When it comes to Twitter, it’s hard to be an overnight success. It takes time to build and cultivate the relationships that can ultimately increase awareness of your business or personal brand. Attracting engaged followers is the key to success. When I first started out on Twitter, I worked it like a job, but even if you spend half the time I did, you can build a strong following over time.
Here are eight ways to build a loyal Twitter following:
1. Make sure your bio gives a good reason for people to follow you. Do not be cute or sarcastic. Bios on Twitter are short and to the point. Focus on why people would hire you. Consider this: Do people hire “divas or gurus” or “coaches and experts”? People will make a decision about following you in an instant. It is not like the About Me page found on your website or blog.
2. Brand your username. Your username could match your personal name, the name of your business or use your industry keywords. Just keep it consistent across other social networking sites. When you sign up for your Twitter account, use your real name or the name you use on other social network sites. If this name isn’t available, try to use something that describes what you do. Thus my Twitter username is @smallbizlady since, to my surprise Melinda Emerson was taken. Using the same picture on all social media sites is helpful as well.
3. Connect your blog and other social networks to your Twitter profile. Add a Twitter link to each of your social media profiles (LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, etc.). This will ensure that everyone you know is able to connect with you across your entire social media footprint. You can also have your Twitter stream or blog fed into your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles.
4. Be sweet, retweet. Follow people from within your industry niche or geographic area and share their content. It’s a great way to make friends on Twitter. You should be sharing other people’s content at a 4:1 ratio of your own.
5. Leverage Twitter search. One of the best things about Twitter is how easy it is to search for information. You can search for other Twitter users by city and state. You can go to search and hit “smallbiz marketing,” and anyone who has tweeted those exact words recently will come up. If that’s your industry, I would follow every one of those people. By following industry folks, not only will you be able to understand what they are talking about, but you may be able to partner with them on projects or create a weekly chat about your industry. Once you start to interact with your peers, they are more likely to follow back.
6. Be part of the conversation. Answering questions and joining conversations is a great way to build relationships on Twitter. Asking questions when you need a resource is also a good way to attract people. This may result in you learning about a terrific tool or website of which you were unaware, and you could find out you have more in common with the person who answered your question. Participating in conversations also shows that you are approachable.
7. Give to get. Twitter is a sharing medium. Always look to share when you communicate on Twitter. Personal comments are fine to help people get to know you, but if you constantly make irrelevant comments, people will unfollow you or consider you a spammer. Make sure you are adding something of value when you post. Be careful about selling on Twitter prior to building a relationship. Just like people do not like sales calls on their cell phones, they don’t like it in social media, either. Try to sell in the form of a question.
8. Give referrals. Word-of-mouth referrals online go a long way on Twitter. You can ask others to recommend your profile, but the best way to get referrals is to give a referral. Recommend people with whom you interact each week on #FollowFriday, and be sure to explain why they are good to follow. Use a call to action at the end of your blog posts to ask readers to recommend your blog or social networking profile. If you work to give support to others on Twitter, you will get support back in the form of followers and friends.
It takes time to build relationships online. Be consistent. Be helpful, and you will build a quality following. It does not make sense to use one of those programs that allows you to attract 10,000 followers in 60 days. None of those people will know you, and they will be far less likely to be influenced by you. Quality followers trust you, and value you as a resource. Take the time to let people get to know you. You will be amazed how quickly you get to 2,001 followers and beyond.
Melinda Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady, is CEO of Quintessence Multimedia. Emerson educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing. She also publishes a resource blog and is the best-selling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 Months. Follow her on Twitter.