How I got to 30,000 Twitter followers

If you are serious about building your business, you should be on Twitter. The benefits for all professionals looking to build brand, enhance their profile, and create relationships are exceptional.

But if you are currently dabbling with Twitter, have few followers, and tweet inconsistently, then my advice to you is change your ways, or get off Twitter now.

Twitter is all or nothing. To build a following where you have influence, takes hard work and time.

How much time?

Well, for me to go from my first tweet to 30,000 targeted followers, it took 4 years, 9 month and 2 days. And I was on Twitter every single day.

So here are 25 learnings. How I got there. What I did well. And what I did wrong, that you should avoid. This is a blue print for building a profile that will position you as a thought-leader, open doors, make you money, and introduce you to fabulous people in your niche. All that, and more, has happened for me on my road to 30,000 Twitter followers.

1.    Get serious. If you have decided you will use Twitter for business, behave that way from the start. Create a professional looking profile, with a good picture of your face, a full Bio that has the right key words. We don’t care that you love cats, support Arsenal, or have a cute baby. Sorry, but we don’t. This is not Facebook. We want to know what we can learn from you, and what we can teach you. Include a URL leading to your company web page, or your LinkedIn profile, or your blog.

2.    Find your ‘voice'. I realise that potentially sounds a bit poncy, but it’s real. The best thing is to tweet in your own style, using your own language, but frame it for a business environment. So if you would not say “Our Prime Minister is a tosser” or “I hate my job” in a client meeting or at a business convention, then you do not say it on Twitter. It’s OK to be casual, conversational, and even comical. But it’s not ok to be racist, sexist, gratuitously crude, or confrontational. It’s not smart to be overtly political or strident about your particular cause or belief either, because you will alienate more people than you will win over. Remember, Twitter is 'yours', but you have decided to use it for business, so many ‘rules’ apply. Stay professional. Get the tone right.

3.    Having said that, having an opinion is good. People want to be informed and challenged. That is the way to provoke engagement. But be a ‘listener’ too. Thank and acknowledge. Share the good content put out by others. But do not self-endorse. Shine the light on others. Not yourself.

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4.    Tweet often. Yes very often. 5 times a day from the very start. And then build it up to 10 times a day, or more. Twitter is a stream, not an email inbox. Most people will miss most of what you say.  All the research shows that if you tweet more, you get more followers. I am assuming quality tweets as a given.

5.    Tweet for your audience, not for you. This goes hand in hand with how often you tweet. You love rugby? Great. So do I. But if you tweet all day about rugby, you will lose your following, most of whom could not give a continental about the game they play in heaven. I need to emphasise this. You are tweeting to entertain, inform, help, and share. For the community you want to engage with. It’s for them you tweet. Not for you.

6.    On the subject of tweets, if you are a recruiter, do not tweet your vacant jobs. Twitter is not a job-board. People come to share and engage. Don’t bombard them with streams of your vacancies. Sure, maybe your top job, once a week, is OK. But mainly you tweet ideas or smart content of yours, or pithy insights, or links to other material that your audience can learn from, or be entertained by.

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7.    Be generous. Yes this is a key to social media, especially Twitter, that so few seem to understand. Share your insights. Give away research and tips and tactics. Answer  questions (and you will get some doozies!). Share other Tweeps content via Retweets.

8.    Thank people on Twitter. If they share your content. Or make a positive remark about your tweet. I did this religiously for the first few years. Thanked people for every RT received. Now I can’t thank every RT, there are just too many, but I still try to acknowledge every kind word or positive endorsement. When you meet people in real life you will be amazed how they always remember the fact you responded on Twitter, and how it increased their loyalty to you. Happened to me in London half a dozen times on my recent REC Speaking Tour.

9.     Do not subscribe to Twitter services that announce your location, tell everyone how many people followed you, or unfollowed you, or any other spammy nonsense like that. It pollutes the Twitterstream and you will lose followers.

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10.    Do not set up Auto DMs to welcome new followers or, worse, to try and point new followers to your blog or Facebook page. Instant unfollow!

11.    Use Twitter to drive your content. I used Twitter in association with my blog, as well as other social platforms. So Twitter allows me to get my content to more people. Obviously your content has to be relevant and high quality, but your social channels work best when integrated and working in tandem.

12.    Schedule tweets. Yes, even today people say to me, “I was in an all-day training session with you. How did you keep on tweeting?” There are many tools that allow you to schedule your tweets to go out in the future. Tweetdeck, SocialOomph, Buffer to name a few. I am not suggesting you automate your Twitter content totally. Not at all. But it’s fine to schedule tweets out into the future to make sure you are staying relevant and ‘in the stream’.

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13.    Some people use Twitter to ‘broadcast’ only, just pumping out links and content. Others spend all their time ‘engaging’ using Twitter almost like a chat room. Me? I believe in “brengagement”. Broadcast a lot of great stuff and engage with people who like your stuff. That’s the secret! “Brengagement’.

