Using Twitter Effectively: Part 2 of 10 – Building a Meaningful Following

Nat RussoHow-To, Twitter, Writing 9 Comments

Twitter is one of the many marketing tools writer’s need to get comfortable with if they wish to build that coveted Writer’s Platform, and in yesterday’s post I covered the basics of getting started.

Now that you’ve filled out your bio and uploaded a good profile picture, where do you go next? Twitter isn’t going to help you much if you don’t have followers, so today I’m going to shed some light on how to build a meaningful Twitter following. Remember, Twitter isn’t just about the numbers, even though it may sometime seem that way. Let’s get started!

A Disclaimer

This series was originally written over a 10-day period in 2013. I’ve included relevant updates throughout the series as Twitter changed policies and procedures. Please be aware that I may not have caught all of the changes. If you find such a change that isn’t captured in this series, please leave a comment with the new Twitter policy, and I’ll update the series accordingly. Cheers!

Build a Meaningful Following (Part 1 of 2)

The operative word is meaningful. It’s relatively easy to build a massive following on Twitter over time, but it does you no good to have tens of thousands of followers if they couldn’t care less about anything you have to say.
So, how do you go about building your following?

Engage People

Sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked. People are much more likely to follow you if you are an engaging person. Don’t be afraid to get people’s attention. It’s very simple to do: Simply include their “@” name anywhere in your tweet. They’ll be notified that you “mentioned” them, and they have the option of responding to or ignoring your message.

Be a Contributor, Not Just a Consumer

You may think you have little-to-nothing to contribute. You’re wrong! Regardless of your level of knowledge, you most certainly have opinions about the subjects you’re passionate about. Share those opinions!

Along those lines…

Dare to Be An Expert In Your Field

How many times have you heard the saying “Perception is Reality”? It’s true in all walks of life, and that doesn’t change on Twitter. Learn from the experts in your field…and then repeat what they have to say once you’ve taken it to heart and understand what they’re saying. And by understand, I mean enough to explain it to someone in detail when they ask you to clarify what you’re saying.
I’ll give you an example: I spent the better part of two years working on my book before I discovered Twitter (Necromancer Awakening, now an Amazon bestseller). In that period of time I read a lot of books on the writing craft, many of which I find invaluable. It was a crash course in creative writing. I lean on these books to form the basis of my own expertise, as experts in any field lean on the texts of their past to do the same. I take my lessons learned and paraphrase them, appending a #writetip hashtag so people can find them using Twitter’s search function.
This is my way of giving back to the community that I’ve benefited from. I never tweet a #writetip I don’t understand or agree with 100% at the time I post it. I never tweet just to hear myself talk. And here’s the most important part: I’m not thick-headed enough to think I know it all! There are writers on Twitter with far more experience than I have, and when they’re gracious and patient enough to correct me, I ask for clarification (if I need it) and change my #writetip accordingly (if I both understand what they’re trying to say and agree with it).

Be Yourself. Show Your Personality.

The great thing about being a writer is the unbridled freedom of being able to bare your soul and in the process touch another human soul. Writing is about being honest with your audience. Be yourself and you will accumulate a fan base. People are fans of real people. Many who didn’t like your writing prior to getting to know you will begin to like your writing afterwards. This is because until they knew you on some personal level they weren’t invested in you or your work. 

How many times have you found yourself liking an artist’s music only after you saw an interview with them and connected with them in some way? Before the interview you didn’t know them, and you just didn’t care. But during the interview they made you laugh. Maybe they told a story that you found poignant. Maybe they explained a song lyric and it was the first time you really heard it…and you were amazed to find it spoke to you. See what I mean? The same holds true for writers or artists of any other medium.

You’re a writer. Bare your soul, but be aware of who your audience is and why they follow you. You can lose online friends the same way you lose offline friends. Before you raise your eyebrow and shake your finger, I’m not talking about censoring yourself. I’m talking about focusing yourself. If your audience is comprised of people who follow you because they love your cookbooks, you may alienate them with a political or religious rant.

Follow People with Similar Interests

Another strategy for building a meaningful following is to follow people who have similar interests as you. Remember what I said yesterday about completing your profile’s bio? This is why! You’re going to want to check people’s bio to see what they have to say about themselves, and that means people are going to do the same when deciding whether or not to follow you. You’re probably going to want to look at their most recent tweets. Are they spamming people with advertisements, or are they engaging with people and retweeting interesting posts? Is their timeline all about them, or do they seem to be contributing to the community?
If you’re not following people with similar interests, there is a good chance you’re going to be ignored by them, and you probably won’t be followed back…which is what you’re after…a follow back. And even if you do manage to get a follow back, if you’re tweeting on subjects your following isn’t interested in, it’s likely your tweets will go ignored. 

If your followers rarely engage with you, they’re not helping to build your writer’s platform by sharing your relevant tweets with their following. This is why groups who advertise themselves as “#TeamFollowBack” don’t really help you in the long run. Yes, they boost your numbers. But remember that when it comes to building your platform it’s not a numbers game! If your social network isn’t growing organically, then those numbers are meaningless. It’s better to have 100 followers who engage with you, read your blog on occasion and retweet you from time to time than 10000 who don’t.

