Most of the the tutorials on the web dealing with growing your Twitter followers, don’t pay any attention to location, and are more concerned with raw numbers. I recently started a local travel website and wanted to focus on gaining local followers from that city and surrounding areas. While I can’t reveal the profile, this tutorial will walk you through how I did it.
First the background: this was a travel related website in one of the top 20 metros in the United States. The goal of the account was to build brand recognition by being a curator and online guide that answered people’s questions. The account extended some good will by retweeting the tweets of other non competing hospitality related accounts or other local focused stories. The account would be used once every 1-2 weeks to push out a linkbait, social media, lead gen, or sales tweet.
Next I decided what sort of activity level I want for the account. In this case I aimed for 3-6 informational or news based tweets per day (non self serving tweets). These tweets would usually happen between 12-5pm in the prime timezone of the account. Using in account lists, I aimed for 2-4 retweets per day. I started with a list of 12 terms that would be checked 2-3 times per day to see if we could answer any questions people had. The account had one tweet per day if there was a new post, and the posting schedule was 2-3 posts per week. The account also had an 18 hour archive tweet rotation (I use tweet old posts to accomplish this). While this may seem pretty mechanical, I’m a big fan of letting humans use tools and automation to be more efficient and get more done (aka nap time by the pool on a sunny afternoon).
With my Twitter posting goals in place, I started out tweeting at about half of my desired rate, for the simple reason that no one was following me yet. I wanted new followers to see a history when they decided if I was worth following or not (I’ve been doing this for too long and am far too jaded to be objective about what non marketers really look at when deciding to follow you on Twitter or not).
I started out with a list of social media gurus who were running automated accounts that follow everyone who follows them. I knew I was never going to get their attention, but I was interested in the social proof of having some followers and not being seen as a spammer. Once you have about 50 of these, you should have the basics covered.
Next I made 4 lists for hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, and other travel/hospitality businesses and their web addresses. I sent this list to oDesk to have someone find the Twitter and Facebook profiles for each of the businesses. If you are bootstrapping, you could do this yourself. You can use the information a second time down the road for a who’s who in social media in the area ego link bait post.
A few days later, when the work came back completed, I followed all of the accounts and created separate lists on Twitter for each of the categories (this made retweeting others easier).
After the base accounts were followed, I started mining the followers (see How to get more followers on twitter). This is where it becomes more an art than a science. Look for people who are important in the space. You should follow them even though they probably won’t follow you back. Second, look for conversationalists who tweet back and forth about your niche topic often. Third, look for people who are “promoters” or who have an “agenda” but are likely to retweet you if you have retweeted them. Lastly, look for real people who live in the area you are targeting. These are people who will probably never retweet or link to you, but they will click your link, read your page, fill out a lead gen form, or buy something from you.
Adding new followers is a bit of a game. You follow them, wait a few days, and unfollow the people who didn’t follow you back. If you’re used to playing in a social media friendly space you can build up 2,000 followers in a matter of days. In the normal world, you’ll have to go a lot slower. You can follow up to 2,000 more people than are following you, but I recommend never getting that far ahead. I recommend never following more than 200-300 more people than are following you because it just makes you look spammy. I used managefilter and check all in Firefox to speed up the unfollow process.
When you are adding followers, one of the things you want to look at is the number of followers. You want to have an idea where the high bar is and where the average is. In this particular case, most of the accounts had between 500-1000 followers. Some of the accounts with a high brand recognition factor had 2,000 followers. The account with the highest number of followers was just over 6,000 followers.
Here’s a graph of my progress from Raven Tools:
You can see the startpoint of 50, followed by the initial surge, then the purge. Every few days the number of accounts I was following would jump, followed by a purge a few days later. You’ll also need to manually unfollow a few people who are excessively chatty, self promotional, or spammy. I ended up adding a few more in account lists because everyone didn’t fit into neat little boxes.
Once your account is up and running and you’ve got followers, it doesn’t mean your work is over. You’ll need to keep working on growing your followers, but you can do it more slowly. I’d suggest going on a follower growth campaign every 2 weeks. Depending on how good you are at making the account interesting, you may not have to be as aggressive in pursuing new followers.
The key message of this post is to be strategic in who you are following and trying to get to follow you. Don’t obsess over getting a high number of followers. Be more concerned with getting qualified followers. If you are a local business and can’t provide a service over the web, having 500,000 followers who can never visit your store or make a purchase doesn’t have much value. As an example, you still can’t get a good haircut over the web, and it’s unlikely people hundreds of miles away will ever come to your hair salon. Instead, look for people who are interested in what you are publishing or selling and have a high likelihood of actually becoming one of your customers.
Check out Graywolf's SEO Blog for more articles by Michael Gray.