14.    Use a Twitter management tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to manage your followers, your 'mentions', and your tweet scheduling.

15.    Remember that no matter how great your content, how witty your tweets, they are all wasted unless you have followers! In fact, tweeting to a handful of followers is like putting on a musical in an empty theatre. Might be great, but who knows? So how do you build your following? There are three ways i) tweet good stuff consistently ii) Retweet and engage with influential people in your sector, and the most crucial of all iii) follow people you want to follow you back.

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16.    And when I say ‘follow people,’ I mean follow lots of people. Hundreds a day. That’s right, hundreds. Remember I said getting to 30,000 Twitter followers takes work?  So, go to a very influential person in your sector who is on Twitter. Click on her followers. Scan down the list and follow the ones who look like they would be interesting to you. If you are a recruiter, then potential clients or candidates in your space. Don’t agonise over it. Go for it! This is not like friending someone on Facebook or Linking In, which are a totally different dynamic altogether. The person you follow does not ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ you. You just ‘follow’ and they are grateful for the attention. You can also look at Twitter lists key people have been included in (all available on their Twitter profile page). This can be a great source of potential targeted followers. About 30% of the people you follow will follow you back. As you get more credibility in your space, that percentage will rise.

17.    Twitter has follower limits. I am not even sure they publish what they are, but I do know you can’t follow more than 2,000 people unless you have more than 2,000 followers. Do you stop then? No! Once you get close to 2,000 people you are following, and they have not followed you back after several weeks, you unfollow them. Feel no guilt, this is not Facebook. Once you have ‘freed up’ your following limit you can start following more people, and so it goes. Let me be brutally honest. How did I get to 30,000 followers? Sure lots of them followed me because my content is just SO interesting, and my repartee so pithy :). But many more initially followed me because they got a follow from me! Then I like to think I kept them through good content and engagement. So for 2 years I reckon I followed several hundred people a week. People in my niche who I wanted to follow my Twitter stream. That’s right. Hard work! But as a result I now have a massive pool of people in my community who are likely to share my content, and be interested in my business proposals.

18.    Clean up your following by using Twitter tools such as ManageFlitter. These tools tell you who do not follow you back, and who you follow who have not tweeted for months. These are prime people to unfollow.

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19.    Resist the temptation to fight on Twitter. This is easier said than done because the Twitterverse is packed with idiots who like to provoke or who are just plain ignorant (like life generally, really).  My approach for the most part is to try to answer with a reasoned reply. If the next tweet is obnoxious I either ignore or just block the person. Life is FAR too short to spend your time tweeting with dickheads, and you never look good in a twitterspat.

20.    Most of your tweets will be about your area of business interest or topics of general interest. The odd personal tweet is OK, but limit these. I really DO NOT care if you had a good weekend or had a bacon sandwich for breakfast, and you don’t care that my wife is ill, or that my son took 5 wickets for 9 runs on the weekend. Right?

21.    Promote your Twitter account everywhere. On your email signature. On your website. On your blog. On your Facebook page. On your business card. On your PowerPoint slides.

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22.     Work out what times your audience is on Twitter, and tweet in those time windows. Remember to tweet for time zones if you have a wide target geography.

23.    Use #Hashtags. They put content into topics that others with similar interests can find, which will enhance traffic, engagement, sharing, and followers.

24.    Never forget that there are real people behind those Twitter handles. Be careful not to be sarcastic, rude, dismissive, or short. Take newbies under your wing. Forgive minor slights. I have met scores of people in real life after first connecting on Twitter. Many have become clients. Many are now friends. Tread with care.

25.     Twitter is a long game. A very long game. The return on your time and generosity may seem like a lifetime in the coming. Avoid thinking in the short term. It’s a journey. It’s a way of life. Build it into your week. 30 minutes a day. That is all you need. That and great content. And time.

Read how my business Firebrand, used Social Media to build a massively successful content marketing strategy. (I sold this business in late 2012).

As for me, Twitter in conjunction with my blog, have given me a global brand as an advisor and speaker in the recruitment industry. That is no exaggeration. I get clients from all over the world who learn of me via social media and contact me via social media. Speaking events I do in Asia, South Africa, Europe, Australia, and NZ are now routinely filled via marketing to my engaged and targeted audience on Twitter. My blog is read by over half a million people a year, many of them driven there via Twitter. The business benefits of that that fact would need another blog.

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None of that is because I am especially clever. In fact, I am not very clever at all. It’s because I have worked hard to build a social profile in a niche. Every recruiter can do that too. And should.

