Twitter is the perfect social network for today's ADHD world--messages are short, sweet, and constantly pouring in. But how do you make yourself known when your 140-character tweets of genius are constantly supplanted by other people's inane thoughts? Here are some tips on how to gain legions of Twitter followers.
Find Your Niche
The Internet is a big place, and you're just one person. That doesn't mean you can't change the world (or whatever), but it does mean that you won't enjoy mass appeal from the get-go. So find your niche and stick with it.
"The best thing about the Internet, and Twitter, is that if you are truly passionate about something--anything--there's a place for it," says travel writer Stefanie Michaels (@adventuregirl).
Michaels was already an established travel journalist before she joined Twitter in March 2009--but even so, she attributes much of her success to finding the right niche at the right time.
"When I started tweeting, I was basically the only person out there tweeting travel deals," she says in a phone conversation, "I was already a well-known travel editor at two now-defunct travel magazines, so I basically went from being unemployed to walking red carpets. It's pretty surreal."
Michaels has about 1.5 million followers on Twitter.
Twitter users who tweet often are more likely to keep their audience and followers engaged. So you should try to tweet as much as you can, without forcing it.
"When I tweet, I have to feel it. It must be 'real,'" says Shannon Seek (@shannonseek), "I don't preplan tweets or have a protocol of any kind. It is an intuitive experience."
Still, Seek admits that the more frequently she tweets, the more followers she gets. "When I amassed 30,000 followers in one month, I was tweeting like 180 times a day," Seek says in an email message, "I was recovering from surgery at the time, and it was a way to stay connected."
Seek currently has about 49,000 Twitter followers.
Interact With Others
Twitter shouldn't be an infinite auditorium where you stand at the lectern and release your existential (or not-so-existential) thoughts to the Internet. Rather, it should be a place where you connect with other people--because, after all, every follower is a real person. Except for the ones who are bots.
If you want more followers, try to interact with people as much as you reasonably can. Interactions show people that you're listening, and observing your interactions with people over Twitter will help convince others that you're worth following.
According to Kinsey Schofield (@KinseySchofield), social media strategist and part time entertainment reporter, it's a good idea to create a social media presence by starting with people you actually know in real life. This generates fun exchanges online that other people like to see and read.
Of course, while Schofield advises you not to make your Twitter presence a one-sided conversation--because you "don't want to look like an issue of Sky Mall"--she acknowledges that you "don't have to answer ALL replies, but answer as many as you can...that are relevant."
Schofield currently has about 44,000 Twitter followers.
Earlier this year, British reality TV personality Kenneth Tong (@MrKennethTong) became a trending topic on Twitter for promoting what he called the "Size Zero Pill." According to Tong, women should strive for "managed anorexia," and he was going to release a pill that would let you go from a size 12 to a size 6 in three weeks.
The catch? It was all a hoax. Just one week after Tong began his "Size Zero Pill" tweets, he admitted the campaign was a hoax--he'd bet a friend that he could become a trending topic in less than a week, and, well, he won.
What we can learn from this, of course, is that, assuming you're willing to deal with the consequences, being controversial is an excellent way to become (in)famous on Twitter. Tong points out that "fame" on Twitter can be measured in one of two ways: by your number of followers or by whether you are a trending topic. "Whilst the obvious 'celebrity' will have millions of followers," Tong says in an email message, "Very few of them will ever trend. I on the other hand managed to be a globally trending topic, my name, for eleven days." In Tong's view, achieving that trending status was "a much greater feat than simply being famous," though he admits that "my fame is more of an infamy."
Tong currently has about 17,000 Twitter followers.
Be Famous Elsewhere
The top ten most-followed Twitter users, according to Twitter Counter, are Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Barack Obama, Britney Spears, Kim Kardashian, Katy Perry, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Taylor Swift, and Shakira. I think it's safe to say that these Twitter users got their followers the old-fashioned way--by being famous elsewhere.
Of course, that doesn't mean you need to be a singer, actor, reality TV star, or President of the United States to get famous on Twitter. "Being famous elsewhere" could just mean milking your MySpace account for all it's worth.
Chloe Tong (@dirtyaddiction), a fashion designer and Kenneth Tong's younger sister, says she got most of her followers from her MySpace fanbase. "When MySpace started to die, I spammed the bulletin board with my Twitter like crazy," she says by email. "Now, most of my 'fans' find me via my other social networking sites, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Model Mayhem."
Tong currently has about 2000 Twitter followers.
Take It Offline
Ultimately, social media is about connecting you with people--real people. Not only should you force your Twitter handle on everyone you meet, try engaging in a little real-world guerrilla marketing, as Schofield did: "I took out ads on the back page of Village Voice Media's weekly publications. I asked people to Friend Me or I would cancel my 22nd birthday party. Write your Twitter handle in the dirt on people's car windows. Write it on dollar bills. Put it on a T-shirt and wear it to a Lakers game."
Go forth, get Twitter-famous, and remember to thank me when you make your virtual Oscar speech.