7 Steps to Build an Engaged Following on Twitter

If you watch the mainstream media, Twitter can come across with a pretty rough reputation as the bloody battle ground of the war of the trolls. A never ending stream of stones, arrows, boulders and nukes flying every-which-way.

But my experience of it is overwhelmingly positive – at least 98% positive. In my opinion it is the most effective social media platform for business to business marketing, bar none.

There are loads of other social media platforms that are great for business to consumer marketing, and LinkedIn works well for maintaining your business network, but in terms of B2B marketing, nothing cuts it like Twitter.

So here are some guidelines for the new or not-so-new tweeter.

Note: This is not meant to be a prerogative statement of any kind of fundamental truth, just a description of what has worked for me. Please comment on my Twitter account @NamesOfLondon, or DM me with comments – they're always welcome, especially if you want to tell me I'm wrong … but you have to say why and preferably give evidence and preferably provide a better solution – I'm into science not voodoo.

1 … Decide on your Audience

If you don't know what you're aiming at, how can you hit it? Its obvious really.

That doesn't mean you have to be ultra-specific or rigid in applying this. You can let your audience evolve over time and encompass various individuals that don't really hit your core specification, but you need to start somewhere – and this is where.

Here are some ideas – the type of businesses who might be customers or resellers, bloggers or other marketing types who might be interested in what you're doing, potential strategic partners, influencers (large & small).

Once you have decided on who you want to reach, you can start reaching out to them.

2 … Follow Accounts in Your Target Audience

This is how you start building your Twitter marketing strategy. It's also something you should continuously practice on an ongoing basis. Not only will this keep you up with the latest news and views in the industry, but you will also gain a better understanding of your audience and what they are up to.

The value of spending time finding good & valuable people to follow can not be underestimated. This is the cornerstone of the value of your Twitter account.

A good way to start is with Twitter search, type in a word or two and click the “Search all people for ...”, but be aware, this can often result in offering you dead accounts. Ones that haven't been active for a number of years. Twitter can't start suggesting who you should follow until it has an idea of what you're trying to achieve, so you have to kick this process off.

It doesn't take long before Twitter starts coming up with some suggestions. These will mostly be live active accounts – so value these suggestions more than the results from a search. The more live and active you are, the more you will turn up in the suggestions given to other people – so be live & active and Twitter will give you free followers.

Another great way to find people to follow is to look at who follows an account that really hits your target audience, and not just who follows that account, but also who that account follows (although I think this is of less value). For example, find an account that posts news in your target market and see who follows it. Their followers are shown in the order they arrived, most recent arrivals at the top, so you know the ones at the top are fresh active accounts – but remember some may not be active for long, so come back and review the follower list again some time later, as they will always be collecting new ones.

You will find that people you follow will often follow you back – I recommend you should also do this. This reflects a basic human instinct of fair play and reciprocity. It also means that following more people can be a great way to build your own followers.

If people don't follow you back, there are various tools and apps you can get to unfollow them in bulk, but going down the list, of people you follow, and unfollowing those without the “Follows you” icon is also pretty easy. Just be careful not to unfollow interesting accounts that mostly don't follow anybody. For example, Elon Musk has 18.5 million followers, but only follows 48 – you're almost certainly never going to get a follow-back from Elon Musk, but if you do – WOW Cool!!!

One issue you need to consider is – Should you buy followers? There are various places where you can buy in followers, but before deciding you should know that all you are buying is an increase in your follower counter.

Bought followers are mostly bots, so will almost certainly not interact with your account, and even if they do, what use is bots retweeting to other bots. However, I have some sympathy with the argument that its going to be harder to “look legitimate” when you only have a few followers, and simply boosting your follower number would make your account look better.

This may have some truth, but its not a shortcut to adding value to your account – that requires hard work and effort building a real audience – the follower counter is just a number. In addition, Twitter doesn't like bot accounts and will regularly cull them in large numbers – so you can expect to loose a lot of them over time, often hundreds at a time.

3 … Produce Original Content

That means write articles. If you can't write well yourself, get a professional to do it – there is no shortage of great freelance writers out there. Site likes People Per Hour or Fiverr can be a useful resource for this.

You can also tweet promotions and advertising, but if that's all you tweet, expect to loose your followers really quickly. If you do this, try and include a picture in all your tweets and make sure any link to your website is easy to see.

Host your content on your own site. This is really important, as the whole point of the exercise is to promote your brand. Sites like Medium are brilliant and you can always repost there too (it has a great feature to import an article from another site), but when you tweet the article, always tweet it from your own site, then repost to Medium, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.

This has two hugely beneficial effects – firstly, it pulls in more visitors to your site. I hope I don't need to elaborate on why that's a good thing. Secondly it has tremendous SEO value.

