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17 tips for increasing your number of Twitter followers

Is there a secret formula to gaining Twitter followers? No, I don't think so, but there are some tactics you can apply throughout the Twitter experience. They'll help you to become more highly engaged and attractive to other Twitter users seeking new people to follow. Think of it this way: Your Twitter habits are like the music the Pied Piper played on his tiny flute. Play it well and you'll have a legion of people trailing behind you.

First, you must think about why people follow other people. What do they hope to gain? What do they do with the information you provide? You should also think about why you're on Twitter and what your personal goals are. Are you a passive or active user? Do you use Twitter for business or personal reasons? What kind of persona do you want to build on Twitter and in general? If you're into personal brand building, then the more exacting you are in your Twitter usage process, the more successful you'll become.

I use the following tips consistently. I didn't start out tweeting this way and, to be honest, I had no clear strategy when I joined the service many years ago now. However, over time, I realised that some things did work, while others didn't; and there were times when my list of followers grew, and others when it sat stagnant for days and even weeks. Your goal should be for some growth each and every day.

So to that end, we’ve got this large treasure chest of 17 tweeting tips on offer. Read, digest, and put them to good use expanding your Twitter audience.

1. Tweet a lot

I used to worry that I tweeted too much. My posts appear on Twitter and also go directly to my Facebook account, where some friends have complained that I flood their newsfeed pages. I apologised and recommended that they ditch me – because I won't stop tweeting. Lately, however, some of those same friends have told me that they're actually learning things from my Twitter posts. I'm pretty convinced that if you tweet only a few times per week, you will not gain followers and will not be noticed. Lots and lots of high quality tweets are the way to go. A word of caution: Do not TweetBomb people. I hate when I get ten or so tweets from one source all at once. That's just ridiculous and a sure way to get unfollowed.

2. Curate

When you start thinking of your Twitter post stream as a news feed (news about you, news about things you're interested in, and so forth), you start understanding why it's so important to curate. People don't want random or generic links. They want the best from you, and the best of what's out there. A picture of your half-eaten croissant is not interesting. A tweet with a photo of your dog trying to swallow the croissant whole is a different story. For topical tweets and posts about topics that interest you, you need to do some legwork. Find a collection of sites (a fairly big one) that all regularly post interesting, important, and unusual information. If they were good Twitter content sources once, they'll likely be so again.

3. Follow back

Some would argue that it's counterproductive to follow hundreds, let alone thousands, of people on Twitter. I beg to differ. I found following thousands of people a valuable tool for finding good content and, of course, increasing my number of followers. The reality is that while I follow well over 2,000 people, only a fraction of them regularly tweet. I cannot tell you how many times I have discovered something new, or found a great tweet, or learned of breaking news thanks to those I follow.

Following others when they follow you also helps connect you in a more real way with other Twitter users. Most appreciate the follow back, and the act can help build your reputation. Some people that you follow might even start to include you on their "FollowFriday" posts. These are, essentially, lists of Twitter members they recommend other people to follow (on a Friday, surprisingly enough). Also, some people do not respond to you directly on Twitter, but they do mention you and your tweets in their own feeds. Keep a close eye on your mention list and follow those people, too.

4. Get on lists

Doing these first three things is a way to grow your follower list and raise your Twitter profile. If you do a good enough job, people may start putting you on Twitter lists – Twitter's service lets you build and share lists, and there are other list-building services – and even in blog posts where they list valuable people to follow in certain topics. The more lists you can get on, the merrier.

5. Tweet about Twitter

People love to tweet about Twitter. All this navel-gazing serves a purpose, though. People care deeply about the social network, where every change can have a significant impact on their experience. Tweeting out this news lets your followers know that you're paying attention, and others who want to know more about Twitter may soon start to follow.

6. Attention to detail and tweet quality are important

What you tweet about and how you write that tweet are both equally important factors. People often get picked on for using improper grammar or misspelling words in their tweets. When you do this in the service of making a concise, 140-character tweet, I think it's fine, but you don't want to get tripped up because your tweet was unintelligible. Also, make sure your links are accurate and safe – I always double check mine. Bad links mean those following you will stop following, you can be sure of that. Good, quality tweets get retweeted with greater frequency, which means people who aren't following you may notice your quality content and decide to watch for more.

