How to Grow a Following (the right way)

I reached a milestone today. After several years on Twitter, I finally hit 5,000 followers! The impressive thing is I gained 85% of those followers in the last 5 months. Crazy, right? Now, I know it’s not as impressive as what a celebrity or star athlete can do. In fact, a select few Tweeters can amass 5,000 new followers within a day or less. Here’s the thing though: I am not a celebrity nor am I a star athlete. I’m just a lowly writer looking to leave my mark.

Below are some tips on how you can grow your Twitter followership exponentially in the next few months. If Twitter is not your thing, you can apply the same principles to other social media outlets.

Tip #1: Hit That Follow Button!

You have to be proactive in seeking out people and/or organizations to follow. This is important because one, active profiles have a higher chance of showing up in other people’s “who to follow” suggestions and two, social media users tend to follow back as a sign of appreciation.

This does not mean follow every single profile you come across. There’s a strategy to growing your base. First and foremost, you need to find profiles with whom you have something in common. For example, I am a writer, reader, blogger, author, traveler, geek, veteran, and animal lover. If you look at my Twitter profile, @MatJAuthor, then you’ll notice I include this info in my profile description. When I follow someone, they can easily click on my profile and see what I’m about. If I have one or more of these things in common with that individual, then the chances of them following me back increase significantly.

Use the search feature to look for keywords in people’s profile descriptions or posts. This will lead you to profiles you have something in common with. My most successful recent searches include #amwriting, #amreading, blogger, author, travel, etc. Depending on what kind of business and/or talent you are looking to showcase, you’ll need to adjust your search criteria accordingly.

Tip #2: Follow Back!

Do you ever see those mega profiles that have 10 million followers but they only follow 56 people? Yeah, we are not there yet, my friend. I won’t be there for quite some time. Until then, I’m going to do my best to follow back every single legitimate profile that follows me.

Think about it: why would you want to follow some obscure individual and/or business if they’re not going to return the favor? It’s literally the least you can do to show your appreciation for your followers’ support. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule and I’ll get into those later.

The common rebuttal I hear is “I don’t want to read every ridiculous post from this organic turnip farmer/small-time YouTube personality.” That’s fine because I don’t either. That’s why almost every social media platform has some kind of “mute” feature. In many cases, this feature is customizable. For example, Twitter allows you to mute all of a profile’s tweets or just their retweets. Facebook now has a feature where you can remain friends with someone while muting their public posts. A small amount of exploring on your part will cure most of these headaches quickly.

Tip #3: Don’t Follow the Unappreciative!

This one is self-explanatory: don’t keep following those who don’t (or can’t) follow you back. Now, there are some exceptions to this rule. I don’t expect the likes of Stephen King or any world leader to follow me back. If they followed back all their followers, their profiles would end up toxic wastelands with a pissed-off Tom Hardy driving around looking for water and fuel. Most celebrities use social media to broadcast relevant news to their fanbase. They can’t be bogged down sifting through thousands of direct messages asking them what their favorite breed of cat is. Look, I know it’s bullshit, but that’s just the way it is.

Here’s what I do: every two weeks, I go through my “Following” list. Excluding the profiles I just recently followed, I check and see who followed me back. If it’s been over a week and I have not got a follow back from a certain profile, then I stop following them. It seems petty, but I’d much rather follow people who are as interested in supporting my social media presence as I am theirs.

Keep this in mind: some platforms (like Twitter) use a proportional Following to Follower ratio that prevents you from following more people until you yourself get more followers. This prevents fake profiles (aka bots) from following a ton of profiles, thereby getting them thousands of followers via the law of averages.

Tip #4: Don’t Buy Followers

Social media is big business these days. Over the years, tens of millions of fake profiles popped up on every major site/app you can think of. I call it follower farming. Basically, these fake profiles blindly follow any profile they come across in hopes of getting a follow back. Once the owner of these bots amasses enough followers, they bundle the profiles and sell them as followers to people looking to build their following.

I live my social media life by a Golden Rule: if it seems too good to be true, it is. Sure, you can grow a monstrous presence by buying followers. You also run the risk of getting your profile suspended/terminated or the bots themselves being suspended/terminated. Plus, it can expose you to getting hacked and/or spammed to digital death. Not to mention, bots can’t buy your product. They’re seat fillers. Nothing more.

I wrote this blog to show you there is a right, completely free way to growing your presence. Don’t take the easy way out and support these charlatans.

Tip #5: Give Your Followers Quality Content!

The great Chuck Palahniuk was once asked if he writes every day. He responded with something along the lines of “do you sit on the toilet if you don’t need to take a shit?”

Chuck’s point is this: don’t force yourself to write if you don’t need to write. That’s especially true for social media. If people started following you because they like your self-help blog but all you do now is spew toxic political views, then most of them will eventually stop following you. On the other hand, if you grew your following by spewing political sewage but all you do now is talk about the size of your cat’s hairballs, then you will lose followers.

Post when you have a good reason to post. For example, post that amazing picture you took, post that funny comic you found, retweet that relevant article… just don’t forget why you have followers in the first place. You know as well as I that they deal with the same garbage we do. Give them something special. They deserve it.

Well, I hope this helped. This is by no means a perfect list. I would love any and all suggestions you may have. Please feel free to leave a comment and maybe one day I can post a more complete (and concise) list of tips. Thank you for your time!