Google will rank the article so it then appears in search results related to the content - sending more visitors over to your site and boosting your site's overall ranking. But don't expect one or two articles to transform your ranking – you're going to need at least ten. Longer articles get better results, so think of 1000 words as a minimum. Try and include some pictures and don't go too long, say not much more than 2000 words.

Make sure your hosted content has the correct META tags, in the header of the HTML, so when you post the article to Twitter it makes a nice “card”. The “card” is the picture, title & summary Twitter displays in the feed to reference the article. Facebook is really good at guessing what the card should look like, but Twitter is not – you really need to get the META tags right.

Here's the “card” for this article – you can use “view source” to see the META tags I had to use the get this card.

Don't forget to hashtag the article and flag up any accounts that might be particularly interested in the article (using “@TheirAccount”). e.g. if you mention another business or service in the article, flag them up – it draws their attention to the article and could earn you a retweet.

Its also useful to pin your latest article to your profile. Visiting a profile page is really common, so make sure there is something fresh and interesting there for people to engage with.

4 … Curate Relevant Content

“Curating Content” is the technical term for posting (tweeting) other people's articles that you think would be of interest to your followers. This is a great way to get more interest in what you are doing, but don't forget this is not as effective as creating your own original content, as the article will probably not be hosted on your site.

There are various tools for putting branded wrappers over somebody else's content, or even scraping it onto your own site, but be careful using this. If you're seen as somebody who uses other's content without appropriate attribution this technique can be counter productive.

A reputation, once lost, is much harder to regain.

5 … Use a Tool to Automate Tweeting

This is really important for a couple of major reasons. Firstly, the life span of a tweet is about 18 mins.

This means after 18 minutes, your tweet has disappeared forever. If you've hash-tagged it well, it may get a little more exposure later. It never ceases to amaze me how I get comments on some of my posts that are 3 or 4 months old but, on the whole, after 18 minutes they're dead & buried.

The other important reasons are that it enables you to spend less time just pushing out tweets and means you can reach people outside of your time-zone. You will have to consider how important this is for you & your business. If you have the time and discipline to keep tweeting all day, and you only care about reaching people in your time-zone, then you may consider it unnecessary.

But we run a business that is trying to have a global reach – so for us it is utterly critical.

It's important that you don't go crazy with automated tweeting. You should consider 20 minutes a maximum frequency for your automated tweets. Twitter has a range of anti-spam mechanisms, and you don't want to fall foul of that, but you also don't want to annoy your followers – otherwise they'll just unfollow you, or put you on mute.

There is also good evidence that shows if you tweet more frequently than this, all you end up doing is shortening the life span of your tweets, so you don't actually gain any more exposure. The evidence that more tweeting doesn't result in more retweets is clear.

You will also still need to spend time manually interacting, posting & retweeting, and those retweets will all add up. So again, don't annoy your followers.

6 … Engage

Engaging on Twitter mostly involves commenting & retweeting. My rule of thumb is that if I comment on a posting, I will also retweet it. Again, its about reciprocity. You are getting some exposure from appearing in the comments of their post, so give them some exposure back.

The more you engage in conversations, the more people will get to feel they know you – and people will always buy from somebody they know, in preference to somebody they don't.

Some people use an automated tool to post a weekly “Thank you” to their top interactors (commenters & re-tweeters) – personally, I don't, but if I do get a mention in a “Thank you” I will “Thank you” back and a repost. It's a nice reaction and tells your followers you are an active and engaging account.

7 … Pay Attention to Notifications

Notifications tell you who has started following you, liked one of your tweets, if you have been mentioned in a tweet or if somebody has retweeted something you wrote or were mentioned in.

Reading your Notifications should be like reading your emails – something you do at least once a day and try and keep on top of. Notifications are the critical clues as to who is interested in what you are doing. So you should seriously consider following anybody who comes up in any notification.

Many people will follow you in the hopes you will follow them back. Generally, if they intersect with your audience in any way, you really should follow them back. But clearly there may be a limit to the number of cute-cat feeds you want to follow.

In addition to reading the Notifications, I regularly go down my list of followers and follow back anybody I might have missed, who fits the profile. I'm not sure why, but Twitter often misses notifying me and can add in new followers days later. So its worth regularly reviewing your follower list.


If you do all this, its not impossible to grow your Twitter account at the rate of about 1000 followers a month. Real meaningful organic growth at a faster rate than this is almost certainly possible, but I'm pretty happy with about 1000 a month.

Remember, as you saturate the market your growth rate will drop off. You've already got most of the active twitter accounts (in your target market) following you, so there are less to scoop up. At this point you need to either widen your market or accept you've reached the limit.

To keep up the growth, you also have to keep up the effort – as you can see, I've not always been as disciplined about that as I should have been, but it does work.

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