Based on an analysis of 70+ Twitter accounts
It started with an offer I thought I might regret.
I posted a tweet in which I offered to review people’s Twitter accounts and give them a simple tip to improve their tweets and grow their following.
More than 70 people replied and in the process of reviewing their accounts, I noticed many were held back by the same issues.
Following is a summary of the most frequent advice I shared.
I hope you find it as helpful as they did.
If You Don’t Have Many Followers…
Tweet about the people you follow (or the people following you).
As you start to follow people, post a tweet about each new person you follow. Explain why you followed them and the value others could get from following them.
Many of those people will likely thank you, follow you, and potentially even retweet you to show their appreciation.
Even highlighting just one person a day that you follow in this way can get you more attention AND provide value to the people already following you (assuming you recommend other people who tweet valuable stuff and are relevant to your audience).
You can do this same tactic with the people who follow you as well.
Concentrate on replies.
When you don’t have a big following, replies are more important than tweets because they can get you exposure.
Rather than tweeting some smart observation to your 50 followers, go post it as a reply to an account with a large following that’s tweeting about the same topic — you’ll reach a lot more people that way.
When you don’t have a big following (and even when you do), you should regularly look for opportunities to post interesting and clever replies on tweet from people, publications, and journalists who have big followings already or are influential in your niche.
You can also use Twitter search to find popular tweets about relevant topics and reply to them.
It’s a great way to get noticed and speak to an audience before you’ve got one.
Post at least three high-quality tweets a week.
Several of the people who asked me about how to grow their Twitter following were only tweeting once or twice a month — that’s not going to get it done.
If you want to grow an audience you’ve got to tweet (or reply) regularly.
Twitter’s not just a volume game, but the more you tweet — as long as you post good stuff —the easier it will be to grow your audience.
You don’t have to tweet a million times, but it’s virtually impossible to grow your following without posting at least three quality tweets a week (and ideally at least one a day).
If You Want To Share A Link…
Include the most interesting/valuable information from the article in the tweet —don’t just tweet headlines and links.
Give people a reason to like, share, or engage with your tweet even if they DON’T click through and read the article.
The best way to do this is to include an excerpt or summary of the most valuable information in the article in the text of your tweet.
You might hesitate to do this if your goal is to drive traffic to the article on your own website, but trust me — you’ll get way more traffic if you share something compelling in the tweet than you will if you force people to click a link to access something compelling.
The best way to get people to click a link is to capture their attention with something interesting in the tweet itself.
Also, if the tweet itself features valuable information it will get shared more which will generate more exposure…and ultimately more link clicks.
Here’s an example:
Summarize an entire article, podcast episode, or video in a tweet thread.
Again, the goal of your tweets should always be to provide as much value as possible to your audience.
The more value you provide, the more likely your tweet is to be shared.
A great way to do this with articles, podcasts, or videos you want to share is to summarize the whole article in a tweet thread.
When you do this, introduce the overall concept in the first tweet, incorporate one or two key concepts in each individual tweet in the thread, and have the last tweet include a link to the full article or podcast.
Try to craft the thread in a way that each individual tweet also works on its own and provides enough value that people may want to like/share it on its own.
I also recommend numbering each tweet in the thread so that if people happen to see any one of the tweets out of context, they’ll realize it’s a part of a thread and expand to see the rest of the tweets.
Here’s a great example of how to do this from Paul Metcalfe.
The Thing About Retweets…
Retweets won’t grow your audience.
There’s nothing wrong with occasionally retweeting stuff you find interesting (if it’s relevant/valuable to your target audience), but retweets won’t grow your audience — they grow the audience of the person whose content you retweet.
If follower growth is a goal, you need to post primarily original tweets.
Use your tweets to showcase the value and ideas you have to offer, not solely to share other people’s thoughts.
When you retweet something, always retweet it with a comment that adds value or perspective.
Whenever possible add interesting commentary to anything you retweet instead of just sharing it.
This not only gives you a chance to create additional value for your audience, but it means when your followers share the tweet they will be sharing your version (the one with your comment added) as opposed to just the original tweet.
This is an easy way to get yourself more exposure.
If You’re Not Sure What To Tweet About…
Use this formula to come up with ideas.