Views: 590

Comment by Matt Charney on May 13, 2014 at 7:53am

Greg: Great post, and your content here is spot on with some great advice. That said, I think the headline is indicative of the problem here - the misperception that Twitter is a volume game. I think we've all seen that person with several hundred thousand followers who's complete crap, and people who bring the awesome with nothing but sweet tweets languish with a few hundred at best.  Twitter, like all marketing vehicles, isn't about the volume of followers, it's about the quality of those followers (or leads, as I look at them).  I find the most important metric is actually the # of people I follow, because I can control that, and only follow those accounts which follow me that explicitly mention recruiting, HR or B2B marketing in their bios - which is a far better indication of how I'm doing than how many bots happen to be following any sort of account.

I do think that following these tips, however, are a great way to make sure those qualified followers can be generated, while standing out from the noise that makes Twitter so bloody annoying - but also kind of awesome.



Comment by Greg Savage on May 13, 2014 at 8:02am

You are absolutely right Matt, volume does not guarantee any degree of twitter success or authenticity. However, as I suggest in the blog, numbers ARE important too, if your goal is to build a community you can actually market to. Overall though, quality is the metric that counts as it does in business, and life. Quality tweets, quality followers and only follow quality people. Quality.. and better than quality... and little. For the way I use twitter anyway.

Comment by Tim Spagnola on May 13, 2014 at 8:14am

Awesome post Greg and simple step by step guide that all should review (if even as a reminder). I think #25 is the one that most lose sight of. It will not happen overnight, but have seen time and time again folks get discouraged, by the slow growth of their followers. Keep this 'long game' perspective in mind and keep chipping away daily to see maximum results. Cheers. 

Comment by Anna Brekka on May 13, 2014 at 8:58am

Great post and a testament to a job well done. 

Comment by Will Thomson on May 13, 2014 at 10:35am

I love this post.  I really got serious about Twitter last year.  I felt myself getting consumed with getting new followers.  It is a long game.  A year and a half into it- I use it daily, but rarely seek out additional followers.  Most follow me and I follow back most if they are relevant.  I would say there are about 75 that I interact with regularly, the others- well... Not as much.  It is a great tool and I actually prefer it over most social media formats.  One thing though, you can get sucked into twittersphere if not careful.  The most powerful thing I have learned from TalentNet is to "follow interesting people, not focus on being followed"..  Thanks for sharing.  30,000 is a huge accomplishments.  You are one of the people that are interesting to follow.  I love your story.

Comment by Tom Bolt on May 13, 2014 at 12:00pm

Some great advice here! There is still the message from the "elephant in the room" that if you are on a mad dash to increase twitter followers simply to have more twitter followers, then you are missing the point. That is the wrong reason to be there. Twitter is a tool to help reach a bigger overarching goal and rising tides raise all ships.

Comment by Keith Halperin on May 13, 2014 at 12:38pm

Thanks, Greg. How many of your followers have given you work or money, or strong leads to these? If you have some, do you have a suggestion on how to get followers/follow people who would be able to get us these things? "Love don't pay the rent."



Comment by Greg Savage on May 13, 2014 at 6:48pm

Thanks all for the positive comments


1) In 2012 Firebrand Talent Search, the company I owned, made about 750 permanent placements across 8 offices in 6 countries. 60 % of these placements involved candidates we sourced from social media. Not all Twitter I hasten to add, but Twitter and the blog were the key drivers of talent (@firebrandtalent has 35,000 Twitter followers). At andaverage placement fee of $15,000, that would suggest over $6 million ROI. That pays a fair amount of rent.

2) Since I sold that business in December 2012, I have been acting as an advisor and speaker to the recruitment industry (When I am not on holiday which was for 4 months of last year). To address your question "who gave me work or money", if you include attendees at my speaking events in Australia, UK, NZ, South Africa and Asia, the answer would be over 1,000 of my twitter followers, at least (at about $400 each). I head to South Africa next week, where currently we have 300 paid attendees to my two speaking days (I hope we get 400 before I get there!). I have no mailing list. Those attendees signed up becaue they heard of that event via my social media platform, mostly Twitter, but also the blog and LI, and te social media activities of my co-organiser Shane McCusker.

3)I am on the Board of 11 recruitment companies and I consult to about 30 a year. Most of those clients heard of me via social media. Again, not all Twitter, but Twitter is the key driver of my content and engagement with potential customer. That amounts to a significant amount of money as you can imagine. Perhaps more importantly it means I do zero prospecting or business development, or any other kind of searching for business. ALL my customers come to me. Whats that worth I wonder?

So I guess you can be confident Keith, that its not "love paying the rent", or anything else, around here :)

Comment by Keith Halperin on May 13, 2014 at 7:42pm

Thanks, Greg. Well-done! That's exactly the kind of info *I was hoping to hear.



*Now, if I only had something that 30,000 people wanted to hear about from me.

Comment by Ryan Leary on May 15, 2014 at 7:22am

Greg - I love reading your posts. You make strong points here. I'd be interested to see a series on how to convert the 30K Twitter followers into revenue. A guide of sorts.


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