in my Social Media repertoire and am very excited to put some of these ideas to good use. I don’t see Twitter as a direct traffic generator, but more as a giant networking get-together; it’s how you build relationships behind your writing… Thanks for such a detailed an informative post.

  15. I found your post so good, I posted it to about 5 groups and all my connections on LinkedIn. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I get asked often about the basics and you did a great job breaking it down.
    Thanks again

  16. “Day 17 – Go On A Tweeting Frenzy” that advice is money! Never in a million years did I ever think about doing that, but it makes total sense.

    In fact, I plan on doing it this week (expect some tweets from me btw).

    I respect that you truly believe people should build social media relationships the “real” way, and not through the scammy buy followers and and fans type methods.

    In this day people need authenticity (it’s hard to come by sometimes).

    I plan on studying this post for the next 20 days…and using it.

    Thanks Neil!

  17. Thanks for the brilliant post Neil. As somebody’s who just starting out using Twitter for my new startup business, this is invaluable. I’m going to start putting your tips into practice.

  18. Prior to reading this article I had already participated in about half of the activities listed – I needed to bump it up and figure out the more advanced, experienced techniques! I put just ONE of them into place and my twitter followers increased by about 40 in 2 days!! I’m gonna continue to work my way up!

  19. Turns out, I’ve been doing almost all of these tips quite organically. Does it work? I’d say I have a great, engaged, helpful following (of people who I previously did not know in real life), but it hasn’t helped build up a large or broad audience.

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