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My former boss, whose primary source of income was stock market
investments, once told me it is not how much money you make, but
what percentage you are earning. If one invests $100, the immediate
goal is not to turn that into $1,000, but be happy to earn twenty
percent or $120.

Gaining social media followers should be evaluated by the same
criteria. Especially on Twitter. The focus should be on quality
engagement and not quantity of followers.

As of December 7, 2014, I have 577 followers. That doesn’t seem like
a lot. You can hardly call me a mover and a shaker on Twitter. But
I am happy with my progress thus far, particularly if you know where I started.

In early 2014, I created a new Twitter account with a goal of developing a professional brand. I left my old account behind, which had no focus, and started anew. By September, when I enrolled in the University of Delaware’s Social Media Marketing Certificate Program, I had built up to approximately 235 followers.

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Already on an upward trajectory, taking UD’s Social Media Strategy Certificate Program in the fall of 2014, brought noticeable results. Analytics.Twitter.com

Four months later, when I graduated from the program with new knowledge rattling around in my brain, I had more than doubled my followers. As I progressed through the class, I put my lessons to practice and organically grew my Twitter followers.

Here is how I did it:

1. Follow only a few essential people at first. Watch your “Following” number. Follow the accounts you must, e.g., local businesses, local press, etc. If Twitter made you follow a bunch of people to get started, like celebrities, unfollow them.Pick the ones that you really want and need.

2. Engage with the people you are following. You selected them for a reason, so let them know when something they tweeted was helpful. Thank people for following you. Comment on a photo. Don’t use an automated thank you replies.

3. Use keywords that are appropriate to your purpose on Twitter. For instance, I always type social media as one word and always with a hashtag. “This #socicalmedia advice is terrific!” People in the social media world have found me because I make that one change with a hashtag.

4. Emulate the best. Observe how successful accounts are doing it. Take the time to study successful practitioners.

5. Participate in organized chats, sometimes known as ‘tweet ups.’ I regularly participate in #agchat #gardenchat and most of my followers have come from that participation. We’re all beginning to know each other. It is where Twitter feels like home. There are organized chats for almost every subject.

6. Gradually add new accounts to follow.

7. Unload accounts that don’t follow you back. There will be a few must haves – celebrities for instance rarely follow back, but you might want to follow them anyway. I follow several particular accounts for news that do not follow me back, and that is fine, but as a rule, if you aren’t getting anything out of the content and they aren’t following you, cut them loose. Try them again later.

8. Watch your Following to Follower ratio. When you follow someone, they will be notified and may check out who you are. If they see you are following 1,500 people but you only have 35 people following you back, you might not be taken seriously. Ideally, your Following number should be relatively equal or even lower than your Follow list. We all have to start somewhere. It is better to Follow 20 and have 15 Followers and build gradually than to follow a bunch of people and hope they follow back. If you are trying to gain particular followers, you can use their handle to get their attention. But you don’t want to repeat your content over and over.

9. Have a purpose. Your Tweet archive matters. Okay, you have low numbers. People will figure out you are new. They will look at your output. Are you a troll, posting the same thing over and over? Are you a hired hand pushing out links? Or do you have something interesting to say? People will size you up before following you. They will want to know what is your point being on Twitter.

10. Avoid buying services that promise Twitter followers in the
thousands.

11. Who are you? Fill out your profile. When I am notified I have a new follower, first thing I do is look at who they are. No picture, no profile description, chances are I ignore them.

12. Narrow your focus. That was the problem with my old Twitter account. I was all over the place. Weather, local news, work content, #TheWalkingDead, #DowntonPBS #BreakingBad, politics, #gardening, music, #Beatles. I treated Twitter like Facebook. That was a big mistake. Pick two or three topics of interest and stick to them. Your brand will grow faster if you have a niche area – focus your conversations with expertise and authority. That doesn’t mean you have to be a topic robot – just keep extracurricular subjects to a reasonable level. I may mention a favorite TV show on my main Twitter account, but I won’t live Tweet the program with 30 OMG posts!

13. Use Twitter Analytics. From my browser, I sign into my Twitter account and open another tab or window to http://www.analytics.twitter.com. There I will see my Twitter statistics – most importantly – the engagement measurements. What content resonated? I can see what Tweets fell flat, and which content people noticed and reacted to. Pictures and Vine videos do well. Read more about Twitter Analytics here.

14. Keep posts short. Leave room to be retweeted.

15. Be authentic. Start local. Engage with others. Tweet what you are passionate about.

I am not on Twitter 24-7. In my position, I wear many hats and Twitter is one of many to choose from the rack. Some day, I might earn a nice big K after my numbers, but I am not anxious for that to occur. It is best if it doesn’t happen overnight. I follow people for reasons of interest, knowledge, friendship and personal/professional development. The ultimate goal is to be followed back for the same exact reasons.

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