1. Don’t follow everyone. It’s okay if the number of people you’re following is LOWER than the number of tweets you’ve put out. While there are no hard and fast rules about how many people you follow, you probably don’t want to follow more than about twice as many people as are following you. When you find Twitter users whose updates you really enjoy, mention them in your #FollowFriday lists. Remember, real people provide interesting opinion and perspective. Follow-bots provide followers who have no opinion or perspective, and nothing you can retweet.
2. Spread your tweets out through the day. If you have regular marketing messages, use something like Hootsuite to schedule them. Sending all your tweets in a five minute spell just gets you lost in the tweet streams of your followers. Or worse, your followers think you’re spamming them. That’s okay for marketing messages, but you need to remember that Twitter is a community, and it’s imperative that you actually interact in a person-to-person way, too. Auto-tweeting doesn’t include you in the conversation, or build relationships. And if you don’t do those things, you’re not going to get the best out of your Twitter experience.
3. Hashtag EVERY message. Using hashtags will get your tweets out in front of more than just your followers, and will generate more followers if your content is compelling. If you tweet good quality content out about a specific subject, and you do it with consistency and regularity, you’ll fast become an expert around that subject’s hashtag. And experts find themselves getting retweeted often.
4. Don’t follow users who don’t tweet regularly. Don’t follow people who only tweet self-serving marketing. The well-known rule of thumb is that for every self-serving tweet you put out, you should be putting out four informative tweets. Start by following a couple of magazines in your sector, and a couple of well known or interesting users. To begin with, only follow users who participate and who tweet regularly. Avoid users who have very few tweets, or are following a disproportionately high number of users compared to how many followers they have. If you follow Guy Kawasaki don’t expect that he’ll tweet your content. He won’t (most likely.) Follow interesting people, retweet them. Thank them if/when they retweet your stuff.
5. Retweet. This gets you on the rader of users you follow. Eventually, if you’re putting out original tweets, and not just retweeting the thoughts of other users, they’re likely to follow your tweets and retweet them. Making sure specific users get to see your tweets by giving them an @mention is a good way to let them know you exist. Just make sure what you’re giving them is something that they might be interested in, and not just spam.
6. Link shorteners. There are dozens of them. Use one. Your 140 characters are precious, don’t waste them. Link shorteners also make it easy to track your clicks. For most of them, paste the link into the address bar and add + to the end to get click statistics. For example, http://goo.gl/xJRNL is the link, http://goo.gl/xJRNL+ is the statistics for the link. Really, it couldn’t be easier.
7. Lists. Get listed in the right lists. It’s just as important as getting specific followers. Use hashtags to become an expert in a subject — users following that hashtag will add you to their list of experts, and are more likely to retweet and share your updates. There really isn’t an easy way to get listed, other than by posting links to great content and being retweeted. It’s about reputation.
FollowFriday is a great way to share the handles of users whose input you’ve found really valuable. Create a list for people you include in your own #FF lists, and you’ll find yourself growing your list of followers in the best way possible: with people who contribute to the thousands of conversations going on in Twitter at any given moment.
People tend to follow and list people like themselves. If you have a few users whose tweets you look forward to reading, look at the users they’ve listed, and start to follow the twitterati in those lists. They’re likely to be interesting to you, provide you with great talking points when they tweet, and some will follow you back. Make no mistake, growing your audience this way is time-consuming, but you’ll see that it’s worth the effort.
8. Analytics. Know which of your tweets get the most clicks. See what content resonates with your followers. There are tools that claim to measure influence, like Klout, EmpireAvenue, and PeerIndex. They’re free, and provide metrics about how your network is interacting with you and the world, and vice versa. My favorite tool for tracking my Twitter, though, is TwitterCounter, which gives charts for followers, how many people you follow, and how many tweets you’ve posted.
9. It’s okay to grow slowly. Don’t stress out about getting hundreds or thousands of followers immediately. Certainly don’t follow hundreds of people right away. Remember that it’s an information exchange community — if you’re consuming more than you’re putting in, you’ll find it hard to get followers.
10. Know what to tweet. In a sample of 10 tweets, you probably want a breakdown that looks something like:
1 x Public reply @usertweet
2 x Marketing tweets
3 x Retweets
4 x Original thoughts/links to interesting content
And really, that’s about all you need to know about Twitter to get started using it effectively. I know, it’s a lot to take in, but if you don’t have your expectations set too high you’ll find that it’s a useful tool for getting traffic to your site.