Hell or High Numbers

I’ve been asked over past weeks frequent times by friends and virtual connections about recent notable social media follower growth in my networks, which in part inspires this post. According to a third-party tracking system with Twitter API, I’ve averaged just under 100 new followers per day over the past month, along with about 100 new Linkedin connections and several hundred Linkedin requests per month. Best of all, they are real, engaged and relevant users that required no investment of funds and little investment of time to acquire. Everyone have a different approach to social networking, and I thought I’d take some time to reveal my personal social growth strategy.

First Off, Should You Buy Followers?.. No.

Buying growth on social media simply doesn’t pay off and is not involved in how I operate it, for my own account or those  of friends’ businesses I’ve grown. There are a slew of posts around that discuss this topic, but many focused on the ethical and reputation implications of buying an audience. Actually, I don’t entirely discredit new businesses for buying followers or likes in order to jump start their establishment as a credible and recognized entity to spite their infancy. The bigger issue is that this illusion of fan base is the only value follower purchasing has, and it’s only temporary.

How “Follower Trafficking” Works

The follower trafficking industry works, for the most part, as follows. Someone or a group of people, in most cases somewhere offshore, will market “buy followers” online and via social media. The customary “get more followers” communication is practically ubiquitous, especially on Twitter. Once someone bites and forks over some funds, followers get achieved in one of two ways:

    • One way is through masses of fake accounts created by the group solely for the purpose of following customers that will begin to follow your account. Fake names, stolen or default profile images and fickle followers are notorious for these accounts. Because there is nobody actually behind these accounts engaging with your tweets, the value of having them follow is basically limited solely to the perception of a large following. Since Twitter limits every user’s following-to-follower ratio (in a mysterious algorithm that only Twitter seems to know the specific configuration of), at some point, all the fake accounts top out and either get banned by Twitter or, in some cases, the group owners begin to unfollow past customers to make room for the new ones. As a result, even the value of follower perception only lasts as long as the fake accounts do, and the numbers will eventually drop almost entirely.
    • Another way involves actually handing your username and password over to the seller. Once they could login as you on Twitter, they will follow a multitude of people that they feel will follow back (i.e. those people who insistently tweet #followme, #followback and/or are followers of “follow back” accounts, of which there are no shortage on Twitter). They will continue following the people who followed you, and unfollow those who didn’t follow back to keep the numbers level. Software like “JustUnfollow.com” or “Unfollowers.com” is normally used for this. The result is having more following accounts, more follower accounts (who are actually real), but followers who don’t particularly care about the specific universe or brand that your represent. Someone who’s passionate about cars, and tweets mainly around #auto, might find only a small percentage actually engage and create any value for their account. “FollowBack” people I find also tend to unfollow users, even ones that follow them back.

Forcing Real, Organic Growth

A strong method for real, engaged Twitter followers who care about your content is what I use, which could even translate to value in other channels as it does for me. I follow targeted users who appear to be incredibly relevant to the things that I like and tweet about regularly (in my case technology, digital marketing, growth/bio-hacking, among some others). I do this “user following” at very specific timing, normally around 8:45 to 9:30 PM EST during the week and Sundays, – when east coast is checking out Twitter before bed and west coast is finishing up dinner – and midday Saturdays. If someone is actively on Twitter at the time you follow them, the likelihood of them clicking the notice of a new follower and thus following back I find is much higher.

It’s important though, when a user sees a follow from someone new, that the first visuals they see on the follower’s page are pleasing and strikingly relevant. My page is simple in design so it’s easy on the eyes. No bright colors or background images; Twitter interface already has a lot going on visually, adding more detail comes off a bit erratic and overwhelming in my opinion. As a result, eyes focus on my profile image and bio. My bio contains my personal definition of “modern marketing,” a topic that I and those I follow care about: “Modern #Marketing is the Elegant Collision of #Creativity #Technology and #Strategy.” Because the message is relatable, reaction is favorable. I very often get followed back, and my bio quote frequently even gets copied and pasted into a tweet that @ mentions me. If the bio is not enough to establish commonality to merit a follow back, my latest tweets often are. Since all my tweets run consistent with my bio messaging – quotes, memes, and articles on the topics I like and follow people based on – when a newly followed user first scrolls through my activity it seemss to often solidifies the relevance and desire to connect based on the frequent follow back reaction. I’ve found due to these variable, along with strategically targeting followed users using hashtag searches and viewing the followers of relevant friends, I achieve about a 75-80% follow back rate.

But what about those 20-25% non-followers? Well, there is simply little value in following people who don’t follow you back, unless you really enjoy and retweet their content. Otherwise, they are simply taking up room on your following list and, even with an incredibly high follow back rate, even a small non-follow back percentage will eventually skew the ratio unfavorably. As a result, I use JustUnfollow to monitor non-follows (people who have not followed back) and unfollows (people who had followed mutually but then unfollowed me). After allotting a couple weeks’ time to act, I will assume they do not find relevancy between us and I will unfollow them as a result.

How Does This Create Broader Value Outside of Twitter?

Diversifying your brand to other social networks is important. Not everyone uses Twitter or uses it often enough, and showing an extensive reach on multiple channels shows multifaceted success. For me, Twitter is the nucleus that other networks revolve around and feed off of. One cross-channel influence is my handle for Instagram and link for LinkedIn posted in my bio, beneath my quote. For people looking to expand all their networks, they have easy access to connect with me on different levels with just a couple clicks. More effective is my use of automation using a JustUnfollow feature that sends an auto-direct message to new followers, which I use to push them to LinkedIn with this automated note: “Hey there – let’s connect on LinkedIn! Linkedin.com/in/vincechiofolo.”

Those who follow many people on Twitter will notice many auto-DMs, often starting with “Thanks for following,” “Thanks, nice to meet you,” etc. For mine, I get right to the point. Albeit a nice, friendly gesture, I notice myself disregarding a DM once I see the first word “thanks,”  anticipating the rest to be an auto-message. Instead, I use a seemingly personal opener then jump right in to the call-to-action to Linkedin connecting. It works. Out of about 100 Twitter followers per day, I get 10-15 Linkedin requests alongside them, sometimes much more. To keep Linkedin clean, if some requests are irrelevant or appear to have little networking value, I simply ignore the request (but never deny, AKA “I don’t know them,” which could hurt their reputation with Linkedin). Ignoring sounds rude, but if we’re not relevant to network, there is little potential value for either of us to connect.

New people  in addition to simply people following back follow too. If even loosely relevant, users should always be followed back. Not following back is a poor way to enhance your follower-to-following ratio, as people using a similar approach to mine will see that you don’t follow, render you uninterested in a connection and thus unfollow you.

The overall approach is quite simple really: follow targeted, likeminded people at optimal Twitter times, set up a strategically-crafted profile, an auto-DM for cross-channel connection, a platform for intermittent unfollowing of redundant users, and post good relevant content. With this strategy, followers on multiple networks will stream in by using only minor efforts and time equating to just minutes per day. Even days I forget or don’t have time to follow anyone or post anything still result in 40-50 new followers carrying over from efforts of previous days. Good strategy, the right technology, with a splash of creativity avoids need to spend money on rubbish and instead harvests organic gold.

Happy networking.

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