Archive for ‘Tutorial’

February 19, 2015

5 ways to get thousands of Twitter followers

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George W. Bush didn’t say this, I did. This is a visual representation of how I felt after responding to one of my students when asked about the number of Twitter followers I had.

This past week in my Social Media Management class at Algonquin College, one of my PR students, @MunnaAden, asked a question I had not really thought about before. She queried, “How did you get so many followers?”. A great question, but I didn’t have an answer readily at hand, so I came up with the classic “well, uh, I’ve been tweeting for a long time (since 2008), and I followed everybody back for a while (which is a bad idea).” After reflecting on that class session, I felt that I really should have had a better answer. Although there’s no sure-fire way to guarantee twitter followers, here are a few things that I have done over the years that I think played a role in the amount of Twitter followers I have.

1. Pick a niche and stick to it

The content I share focuses on only a few topics: Social media, communications, marketing, and education. Of course, these topics are complemented with some personal posts, or comments on the sports teams I root for, but for the vast majority of the time, you will be getting social media, communications, marketing, and education-themed tweets from @David_Hall. Try and think of your tweets as a service that you are providing to your readers, not an online platform for sharing every thought you have. The service you provide, just like any consumer service, should be focused, consistent, and predictable (to some degree).

The longer you tweet about a certain suite of topics, the more followers you will get. I feel that the sheer length of time I have been tweeting about my topics has had a positive effect on followership. It’s a lot easier to get eyes on content shared from a mature account than to get eyes on a new twitter profile that only has a few dozen, or hundred, tweets.

2. Follow relevant people in your industry

When I started tweeting, I was eager to see what other communicators were saying. Remember, this was back in 2008, so I was, like most people at the time, just trying to figure out exactly what the power of Twitter was. For each new marketing/PR/social media professional I followed, I gained access to their content, which was often great for retweeting. This retweeting helped me because it notified the original tweet sender that I was listening to, and endorsed, what they tweeted by sharing it with my followers. Telling people you like their content is a good way to make friends, and it can often result in a follow from the retweeted account. Retweeting great content from other accounts also helped my own Twitter presence because it gave me more great content on my account. It’s a self-reinforcing circle.

3. Be careful when following back

This one is a bit contentious, and I do not recommend it. When I first started on Twitter, I thought it would be a courtesy to follow-back any account that followed me. I thought of it as a nice little digital-hug while saying “thanks for following”. This didn’t turn out so well for me. Over the years, I have now followed or followed-back several thousands of users. As a result, my home feed is virtually useless. I now have to manage my twitter feeds through lists and keyword searches in Hootsuite to make sure I see what I want to see. This, however, ruins some of the serendipitous content discovery that I love about Twitter.

I do, however, believe that all this following on my behalf made me a great target for those looking for follow-back, meaning that the main reason they followed me in the first place was in the hopes that I would follow them back. I can’t say for sure, but I would wager that some of my followers would fall into this category.

Lessons learned: Don’t just follow back because you think it’s a nice gesture; your home-feed will be shot.

4. Curate great content

If you want to be a successful content creator, you should start by curating some great content first. Content curation becomes easier when you have purposefully done step 2 on this post. The idea goes, if you follow people who share good content, you have a virtually endless stream of relevant and shareable content delivered directly to your home feed.

Simply curating retweets won’t get you all the curated content you need, so I also have a few go-to resources when I need to find good content to share: Social Media Today, Social Media Examiner, Mashable (less so lately), Tech Crunch, PR Daily, AdWeek, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Academica, etc. Just find some blogs and newsletters you like to read and share their content.

5. Be a content creator

This is the most important step. My Twitter following didn’t really start to grow rapidly until I started this blog. I consistently created weekly content for a few years, and over that time my blog and Twitter popularity grew. Along with this weekly content creation, I also did an hour-long podcast for about 18 months focusing on social media and technology. I found that once I started creating, people really started to take notice and began to follow my account in higher numbers.

Munna, I hope this does a better job answering the great question you asked in class last week.