Since your goal should be to provide value to a specific audience through your tweets, fill in the blanks of this sentence and let it guide what you tweet:
I help [TARGET AUDIENCE] solve [PROBLEM/CHALLENGE] by sharing [INFO/SOLUTIONS] with them on Twitter.
You can use that as a filter to assess whether the things you’re tweeting align with the value you aim to provide to people.
(Bonus tip: Your Twitter bio should also reflect elements of that statement in order to make it clear who your tweets are for and what those people will get out of following you.)
Go the extra mile.
Here are a couple tweets I saw that were a great idea for a recurring tweet series, but missed the mark because they didn’t get specific enough.
The concept of tweeting about a thing you learn each day is a great one because it has the potential to deliver value to your audience.
But, the value isn’t in telling people you learned something — it’s in TEACHING them what you learned and telling others how they can do it!
Always look for ways you can push further in your tweets, get more specific, go the extra mile, and deliver the most possible value to your audience.
Don’t tweet about everything (if you want to grow your following).
One of the most common issues I saw among the Twitter accounts I analyzed was that lots of people tweet about a million different random topics.
That’s fine (and can be fun), but makes it harder to grow a following because the chances are people interested in one thing you tweet about won’t be interested in the next bunch of tweets and vice versa.
Your best chance of growth is to focus your tweets on no more than a few topics.
If You Want More People To Engage With You…
Look for opportunities to incorporate questions into your tweets and ways to turn your observations into conversations.
For example, look at this tweet:
That’s an observation that easily could have ignited a conversation if you added a question to the end of it like,“How long are your meetings taking to actually start these days?”
If you want people to engage with you, prompt them to do so.
This tactic also is effective when you reply other people’s tweets. Rather than just share your two cents or tell someone you liked their tweet, ask them — or the community reading their tweet — a question the prompts a larger conversation.
Don’t just say “DMs are open” — give people a specific reason to message you.
If you want people to direct message you in order to broaden your network and build stronger relationships, don’t just put “DM’s are open” in your bio or tweet.
Instead, include a specific conversation prompt and give them a reason to DM you.
For example, you could say, “Have a question about X? DM me — happy to help.”
Or, you could say, “Love to chat about X — DM me if you do too.”
If You Want More People To Notice Your Tweets…
Don’t just tell — SHOW.
Whenever possible you want to show and share as many specifics as possible.
For example, check out this tweet:
That’s a good tweet in that it shares an interesting perspective on something that I’m sure a lot of people would be interested in, but it could have been so much better if it included a screenshot of the actual email.
As written, the tweet generates curiosity, but doesn’t deliver on it because it’s missing the payoff — surely anyone who finds the tweet interesting would LOVE to see the actual email.
Tell a personal story.
Tons of tweets share general observations about life or business and about 99% of those tweets would perform better if they embedded those same ideas in a personal story.
Let’s take this tweet for example:
Instead of just sharing the lesson, that tweet (or a tweet thread) could share a personal story about the same concept and likely would resonate in a much bigger way with followers — it might even encourage them to reply with their own stories.
Format and white space matters.
See below example.
“Package” your tweets.
One of the things I recommend to just about everyone on Twitter is to think about ways to “package” some of their tweets.
To do this, come up with daily (or weekly) tweet concept you can treat almost like a “show” and attract an audience who wants to see your daily pick of the day, or mistake of the day, or controversial idea, or whatever.
Here’s a good overview of how to package social media posts, and here are a few specific examples of recommendations I gave to people whose accounts I analyzed:
- Vanessa Flowers’ goal is to create content and community for empowered women in Chicago so I suggested she may want to have a recurring feature where she introduces people to each other in a tweet once a week — it’s a way to create a Twitter version of what she already does elsewhere.
- The Entertainment Strategy Guycovers the business of media and entertainment so I suggested each day he could pick a “Today’s Thing That Changes Everything” entertainment news story of the day and explain why in a tweet or thread. His audience would likely be curious to see what he picked each day and want to debate it at times.
- Mountain Women Magazinecelebrates a diverse group of women who love living in the mountains so I suggested they could highlight, profile, or interview a Mountain Woman of the Week on Twitter each week as a way to showcase their community. Plus, as a bonus, whoever they feature would likely share and help promote the magazine to new people.
Cut back on the hashtags.
