This post, by Joel Friedlander, originally appeared on The Book Designer on 3/26/12.
When I checked my Twitter account this morning (@JFBookman) I had 9,951 followers. Over the next day or two I expect this number to click over, like the odometer in your car, to 10,000. This comes with a variety of responses:
- Surprise: What took so long?
- Incredulity: You mean you really like me?
- Malaise: Does anyone care?
- Humility: That’s a lot of people to answer to!
Does having a lot of people listening influence me? A little bit, but I’ve been pretty focused on curating my Twitter stream, keeping it on the topics I write about. In that sense, I do think a lot about readers, and what’s most useful that I can provide.
Maybe because of that care, Twitter is my most important social media investment, the place I enjoy spending time and where I’ve put in the most work to establish a robust “outpost,” made the most new friends, created the most connections.
But here’s what’s really interesting to me. It took me two years of almost daily work to reach this milestone. Does this seem like a good thing? You could get 10,000 Twitter followers today:
So what’s the difference? Why spend all that time and energy if you could just spend a couple of hundred dollars and be done with it?
The Difference, Explained
What makes a community of interest? That’s the question that has guided me on Twitter over the last couple of years.
Sure, I enjoy Facebook once in a while, there’s no better way to find that cute girl who sat behind you in American History class all those years ago. That’s fun.
But for me at least, it doesn’t equate to business, and there’s no community of interest in that kind of connection.
You can also find community on Google+, a service that allows for longer text and lots of other goodies, but that isn’t where I’ve spent my time.
Twitter seems to attract certain types. As a long-time word buff and writer, the 140-character limit to your posts on Twitter seemed more like a delightful challenge than a restriction. It reminded me of the strict rules certain kinds of poetry require and the fun of working your words into a form.
A Little History, Please
Although I signed up for Twitter early in 2009, I never used my account until later that year. The stimulus was starting my blog in the fall of that year.
At the time, the people who had massive followings amazed me. How did they get all those people to listen to what they had to say?
Now, celebrities of all kinds are on Twitter, and tweets appear every day on cable news shows and at presidential debates. Twitter continues to make news as the communication medium of choice for social upheavals as well as for companies who want to use social media to influence buyers’ behavior.
But for bloggers (and authors who blog), Twitter has two blockbuster attributes that make it a desirable destination:
- There’s no better way to connect to influencers and thought leaders in your niche, whatever it is
- There’s no easier way to find that community of interest that can multiply your communication efforts
How to Find 10,000 People Who Want to Follow You
Compared to the really big Twitter followings, 10,000 isn’t much. Kim Kardashian (@KimKardashian 14,214,322 followers) probably gains or loses 10,000 followers in a typical day.
In the indie publishing niche, my pal Joanna Penn (@TheCreativePenn) makes me look rather mouselike, with her 25,721 followers.
But here’s the thing: 10,000 is a heck of a lot of people. The biggest group I’ve ever spoken live to was about 400 people, and that filled a pretty good-sized room.
So, how do you get all those followers? Here’s my simple 3-step formula:
- Find people who are interested in the same topics you’re passionate about
- Follow those people
- Post useful, amusing or educational content with links to resources, mostly not your own
That’s not too hard, is it? Just rinse and repeat for a couple of years.
This is slow, by the way, unless you’re willing to spend hours at it each day. Most of us have other things to do.
A lot of this regular day-to-day posting can be handled through nifty software like HootSuite, which allows you to schedule a bunch of posts at one time that will then be delivered at specific times.
What I like about this slow growth is this: I know that virtually every follower on my list is involved in writing, publishing, design or a related field. That’s what I was looking for when I began the search for that community of interest.
And it works! Twitter is the second-largest source of traffic to my blog, and I consider the people behind all those accounts part of the community here.
In the End, Gratitude
More than anything else, I’m left with a feeling of gratitude to all the people who’ve helped me along the way. People who re-tweeted my posts when I first got started, people who posted great content themselves that was ready to pass along to others.
And the people who served as models of how to engage on social media in general, and Twitter specifically. You can’t help but learn when you follow great people, the ones who care about helping other people to succeed.
And also to my assistant, Shelley Sturgeon of E-Vantage Business Services, who attends to all those things I seem to forget about.
When authors ask about diving into social media, I always tell them that they’ll be most successful with the service that they enjoy the most.
Long term, you’ve got to be getting something more from a social media site than drudgery. Try them all to find the one that feels most comfortable to you.
I believe Twitter will eventually grow to “utility” status, like gas, electricity or telephone service. It’s such a neutral communication medium that it can be used in lots of different ways.
Apple seemed to be moving in the same direction since integrating Twitter functions into the operating system for its mobile devices like the iPhone and iPad.
Maybe someday soon we’ll all be connected to each other seamlessly, and everyone will have their “@” address issued at birth. But by then, the whole concept of “followers” will have faded into history.
Since that day isn’t here quite yet, I’m going to go raise a glass and toast the power of social media. I think there’s no place else you can see so clearly the wisdom of marketer and motivational guru, Zig Zigler:
“You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want.”