Update:

 

April 20, 2011

8 great steps to start a blog: The “Blogging 101″ checklist

Often I hear “I want to start a blog, can you help me get started?” The more I answered those questions the more obvious this blog post became – A simple list of steps to help guide others through starting their own blog.

There’s so much to cover, so I’m going to break up my “blogging” series into a number of posts: the first, “8 great steps to start a blog,” followed by a post on “content creation,” then a post on “blog promotion,” and finally one on “blogger tools (free software and apps).”

Let’s get started, and yes, the order is important.

1. Decide what you are going to blog about. This may seem obvious, but it’s critical to put some concrete thought into your blog topic before you go any further. The biggest mistake when starting a blog is that people are too diverse in what they want to blog about and just write about what they are interested in. This approach ultimately makes the topic of the blog about the author and, to be honest, nobody really wants to read a blog about you, what you do in your spare time, what your favourite restaurants are, how great your amateur band is, etc. The key is to pick a topic that you are knowledgeable about, passionate about, have experience in and stick to it.

2. Determine who your intended audience is. Who will most likely want to read your thoughts about this topic? Be specific and really start to think about the ideal demographic profile of the person who will be reading your blog. Consider age, gender, career level, industry, education, etc. This can change and grow as your blog matures and you get some insights from your web traffic analytics, but always write with an intended reader in mind.

3. Choose your platform. You know what you are going to blog about and who you are writing for, now it’s time to choose a blogging platform. You want to spend a bit of time on this because you need to make sure you will be happy with your choice now, and for years to come. I use WordPress.com, and I’m quite happy with it. It has several free, well-designed, functional themes that are customizable – very important in my decision.  WordPress (and other sites) also provide “site stats” to help you learn a bit more about who your readers are. Besides WordPress, you may want to also consider Blogger, Posterous, Live Journal, Tumblr, and Typepad. Here’s a decent comparison of some of the tools from bizchickblogs.com.

4. Choose a design template for your blog (often called a theme). This is where WordPress leads the way. They have so many free themes to choose from ranging from highly customizable to the very simple what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Spend a day or two looking at dozens of theme options to find one that serves your needs just right.

5. Customize the look and feel of your blog. Your chance to really make your blog your own. Once you have your theme, there are often many options you can use to make your blog like none other. Try to avoid using too many default design and layout settings. The first thing to do is choose a colour scheme (palette) that you will use in all of your design decisions . For those of us with a less-than-perfect design flair, www.colourlovers.com can help you figure out what looks good together and what doesn’t.

Next step to customize your blog is to incorporate your colours and name of your blog into your header. Your header should be simple. Include the name of your blog and a recognizable image that fits with your theme. Not all blog themes have a custom header capability, so take  a quick look through a few of your options on WordPress.

6. Make sure there are social components to your design. This is what social media is all about. Shares, comments, rankings, etc. You have to add these elements when you are customizing your theme, but it is such a critical component I decided to make it it’s own entry on this checklist.  The idea is to empower your readers to share your blog with their own networks, and also provide you feedback on what readers like and don’t like about your blog.

On the sharing front, I encourage my users to share using Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, StumbleUpon, Digg, and email. For feedback, I enabled the ranking system and also allowed open comments – this means that all users who want to comment on a blog post can do it without moderation (I am yet to have to remove a comment due to inappropriate content).

7. Buy your domain name. This may not be for everybody, but if you want to communicate professionalism you are going to want to buy a unique domain name. It costs about $20 a year and is well worth it. It takes your blog from the appearance of a free, homemade diary, to a very professional and focused image. If the blogger thinks their content is worth investing some money in, the reader may think it’s worth investing 90 seconds of their time to read the blog.

8. Stop worrying that people will think your ideas are stupid, and start writing. Now your fingers hit the keys. After you are all set up with your blog, it is ultimately your content that will determine how much response you will get.  One of the big stumbling blocks for bloggers (both rookie and veteran) is they may be worried too much about what others think. Stop worrying about it and start writing, and you’ll be able to figure it out as you go. After all, nobody is going to shut your blog down for a few bad posts.

My next post in this “blogging” series will be “Blogging 201: tips on creating content”. Look for that in a few weeks.

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