Adapted and excerpted from Twitter in One Hour for Lawyers by Jared Correia, coming soon from LPM Publishing. Pre-order your copy today for a 15% pre-publication discount!
It’s pretty easy to follow people on Twitter: you just find people of interest and click Follow. (It’s also easy to unfollow people, by clicking the same button again, although it will read Unfollow the next time.) You have nearly complete control over whom you follow; even if the person you’re following does not ever follow you back you’re still his or her follower as long as you want to be.
There are only two instances in which the potential followee exerts control: If a user has protected his or her tweets, you need to get affirmative permission from the user before you can follow his or her stream. And if a user blocks you, you won’t be able to follow that user or send that user any messages. Otherwise, everybody is fair game.
Acquiring followers is a far more fluid and amorphous thing. Unless you ask for a follow and someone follows you back (which is sort of cheesy), you’ll never precisely know why someone has chosen to follow you. Sometimes you can make an educated guess: you mentioned them, you retweeted them, or you know someone well that they, too, know well. But when it’s a combination of potential reasons, it’s very hard to determine which one thing caused your new follower to pull the trigger.
As the followed, you do have that limited control over your followers wherein you may protect your tweets or block certain people. Generally, though, it’s not worthwhile to restrict your followers, especially if you view Twitter as a marketing engine for your law firm. In fact, you want to attract as many followers as you can, so that you can have a large and, we hope, growing number of users you can project your broadcasts to. So how do you entice folks to follow you?
Laws of Attraction: Getting Followers
There is no truly effective way to goose the system to get a bunch of viable Twitter followers all at once. The question of how to get followers centers around the persuasive techniques you can use to make people want to follow you without expressly asking them to do so. To expand on what we’ve discussed previously, there are techniques you can use that should build your following over time.
• Be consistently interesting within the niche topics on which you tweet. Part of being interesting is establishing and projecting your unique voice and representing yourself as a real personality, not just a glorified RSS reader, presenting followers with interesting articles across related subject matter.
• Apply your distinct flair to what and how you tweet. The tweets about content you’ve created and tweets with content you choose to promote should be as unique, timely and helpful as you are.
• Determine how often you’d like to tweet and stick with your frequency rates. If there is some compelling reason to change them, probably based on a return-on-investment analysis, do so.
• Create a system for determining when to release new, original content. Include a specific strategy for using posting language to manage consistency.
• Stick with it. Once you’ve established a frequency, don’t disappear. If you can’t stick with it, it’s probably better not to establish an account. Otherwise people may see you as flaky or not invested in projects. Of course, you can tweak your frequency from time to time, as needed. If you use Twitter for business, it’s all right to take the weekend off; a lot of people do. If you’re going on vacation and you use Twitter for business, definitely don’t spend time tweeting. Hit the infinity pool instead. If you’re offline on the weekends and on vacation, you can post something like an e-mail out-of-the-office message to Twitter, though recognize that that message would be broadcast to the entirety of the web. It will appear as your last post until you return. Instead, you can schedule tweets until you return so it will seem like you never left. Generally speaking, though, if you stay on message and within your niche and become a regular contributor to the streams of your existing followers, you’re likely to gain more followers naturally.
Follow Back: Vetting Your Followers
You don’t have a lot of control as the followee in the follower-followee dynamic; however, you can block people, choose not to follow them, or unfollow them. You can, alternatively, just follow everybody who follows you, but that can create problems with limits as discussed previously.
More likely than not, though, you want to follow only some of the people who follow you, and you’ll likely block very few, if any. If you put up enough posts and ramp up a consistent presence on Twitter, you’ll probably acquire new followers daily, so, if you’re popular enough and if you check your follower stream each day, you’ll have recurring decisions about whether to follow someone back or not.
If you decide not to follow everybody who follows you, there are some quick-fire methods for getting to the thumbs down faster (with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy):
• If your follower incorporates a profile picture featuring a nude or semi-nude person, you may not want to follow that “person” back (a similar rule applies to certain usernames containing prominent XXX or X notations).
• If the account that’s following you does not incorporate a profile picture, you may not want to follow that “person.”
• If a profile does not feature a bio, you may not want to follow back.
• Similarly, you can safely eschew those users peddling diet pills, penny stock tips, and spiritual awakenings.
• Also, look askance, or not at all, after gurus, thought leaders, and visionaries (usually hyperbole, coupled with a healthy dose of vanity).
• Avoid obvious spam accounts and don’t click on any links they feature. (The same goes for questionable links sent via spam accounts to your direct message inbox. A typical message reads something like, “Did you see what someone is saying about you online?” followed by a link.)
• Consider the niche the follower is in. A simple way to reduce the number of users you follow without overmuch thinking on your part is to make the decision that you will only follow those people who tweet about legal or legal-related matters. Of course, you need not be so spartan. You can also leave room to follow others who tweet on subjects about which you’d like to know more or engage over. This “niche-plus” versus “niche-only” following strategy admits the fact that most lawyers have broader interests than the law, certain of which they can and should indulge on Twitter.
Unless your account has attracted a gigantic number of followers, if you look each day to see who has followed you, you will have time to quickly review the accounts and make an informed decision respecting follow backs. Although you can’t restrict your followers’ following of you (unless you protect your tweets universally or block persons offensive to you), you need not become a card-carrying member of “Team Follow Back,” which sounds a lot like choosing teams between a vampire and a werewolf.
While it may be tempting to try to appear impressive by quickly acquiring followers in the five- or six-figure range, that volume does not really have much intrinsic value. Organic growth is what you’re aiming at. Ideally, you want to be surrounded, on Twitter as in real life, by those who share your interests and those who will be able to help you as you further your professional development and grow your business. Followers like this will come to you as you grow your account naturally; artificial modes of expanding your follower base will net people who have little to no interest in what you have to say and who have no vested interest in republishing (via retweet and other methods) your content or providing content that might be useful to you. There are three proscriptions here that will help to ensure you a more organic growth of followers:
1. Don’t pay for services that promise to acquire you mass amounts of followers.
2. Don’t follow people indiscriminately just to get followed back.
3. Don’t follow back everyone who follows you.
While it was possible to game the system better in the early days of
Twitter, the platform is far more mature now than it was at its outset, making it more difficult to aggregate to yourself tons of followers by using artificial constructs.
We’ve discussed the importance of being wary of spammer tactics. But you certainly should not use spam-style marketing approaches yourself. Two of the more common spammy marketing tactics on Twitter include:
• Automated @ Replies, generated when you tweet certain words or phrases, including for popular technologies, like the “iPad.”
• Automated direct messages, when you follow someone and they reply with an automatically generated private message thanking you for the follow and asking that you “like” their Facebook page or making some other, similar request.
Natural engagement on Twitter is the far better course and will allow you to develop, over time, a substantial follower base that is not constructed of fluff but that instead contains, to the extent you can control those who attach themselves to your profile, those users who are invested in your areas of interest and, more importantly, in you.