7. Create original content

A tremendous amount of what's posted on Twitter is links to other people's content. I do a ton of this, and it's a great way to build a solid Twitter feed and also, of course, to expand your base of followers. Still, as your list grows, your followers may want to know more about what you think and do. Creating original content and tweeting that is a great way to engage. If the content is high quality, people will want to be among the first to tweet it to their followers, and those followers could become yours, too. Don't forget to promote your Twitter account on your own content.

8. Business cards

If you haven't already, add your Twitter handle to your business cards and the signature on your email messages.

9. Respond and engage

As much as Twitter can be used as a news feed, it's also a communication platform. Do not ignore your followers. Some will ask you questions. Others will simply comment on your post. As often as possible, try and respond directly to them. Now, I have my own way of doing this. Unless I think my response can propel the topic discussion along in Twitter and actually provide additional, useful information to my followers, I do not respond in the public stream. Instead, I make sure I'm following the commenter and then send a Direct Message. Usually, people are happy I followed and appreciate the engagement. Again, acts like this help you build a solid Twitter reputation and usually lead to attracting more followers.

10. Retweet

See a good post from someone you're following? Retweet it. This is obvious a pretty obvious move, of course. If you use Twitter's Retweet function, the original poster automatically gets credit. However, maybe you want to comment on the post. That means editing, which is fine. Just remember to give credit. Those who retweet and offer proper attribution build solid Twitter reps and are more likely to get recommended to others.

11. Get noticed

If you really want to build followers fast, try riding a topical wave. You can create a blog post on the hot topic and tweet about it. But wait – bear in mind that just tweeting the topic is not enough. Look at the keywords trending on Twitter, and be sure to use them in your tweet. If you take this approach, you could end up part of the trendline and, even, in Google search results. One way or another, you might get noticed – and you might get new followers.

12. Beware of self-promotion

Here's something that annoys the heck out of followers and potential followers alike: "Me, me, me, me, me, me." Just don’t go there.

13. Understand why people are following you

That little description you put as part of your profile isn't just for show. It's often the reason people started following you in the first place. You said, for instance, that you "Loved to knit and try exquisite foods." So, your followers expect a few tweets about knitting or crafts, and some about great food or restaurants. You can tweet about other things, but don't forget about what got you there. Lots of, say, political rants from an account where it isn't expected can easily lose followers. If you stay on topic and provide rich content, you'll hold onto followers and build a reputation as a topic leader, which leads to more followers. As with many of these tips, it’s a cyclical process.

14. Take them with you

Going someplace interesting? Bring your Twitter followers along. Take Twitpics. Post great restaurant and sight-seeing finds. If you're part of an insider-only industry, give your followers an all-access pass. Those sort of really interesting posts with unique insights are sure to get retweeted and garner you loads of new followers.

15. Be funny

Twitter is full of great information, but it's also pure, blissful entertainment. So, give people what they want. Mix in a humorous post every once in a while. Don't try to be funny if it doesn't come naturally, but surely you can find some light-hearted topics or links to pass along. If people understand that you provide a nice mix of tweets – information, serious, profound, technical, and even funny – you may gain even more followers.

16. Ask questions

This is part of engagement – you can post questions. In fact, it's fun to use a free service like Twtpoll to run free online polls. And of course, don't forget to post the results. If you turn it into an online blog post, it could lead to more people checking out your Twitter feed.

17. Be real and honest

This seems obvious, but you'll find an alarming lack of transparency on some Twitter feeds. People appreciate honesty and can relate to real situations, emotions, and ideas. Just be careful of wearing your opinion on your sleeve, because the Twitter audience can also be pretty reactionary. If you're honest, though, and intend to start a real discussion, even on the most controversial topic, you may gain even more followers than you expected.

Bonus Tip: Whatever you do, never ask (or rather beg) for followers. It's the surest way to lose them.

Follow the above guidelines and you’ll see the fruits of your tweeting labours before long. While you’re here, if you want to further hone your Twitter skills, see our article which discusses how to write better tweets. And if you run a company, look no further than our guide to using Twitter effectively to promote your business which also contains a comprehensive link list to all our other Twitter guides.