In the more-the-merrier world of Twitter, follower count is an obsession for some brands, whether personal or corporate. Rightly or wrongly, increasing this count has become an industry in itself, with tools and gurus whistling new promises like the Pied Piper of olde. There’s even a ranking of the most followed CMO’s that has become a coveted bio item, bestowing instant credibility in the new social order.
A recent survey (see highlights on Slideshare) among Twitter users reinforces the urgency behind the growing obsession with follower counts. Conducted by Renegade with the Business Development Institute, the study identified a huge gap between the have’s and have not’s, finding that over 85% of Twitter users have fewer than 5,000 followers. While a whopping 75% expressed a desire to substantially increase their follower counts, less than half actually had a strategy in place to do just that.
Troubled by this situation especially in light of Charlie Sheen’s highly publicized Guinness Book of World Record setting achievement last week, it seems to me that we tweeters need to find new character in 140 characters and we need to have all those wonderful twits out there find us. So yes indeed, now is the perfect time for this cynics guide to increasing your follower count.
1. Be a celebrity
Honestly, there really is no easier way to increase your follower count than to be famous and already have lots of obsessive fans. Whether you’re Justin Beiber or Lady Gaga, Shaquille O’Neal or Ashton Kutcher, your minions will simply fall all over your every tweet. Say something nearly clever or almost worth reading and millions more will find you in a click of a mouse. Not famous, yet? Well, keep reading.
2. Be a notorious celebrity
When Charlie Sheen added 1.3 million followers in just over 24 hours this was big news, and he suddenly had another place to share his miraculously self-destructive behavior that he describes as “winning.” Lest you think he’s totally insane, with endorsement deals from Broguiere’s Dairy and Naked Juice hanging on his every tweet, Sheen indeed may end up having the last laugh on Twitter.
3. Buy your followers
If celebrity is out of the question, then maybe it is time to get out the cash and simply buy your friends. The remarkably reputable GetMorePopular.com guarantees they can get you or your brand more followers in no time. Want 10,000 more followers? This enterprising start-up will get them for you in 1-4 weeks for only $999.99. And for just another 25%, they’ll even find you followers you would consider in your target!
4. Bribe them with prizes
Joel Comm, in his best-selling book Twitter Power, recommends among many other techniques, offering prizes or free gifts to attract new followers. For example, one of his apostles, @fitbizwoman gave away a free ebook with 120 smoothie recipes to help increase her follower count from a few hundred to several thousand. While this may seem a bit crass, worry not, if the shoe fitbizwoman, wear it!
5. Follow to be followed
If bribing seems a bit too primitive, then perhaps an aggressive follower campaign is in order. Using power tools like TweetAdder and TweetBig, the idea is to identify likeminded tweeters who just might follow you back. Searching their tweets, profiles and follow to follower ratios, you can suddenly follow hundreds of potential followers in a matter of minutes. While testing TweetBig, without breaking a sweat, I myself added over 300 followers some of whom might actually care about what I have to say.
6. Unfollow the unfollowers
After you’ve aggressively followed hundreds if not thousands, you’ll then want to clean house, removing the ingrates who had the nerve not to reciprocate your follow. Again, by using tools like TweetAdder and TweetBig, unfollowing is as easy as following. In fact, Tweetbig even has something called a “time bomb” that will auto-unfollow in a specified number of days. Since 75% of the surveyed Twitter users in our study said the follow/follower ratio was important to monitor, the “time bomb” feature should be an explosive hit!
7. Follow your new followers
During my same test of Tweetbig, while adding 300 new followers, I also lost 70 old ones. Turns out, some of my old followers took it personally when I didn’t follow them back. This led me to a tool called UnfollowMe, which helps assess why your sheep might leave the flock and hopefully fix the problem. One thing is for certain, if you don’t want to take a follower for granted, follow them back post haste or risk their stealthy exit.
8. When all else fails, be interested and interesting!
Now comes the really hard part. Like chicks in the nest, your new followers will be hungry and must be fed. A steady diet of highly digestible content should do the trick, although it wouldn’t hurt if you actually cared about the conversation at hand. Try listening to relevant tweet streams and adding your POV with panache. Turns out, just as in real life, it is as important to be interested as it is to be interesting in Twitterland.
Despite my cynicism, try not to underestimate the value of a strong following on Twitter. Reports Ted Rubin, Chief Social Marketing Officer at OpenSky, who has more than 43,000 followers, “Having thousands of followers has given me a broad audience of marketers, bloggers and social media enthusiasts.” Rubin adds, “Follower counts are important [for brands] because that is what gives them access to the social graph of others and that is the true power of Twitter, the ability to spread a message. “ (For a deeper discussion on this same topic, join me at BDI’s The Social Consumer – Case Studies and Roundtables.)