Over the past few weeks, I've quietly researched what works and what doesn't when you're trying to get more people to follow you on Twitter. There are some surefire ways to add followers--promote your Twitter stream to friends, colleagues, or family; say something that's retweeted by thousands of Twitter users; have notoriety; or have your username crop up on sites like CNET that Twitter users frequent.
But for all those successes, I've found many more ways to utterly fail at adding Twitter followers. From begging to stories to gimmicks, there are a variety of ways to make yourself look foolish on Twitter without getting one more person to follow you.
Asking: Laugh, then ignore
Will you please be my follower on Twitter? My username is "DonReisinger" and hey, I'll even throw in a link!
Didn't work, did it?
Last week, I tested this out a few times on my followers by asking them to tell all their followers to follow me, and all I got back was a few snide remarks from followers saying things like, "Nice try, Don" or "Um, no." Unperturbed, I decided to try again later in the day, since I figured a different group of Twitter followers were using the service now and I might have better luck.
Asking for Twitter followers is a major faux pas in the world of micro-blogging. First off, most of your followers will probably laugh at your willingness to show how desperate you are for more. Secondly, all your Twitter followers simply don't see that kind of request to their own followers so you can reap all the rewards. What do they get out of their tweet? You guessed it: nothing.
Fake stories: Anger and betrayal
Realizing that asking my followers for help wasn't going to work, I next tried telling them that I had entered into a bet with a close friend to see who would reach a certain follower count quicker. But to make it believable, I had to create an elaborate trail of logic: "A close friend and I have $50 on who can reach 2,500 followers first. Whoever does so, wins the cash. Will you help a friend out and find me some followers?"
Unfortunately, my followers had a few unhappy thoughts to share with me and my obvious ploy to add more. Suffice it to say that family friendliness wasn't a concern in their replies.
But as a researching journalist, I trudged on, trying to find creative ways to add more followers, as more salvos from angry users made their way through my blatant subterfuge and pelted me with tweets outlining distaste for such a tactic.
The Great Retweet: size matters
Retweeting, the act of copying a tweet by another user and sending it through your own username, has taken Twitter by storm. But that doesn't mean it helps you add followers.
I tried retweeting what others wrote to see if it offered value to my own followers, who would then retweet my message and expose me to all their followers, but it didn't work. In fact, more often than not, followers decided to retweet what I did instead of using my username--a practice that probably makes the most sense, since the original person should receive attribution.
Realizing that, I decided to find out if I could get my own followers to start retweeting what I said. At first, I asked them to retweet and once again, that was a mistake. They generally ignored my request, but every now and then, a few followers would retweet my message. It didn't matter: I wasn't able to add any new followers. I think that only happens if the message is retweeted by hundreds or thousands of users. At least, that's what I hear.
More tweets: Lose 'em!
Realizing the direct route didn't work, I tried offering up a slew of updates to see if more Twitter followers would filter in. Once again, I was thwarted in my efforts.
Believe it or not, updating Twitter as often as possible doesn't provide any real value if you're only looking to add more followers. In fact, when I updated my account more than 50 times in one day, I found that fewer people decided to follow me on those days than when I had just a handful of really interesting tweets.
Realizing that, I quickly came to the conclusion that quantity is no substitute for quality. In fact, based on my research over the past couple weeks, I've found that followers respond more to thoughtful tweets than quick snippets about life or the dinner you'll be having tonight. In other words, ditch the quantity idea. It doesn't work.
Performing research on what doesn't work: They never believe you
Realizing all my tactics for attempting to add followers on Twitter was becoming an annoyance, I explained to my followers that some of the updates over the past few weeks were for research on a column I wanted to write. I thought they would understand and realize that, because of what I do for a living, that excuse is quite plausible.
Quite the contrary, I was inundated with responses like "uh huh" and "yeah, sure, Don." And in the process, that didn't help me add any more followers either.
Now, will you please follow me on Twitter? I have this bet with my friend and if you retweet this, that would be really great too. It's fine if you don't; it's all for research, so it's no big deal. But, uh, please follow me, OK? I'll follow you!