The Secret to Building Your First 100 Twitter Followers

I regularly speak to clients, business contacts and people at our conferences who want to use Twitter more, or who have struggled with getting past the initial stages of using the site. If you are an experienced Twitter user, then hopefully you’ll still be able to share this post with friends or clients who are just starting out in building their brand or their own profile on the site. 

Getting Started

There are plenty of guides and blog posts that cover the basics of signing up for Twitter account and advice about how to use the site in general. Twitter has released their own Twitter for Business minisite, and Mashable have compiled a number of blog posts into a Guide Book.

I think it’s valuable to think in terms of building an early base of followers, since the flywheel effect comes into play beyond a certain threshold. I would pick the number 100 as a target where anybody can say that they’re beyond the ‘beginner’ stage, and where all the advice from the other guides becomes much more applicable.

Preparing for Promotion

If this is a brand new Twitter account, the first few tweets will demonstrate that you’re actually using the service and lets potential followers know what to expect. This makes gaining followers a little easier.

After creating the account, you should immediately try to publish a few interesting tweets. If there are things on your mind about your industry or area of expertise, then make a comment or two. You could make insightful remarks about your niche or publish links to useful or interesting content (though avoid promoting your own content at this stage.) You could even supplement these tweets with less formal comments, such as something funny, a comment about something that’s been bothering you, or just mention when the weather is going to change.

You can also share images and photos. When photos are shared through certain prefered services (such as Twitter’s mobile apps, yFrog, TwitPic and Instagram), they will be added to your own photo gallery. Thumbnails of these pictures will be displayed on your profile page, which will make your profile look more interesting and can encourage people to follow you. 

First 100 Followers

Depending on the existing influence of you or your company, your first 100 followers might be stunningly simple to find, or particularly difficult. I’ve suggested some straightforward ways to build this solid base of followers.

Your Friends & Contacts

The first batch of people you engage with could be coworkers, friends, clients or partners. Aim for people with whom you have a close relationship, so that you can simply email or ask them directly; friends won’t mind you asking, and you could easily pick up your first couple of dozen followers this way.

Your Blog

You can promote the account on your blog, by writing about it and explicitly asking people to follow you. (These readers can visit your Twitter profile to see the types of thing you’ve published already, and make a decision about whether to follow you.) Your blog should be a great source of followers, since the readers are already a self-selected group that trust you enough to subscribe and are interested in what you have to say: this translates well to having an interest in following you.

Email Lists

If you have an email newsletter that gets sent to certain people, you could use that list to promote the account as well. If you have separate lists for different audiences, it’s worth trying to tailor your description to each of them.

For example, a recruitment company with an email list of HR Managers could tell them something like “We’ll be sharing new advice from our recruitment agents about finding and retaining the very best employees.”

Meanwhile, the same company’s email to job-seekers might say “I’ll be publishing the best new job listings on Twitter, so you could find out about the hottest opportunites before anyone else.”

Promoting your Twitter handle

You should also begin using your Twitter username on and off the web, so that people can find and follow you without you explicitly asking them to. There are many easy ways to do this such as:

  • Include a link in your email signature
  • Add your Twitter URL / Name on print media such as business cards and flyers
  • Consider including it on any advertising
  • Include a link to your Twitter account anywhere you participate online, such as in forums or when blogging.

Finding People to Follow

Through your regular use of Twitter, you’ll discover interesting and relevant people to follow. However, it will be important to find some relevant people to follow early on.

The focus should be on accounts who you are legitimately interested in following or talking to. For example, suitable accounts might include:

  • Interesting or well connected people from your region
  • Local companies, restaurants, events, etc.
  • Other accounts focused on your business niche
  • People with similar interests to you, etc.

Three particular methods for finding these people are listed below:

  1. Twitter Search

Twitter’s advanced keyword search tool (more details below) will let you find people who are tweeting about particular topics. It also allows you to restrict your search to a geographic area. For example, I might look for “seattle mariners” or “520 bridge” to find people have an affiliation with or live in my area.

  1. Twitter Lists

The official ‘Lists’ feature allows you to view user-generated lists of account. Finding lists created around a particular topic may give you a selection of people worth following. (TheNextWeb has more information about Twitter lists.)

You can find the lists that a particular user has created by following the ‘Lists’ link on their Twitter page.

  1. Third Party Services

There are numerous third-party sites to help discover users on Twitter. We also recommend third party services such as Listorious, WeFollow and Twellow to search for relevant groups of people.

One of the most useful services, FollowerWonk allows you to search the profile bio text of Twitter users, which can help to find users in particular niches or local regions.

Sharing Content

There will be two distinct types of tweet that you publish. The first type is one which you decided to write, independent of others. The second are is reactive to what else is happening on Twitter. Early on, I recommended that you post tweets of the former at least once or twice a day. These updates could include:

  • A comment from you that demonstrates expertise of thought leadership in some aspect of your niche
  • A link to news or blog content that your followers might find interesting
  • Photos that are either taken yourself or found online

In addition to creating content, it is important to engage with users more directly. At minimum, this should include checking and responding directly to direct messages (DMs) and @ mentions from other users. (The @Connect link on the site lets you see people who have mentioned or responded to you. In addition, various smartphone apps will alert you when someone mentions you in a tweet.)

We recommend checking relatively frequently and responding to these messages quickly. Whether people are asking you a question or just mentioning you, a quick response will be well received by the other person.

Other Conversations

In addition to seeing things that people have said explicitly to you, scan through the content posted by the people you follow. Are there interesting posts that you would like to comment on, or conversations that you’d like to join? Go ahead and respond to anything that people have posted.

Remember that people on Twitter don’t mind receiving responses or comments from people they’ve not talked to or met before. Don’t feel you have to stick to any off-line social conventions about butting in to a conversation: this is Twitter, and people have only posted content looking for a reaction or response.