Some thoughts on growing and engaging your Twitter follower base

Public domain image : Pixabay

Public domain image : Pixabay

Who are you Tweeting to?

This is an important question to consider. It may be that you have just started Tweeting and deciding who you think might be interesting to follow. As you become more confident it is likely that you will begin to find pockets of topics that particularly engage you or have information you need to reach a given audience. You may be Tweeting

  • on behalf of the Library, Careers, IT Support or even you own University
    – sharing details of events, status updates, links to useful articles, open days
  • to your students
    – sharing links to course related videos or podcasts
    – in the form of an open Q&A
  • to other educators
    – sharing information about learning and teaching
    – promoting and hosting a Tweetchat e.g. #LTHEchat

Whoever your audience is, it is in your own interests to use Twitter to share relevant and timely information. Think about how you are engaged by the Tweets of others. It is unlikely that it is just through broadcast updates. One of the indicators that tell you that your Tweets are being appreciated is the number of followers you have. The value of a follower is that by self-opting to see your Tweets they are more likely to interact with you. This may be in the form of a discussion or simply a retweet. However you should also be mindful of positive silent engagement, where people may be ‘listening’ and taking in what you Tweet and finding this useful, but never make themselves known. Chance conversations when you bump into followers face to face may alert you to such instances.

Not all followers are genuinely interested in you 

It is normal to see a fluctuation in numbers where Twitter followers suddenly unfollow you. I’ve found this can happen if a) I don’t follow someone back and b) I do follow back but then find I am immediately unfollowed.  There are times when I am followed  or mentioned in a Tweet for no apparent reason and there is no logical connection. This usually correlates with an account with large numbers of followers. I suspect some are auto-follows triggered by a keyword in one of my Tweets. This type of follower is unlikely to be interested in my Tweets and more likely to simply be looking to increase their own number of followers.

Unethical practice

There many rogues out in the Twittersphere trying to tempt users to buy followers. You may quite rightly question why on earth would anyone want to do this, but it is a practice that occurs, the motif being to appear ‘popular’. It is not only unethical, the Twitter rules are clear and state that an account may be suspended for Terms of Service violations if  rules are broken. These include:

  • If you repeatedly follow and unfollow people, whether to build followers or to garner more attention for your profile
  • Selling or purchasing account interactions (such as selling or purchasing followers, retweets, favorites, etc.)
  • Using or promoting third-party services or apps that claim to get you more followers (such as follower trains, sites promising “more followers fast” or any other site that offers to automatically add followers to your account)

Engaging your audience

In business the aim to grow a following is high up on the list in order to reach out to a potential customer base. It is important however to promote your account safely and ethically. In my own context of using Twitter it is good to have new followers, but quality rules over quantity.  I don’t follow everyone that follows me, and choose to make an informed decision based on the bio of that new follower. I hope that the number of followers I have will grow organically because the information I share is both useful and engaging, and when retweeted it is the content and observed conversations that attracts new followers. It may be that engagement happens though a shared hashtag.

Tweinds have created a useful infographic on how grow your followers the right way. In simple terms this means ways that will promote your account to people you would want to join your community.

How to grow your Twitter following

Tweinds is a directory of social media users listed by country and interests.

About Sue Beckingham

An Educational Developer and Senior Lecturer in Computing with a research interest in the use of social media in higher education.
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