This post was originally published on the NMX blog. It is reposted here with permission.

When I first started using Twitter, I had no idea how to build my follower list. So, like many rookies, I made the mistake of following as many people as possible en masse. If someone was on Twitter, I followed them – and hoped that they’d follow me back.

While it is true that I built a follower list of several hundred people, they weren’t real followers. That’s not to say they were bots (though I’m sure some of them were), but they weren’t real followers in the sense that that didn’t really follow anything I said. Few of them clicked on my links, retweeted my tweets, or engaged in conversation. When I released a product, even fewer of them translated to sales. So, I did what any rational person would do.

I started over.

I purged my list, keeping only the followers I knew or actually wanted to follow. In unfollowing so many people, lots of people unfollowed me as well – but that was fine, because to those people, I was just a number. If you only follow me if I follow you back, that says to me that you don’t actually care what I have to say…so go ahead and unfollow!

Once I did that, I was left again with a fairly low follower number and no idea how to build it. So, I started doing some hard work, figuring out what works and what does not. I followed people I loved, but I didn’t use my own follows as a ploy to get people to follow me. Instead, here’s what I did to get real twitter followers:

  1. I added my Twitter ID to the bio at the end of my posts. Every day, I get about three to five new followers from that link. When I write an especially popular post, I get more.
  2. I started linking to my profile within posts when relevant. By directing people to follow me on Twitter, I could remind them that they should add me if they liked the post I wrote.
  3. When I made new business cards, I added my Twitter ID.
  4. Whenever I start following someone I truly like, I make sure to @reply – jump into a conversation, tell them why I’m following, retweet a link they’ve posted, etc. It gives that a little poke, showing them that I actually am interested, not just another number.
  5. I participate in Twitter chats. This is a big one. For example, every time I participate in #blogchat, I end up with 10 – 20 new followers – sometimes even more if I’m super active. If you host a chat or serve as a co-host, you’ll get even more followers.
  6. I started using hashtags. You don’t have participate in a full chat, but just using hashtags occasionally when you tweet, especially about a conference (like #BWENY) or specific topic related to your blog.
  7. I started participating in #FollowFriday. With #FF, I don’t link to a list of people – I recommend one person with a reason why to follow. And more than just posting a few #FF tweets, I also take my friends’ recommendations and follow people who I find interesting (and tweet at them, see point number four).
  8. I stopped thinking of Twitter as a marketing tool and started just talking to followers like friends. Without conversation, you probably won’t be very successful on Twitter (check out my experiment here). As people see you having conversations with people they know, they’ll jump in and likely follow you as well.
  9. I added my Twitter ID to my forum signatures and – this is important – started being active in the forums. This is somewhere where I’m still lacking because I don’t always have time to participate in forums, but whenever I can legitimately be active (i.e., not spamming the boards), I see an increase in followers.
  10. I’m not afraid to be funny. Funny tweets (or even retweets) get retweeted – a lot – and the more you get retweeted, the more followers you get.

Okay, those are my ten best Twitter tips. What are some of your best strategies (that don’t include “follow a bunch of people and hope they follow you back”)?

Image credit: “Twitter Bird Sketch” by shawncampbell, modified

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