You can use Twitter’s search function to find hashtags that are of interest to you. From there, you can find a host of people who tweet with that hashtag, and voila! you’ve found people to follow. For example, I routinely search for the #writetip hashtag to find other people who have something to say about writing. If I like their advice I usually follow them! Later in this series I’ll share several links to lists of “official” hashtags you may find interesting.

Retweet! Retweet! Retweet!

Retweeting takes very little effort and the payoff is huge. If you’re taking my advice then you’ve followed people you find interesting. These people most likely have interesting things to say. So share those interesting little tidbits! Retweeting helps to build everyone’s social network organically. People who already follow you will see the retweet and may decide the person you’ve retweeted is interesting enough to follow, so you’re helping two people connect who may have otherwise never met. Other people who run a search and stumble across your retweet may find both you and the original poster engaging enough to follow, so you’re also contributing to your own base of followers.
One caveat: There’s a fine line between conscientious retweeting and spam. We all have periods of inactivity and periods of concentrated activity. But if you’re a regular Twitter user and you find yourself tweeting once every minute or so for an extended period of time, you’re going to lose followers or get relegated to an ignore list. In general, make sure you’re retweeting something you think your following will truly be interested in, either because it’s information they need/want or because it’s something your specific community will find humorous. I know that’s subjective, but you should know your following better than anyone else. You may find cats funny, but unless the cat meme you’re about to post says something your community will find humorous, you’re just another cat picture tweeter. Do that enough and your numbers will change all right…negatively

In tomorrow’s post I’ll continue with the second part of building a meaningful following! 

How do you find interesting people to follow on Twitter? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below!


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About Nat Russo

Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening and Necromancer Falling. Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun. Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenager, mischievous beagle, and goofy boxador.

Comments 9

  1. Nat. These articles are pure gold! Learning so much and hopefully you will be able to see the results in the next couple of days. Which monitoring/autotweeting systems do you recommend? (or am I getting ahead of myself? Is that all a bit further on?)

    1. Glad you’re finding them useful, Nick!

      There are two services that I believe are good enough to warrant the monthly subscription:
      1 – Hootsuite
      This is the tool I use to load all of my upcoming #writetip tweets, blog links, amazon associate links, etc, that I plan to rotate throughout the week. The reason this tool is so great, for me, is because of the bulk upload feature. I can create a file that has a list of everything I want to go out, including the day/time I want them to go out, and upload it into Hootsuite. Hootsuite then schedules all of my tweets as I’ve indicated.

      Now, I’m a software engineer, so I couldn’t leave it at that. I developed a piece of software for personal use that is a database management system of tweets. Whenever I think of a new writetip or write a new blog article, I create one or more tweets and enter them into the software I developed. Then, once a week, I use that software to randomly select tweets for the upcoming week and create the file that Hootsuite consumes.

      This used to be a manual process for me, and I just got tired of spending 2 hours every week manually selecting tweets and timeslots. Now it takes me about 5 minutes tops. The randomization was important to me, because the Earth is round 🙂 I didn’t want to get into a situation where my friends in the States always saw my writetips but not my blogs, or vice versa for my friends in Australia.

      I believe Hootsuite has a free version, you just don’t get the bulk upload feature (among others, I’m sure).

      2 –
      This is the primary tool I use to follow/unfollow people and grow my follower base. I used the free version for about a year and was completely satisfied with that. I pay the monthly fee now to unlock a single feature: “Hide Previously Followed Users”. This allows me to go back to the same folks, over and over, and follow a subset of their followers. This is key when I’m trying to mine followers from a person who has 10s of thousands of followers. Without “Hide Previous”, I wind up covering a lot of the same territory, which is a waste of time.

      I’m going to mention a 3rd tool, because you may find this useful as well:
      This tool allows you to queue up tweets similar to hootsuite, but it’s a bit more light weight. I use the free version for now. I use this throughout the day if I’m running a “campaign” of sorts. For example, since I just launched the newsletter a few days ago, and “Necro of the Month” contest, I sit down in the morning and use Buffer to queue up a message about those two items to be tweeted every half hour. As soon as I post this, in fact, I’ll queue up about 10 tweets in Buffer to advertise the free newsletter and contest 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  2. Really enjoying this great series of posts; I’m allowing myself a few quick moments of reading today in between other things. I’ve just joined Twitter this past autumn, but I entered my first major manuscript pitch contest and have found it to be a terrific way to meet other aspiring writers who also write in the genres in which I read and write.

    1. Welcome to Twitter, Emily! It can be a lot to absorb at first, but hopefully this series will provide a decent starting point for you.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying it! If I can ever answer any questions, just let me know!

  3. Pingback: Using Twitter Effectively: Part 3 of 10 - Building a Meaningful Following - A Writer's Journey

  4. Pingback: Using Twitter Effectively: Part 4 of 10 - Auto Tweeting (The Good) - A Writer's Journey

  5. Pingback: Using Twitter Effectively: Part 5 of 10 - Composing Effective Tweets - A Writer's Journey

  6. Great stuff. I’ve read these twice now and I always pick up different nuggets each time I thumb through. These are great reminders and you have helped me change my social world. I like to “quote” retweet and add followers that share the same interests. I want you to know, your mentoring is very effective. I’m living proof.

    1. Post

      Thank you so much!

      I remember back when I was starting out, I felt like a raft adrift in the ocean. I had no idea where to begin, and it was because of folks who took the time to help that I was eventually able to stand on my own feet.

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