I’ve been on Twitter since 2009. I spent probably 9 months figuring out what it was all about and how to use it. Then, I started looking at other people’s followings and wondering how they did it. That’s when I learned that some people literally buy followers, by paying into a service. Everyone who pays into the service follows each other. That inflates your following. But to me, those kinds of followers don’t mean anything. And I didn’t want them.
I wanted engaged followers: people who would have online conversations with me, retweet my Tweets, read my posts, make comments, offer suggestions. I wanted to interact with my followers.
I began making a conscious effort to increase my engagement levels and reciprocity.
Here’s how I did that:
- I used a service that allowed me to schedule my Tweets and included a dashboard so I could monitor conversations. I use Hootsuite, but there are other ones out there, too.
- Be consistent. I Tweet every day. Even if I’m in meetings all day, I still Tweet.
- Selective and strategic sharing. I make a point to share resources that I think others will enjoy and find useful.
- Regular retweeting. I repost interesting Tweets and give others credit for them.
- Original posts. I share my own material on a regular basis — but not too often.
- Watch your ratios. It can’t be a constant stream of output. You need to balance your output and asks with responses, acknowledgements and retrweets. Don’t expect others to share your stuff if you don’t share and acknowledge theirs.
- Have conversations. I engage with others in conversations about what is important to them.
- Block and report spammers. I nip these folks in the bud. I have no problem reporting spammers and neither should you.
- Follow back selectively. I don’t follow everyone who follows me. I follow people and organizations who seem to have legitimate profiles on topics I’m interested in.
- Vary the Tweet topics – within a selected range. I Tweet about a lot of stuff, mostly to do with education, training, literacy and social media.
- Acknowledge and appreciate your Tweeps. They don’t have to follow you, retweet your stuff or give you a shoutout, you know. Showing appreciation helps build good digital relationships.
- Random acts of kindness. Promote a good cause. Mention a friend’s business. Give someone you don’t know a public compliment or shoutout.
As a result of these strategies, here’s what has happened:
- I’ve connected with people in real life. We go for coffee. We share ideas and laugh.
- I get retweeted every day… sometimes up to 20 or 30 times per day. This leads me to new people. If I think they’re interesting. I follow them. Sometimes, they follow me back.
- I’ve been offered work. Tweeps have contacted me to ask me to present at conferences and take on projects. Never was I more surprised than when I was offered a contract to build an evaluation system for an educational organization via a connection that originated on Twitter.
- I’ve learned tons. I check out new resources and share them freely. In the process, I stay on top of what is happening in my field. I’m current and up to date. Must of it is thanks so Twitter and social media.
- My understanding of social media has deepened considerably. Social media changes quickly, but for those who are new to it or still working to really understand what it is and how it can work for them, it is important to know that there are some fundamentals. One of those is that building an engaged following is much more important than just building a following.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.