Often people talk about volumes of followers and the importance to your business. In a mission to learn, I discovered the relevance of this, along with several golden rules for one branch of social media. I joined Twitter 10 years ago and never got into it for a number of reasons. This year, I found my old credentials, signed in, and on one a count, I found I had a hundred followers. On an unused account! That was more than my business had!
It started me thinking, and playing with a social experiment and surprisingly complex learning curve.
I set up/reactivated a handful of accounts.
I gave them each a purpose, changed their profiles, usernames, etc. and I decided on a different way to manage each.
  1. One was set up as a user to comment on news & business commentary
  2. One was set up all about pets with regular posts, always replying to people who engaged
  3. Another was only about gaining followers, often blatantly
  4. Another was simply a regular company feed, used as a control
  5. And finally one was just an account for reposting and sharing other people's stuff but nothing new. Not one word!
There were thousands of ways I could have proceeded. My intention for each was to get followers, and not focus on likes, and I learned a lot of rules for what works, and what doesn’t, some obvious, some not so. So my learning curve began over the next few months.
As an experiment it had to be good enough to be of value, but not time consuming. It had to have some rigour, bu didn’t need to be 100% scientific like a PhD study. It had to be easy to modify and evolve, in order that I could rapidly adapt to any key learnings, and test them out.
So I rotated between the accounts, daily. I also refined the bio profiles when felt beneficial, with what I learned or felt worth a try to improve them and the associated engagement.
In other words strategies changed, to seek the humble follower.
It is worth saying that there are different breeds of followers. Some only follow what they clearly share a common interest in. Some only follow others that will follow them. Some only follow famous people. The bottom line is that Twitter users are not the same. Despite being a fairly anonymous platform, everyone uses it in different ways to one another, and to any other social media platform. Learning from others would also be a key part of my experiment.
I used it to keep up to date on news and public opinion. Twitter is a very vocal place!
But comments on Twitter are also a good indicator of audience. Some use throw away comments. Some use likes. Some write to the maximum character limit. Some use emojis. And an increasing number use animated GIFs, the short movies that are an expression of amusement, frustration, or other reaction.
Scheduling became important too, but again, it had to be easy. Tweetdeck is a free Twitter scheduling tool (now owned by twitter). Sadly it has its limitations, but was put to good use to avoid my focus being constantly misdirected.
With my experiment set up, I began.
I soon learned from the success of others by way of watching their methods of engagement. I soon realised that my follower hunting profile (No.3,) had to change gender, with female gender users getting far more engagement than male. Although the name, bio, and all comments were changed to be gender neutral, removing all previous comments that might have indicated otherwise, I put a royalty free stock photo of a woman as my profile, hoping for more engagement based on looks alone. That night I got 7 followers in my sleep!
For No.1, engaging with comments on topics which I had  good knowledge, brought a lot of likes, but few follows. Clearly, being seen as worth watching  is more than a few comments away, and is a slow burner. The reward for this, were more dedicated followers, unlike the rollercoaster numbers that my follower hunter (No.3) saw during the experience.
For No.2, this was the most time consuming, but yielded the most interesting results for engagement. Posting and reposting some pictures, gifs, and free material has done well for many twitter users, and by doing a search for cute puppies and kittens to comment on got followers. Not as many as the blatant approach.
The funny gif retweet account, however did well with a middle ground, but one might also question the value of the follower.
Many more interesting results, behaviours, rules, and engagements showed me just how Twitter, as a platform, is a great way to stay up to date with everyone open to everything. Facebook offers more micro-community engagement (with the associated community rules), and Instagram offers more visual stimuli (with the low attention span audience being competed for by a ‘click-bait’ type mindset), Twitter is more ‘raw’, and has less restrictions in how people interact. This also means it is more like the Wild West, and open to trolls, but it also offers more freedom to test the water.
From my experiment, I learned that gaining a following, and gaining a loyal following were 2 different things.
In short, the most success of quality followers are from search, comment and follow behaviour as a combination, as although the numbers of the followers for No.3 (hunter) were good, the truth is, the audience is 100% fake with almost no value, other than as a number. Although worth doing, with many more experiments to follow to use this connected account for its numbers, the best results were from hobby type followers.
As for the company account, this didn't really change, but applying the following rules may help to decide how best to start to gain traction.
What I have learned from this experiment has taught me several rules:
  1. Have more than one account ONLY if your audience you want to engage with is different.
  2. Search keywords and comment where your input adds value. Make every engagement as high value as possible.
  3. Follow people in the space you are interested in. The more popular they are, the greater the probability that an engagement will lead to a follow from one of their followers. 
  4. Like other people's comments if you agree with them. They are more likely to become a follower by numbers alone. It costs nothing (other than time) and shows good will.
  5. Offer genuine compliments and real world experience without the pitch. People are more likely to investigate what you do by themselves if they like what you have to say.
  6. Make it as easy as you can for people to find out what you do in your bio. Revise it as much as you need until it is as sharp as you can.
  7. Have some stock responses to copy and paste as comments (with emojis). The wider the range to choose from, the better.
  8. Match the style of the response you give, with the style of the thread (including emojis and GIFs). Be seen to think alike.
  9. Insert 'enhancing/engaging' photos and appropriate GIFs where you can. People are more likely to retweet these.
  10. Don't mix the social media metaphors. Don't link between them, other than on your website (although many with Instagram add their account to their bio, and each post). Each type of social media has different uses, audiences and behaviour. The same person on Facebook may behave and interact completely differently on Twitter.
  11. Don't beg for followers unless you only care about numbers and don't care about quality. Organic growth is better than rapid growth of zero value global followers.
  12. Always think engagement. Without engagement, anything you do has no value other than to ego. Make sure you put what you would value reading or seeing.
  13. Don’t expect rapid growth, unless you are putting huge amounts of time or money into building your profile.
As for social media advertising, viral marketing, or direct messages, I shall save this for another post. In the meanwhile, follow these rules to build followers, and remember it will reward you by the time and effort you put in.


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