If you’re using a super specific hashtag to have your tweet surface in a super specific conversation, that’s fine.
But in most cases, people are incorporating too many hashtags that are too broad for their own good — they may be doing more harm to your tweets than good.
More than one or two hashtags in a tweet starts to look spammy, and while I’m not 100% sure, I believe the algorithm also shows tweets with lots of hashtags to fewer people for that reason.
Long story short? Worry more about crafting a great tweet than you do cluttering it with hashtags.
If you’re going to post a video, upload it to Twitter.
You will get a lot more eyeballs on a video you upload into Twitter’s native player than you will if you share a link to it on YouTube.
The algorithm favors Twitter videos over external links and people are more likely to watch a video that autoplays in their feed than to click a link to head over to YouTube.
Also, if possible, include captions on your video since many people watch with the sound off or are hearing impaired.
How To Optimize Your Twitter Bio
You need a bio.
If you’ve gotten this far into this post, you probably already have a Twitter bio set up.
But if for some reason you don’t (and a surprising number of people actually don’t have one), you need to set one up.
Your bio is not about you — it’s about the value you have to offer.
Think of your bio as a sales tool and the product is your tweets.
If people who don’t follow/know you see a tweet of yours and like it, they’ll check out your bio to decide whether or not to follow you — that’s your chance to convince them.
And in order to convince them, your bio should answer two key questions:
- Who are your tweets for?
- What value will those people get out of following you?
A simple way to frame this is to include a line in your bio that says something along the lines of, “Follow me for __________.”
And fill in the blank with the value you provide.
Make your bio as specific and unique as possible.
Because your bio is a chance to showcase yourself and convince people to follow you, you also want to try to convey why they should follow you as opposed to others who tweet about similar things.
For example, if you just say you’re a “travel writer,” that may be selling yourself short and not showing what makes you unique from every other travel writer out there.
Give people a reason to care/follow.
Assume the people reading your bio have no clue who you are or what you’re talking about.
Don’t use references the average person may not get.
For example, when I checked out Ernest Wilkins’ bio one of the things it referenced was “Office Hours.”
But if you didn’t know Ernest, you’d have no idea what Office Hours is!
(It’s a great newsletter he writes by the way and he’s since changed his bio to make that clear.)
Make sure everything you reference in your bio is explained and write it for people who don’t know you since they’re the ones you’re trying to convert.
Use your link strategically and drive people to it from your bio.
The link on most people’s Twitter account is just a link to the home page of their website.
That’s fine, but it’s a missed opportunity.
Instead, link directly to a page that features an action you want people to take and include a call to action in your bio itself!
For example, if you want people to subscribe to your newsletter, give them a reason to check it out in your bio and change your link to go directly to the signup page or the most recent issue.
Here’s how I do it in my bio:
Don’t link to a sales page — link to a sample.
In my analysis of people’s Twitter accounts, I came across several people who were linking to the sales page for their book or product.
But instead of doing that, they’d likely be better served to drive people somewhere they can read an excerpt or get a sample chapter.
It’s unlikely people who are looking at your Twitter bio (who most likely don’t know you well) will go straight to purchase — they’re much more likely to go from bio to free sample, which then may lead to a purchase.
What To Do With Your Pinned Tweet
You need a pinned tweet.
Just like you need to have a bio, you need to set up a pinned tweet.
It’s an opportunity to control the first tweet people see when checking out your profile (as opposed to whatever you happened to tweet most recently) and that’s valuable real estate —take advantage of it.
Make your pinned tweet more than just a link.
Since your pinned tweet will be seen by anyone who checks out your profile and those will likely be people first discovering you and deciding whether or not to follow you (similar to when they check your bio), it should be something that’s going to encourage them to do so.
Don’t just have it be a link to something you want to promote — use it to showcase something that will make people want to follow you.
Maybe that’s messaging about a key thing you want people to know, or a prompt for people to engage with you, or a particularly successful/engaging/valuable tweet you’ve previously posted.
Just remember this isn’t a place to showcase a random personal accomplishment — the goal is to feature something that your audience will find valuable to them.
The Tweet That Started It All…
If you’d like to see the origins of all this Twitter advice, you can check out the original tweet here.
And yes, if you reply to it I’ll be happy to check out your profile and give you some personal suggestions as well.