Monday, June 13, 2011

How I Earned 8,600 Twitter Followers in 8 Months

So, the beautiful and talented Angela Kulig (@angelakulig) asked me on Twitter how I got so many followers. Well, actually, I can’t say for certain that she’s beautiful. She’s either beautiful or very good at Photoshop. Whichever. However, I can say for certain that she’s talented. I read the first twenty pages of her novel Skeleton Lake and loved it. Oh, wait. I just thought of something. She might have 100 monkeys with typewriters in her basement. If they typed Skeleton Lake, then she’s lucky, not talented. Except with Photoshop. Whatever.

Anyway, I offered to write a blog post on this topic, and she replied, no, send me an email so no-one else knows how to do it. But I’m too lazy to write an email, so I figured out a compromise. I’ll put it on my blog, but tell everyone but Angela not to read it. Okay? So if you’re not Angela Kulig, STOP READING NOW!

Okay, Angela, now that we got rid of the hangers-on, here’s the skinny. I’m not a Twitter expert. I’ve only been on it for eight months. There may be a better way to earn followers, in fact, there probably is. All I can tell you is how I did it. There’s probably an easier way if you’re willing to spend money, but I’m a cheapskate—I’ve spent exactly nothing on Twitter except time. So here’s what I did:


Choose a subject to tweet about. I mostly tweet about writing and young adult novels, because that’s what I’m interested in. I follow about 200 agent, author, editor and reviewer blogs, so when I see something particularly interesting, I tweet about it. I also tweet about volcanoes, my forthcoming novel, ASHFALL, and some random stuff I like, but the bulk of my tweets focus on writing.

If you’re new to Twitter, put a photo up (nobody wants to follow egg-heads), add a description of yourself (tweeps want to know who they’re following), and put 5 or 10 good tweets on your feed, so people can see what you tweet about. When you tweet a link, shorten it. I use, but there are other, possibly easier, ways to shorten links (people want to read what you have to say, not just a long link).

The point is that you have to offer something of value to get people to follow: you earn Twitter followers, you don’t get them.


Pick a Twitter user who’s similar to you. I’m an unknown, debut young adult author so I usually pick people like Karsten Knight (@KarstenKnight ) and Gae Polisner (@gaepol ). Now, follow all their followers. Presumably, if someone is interested in them, they’ll be interested in you as well. You can follow their followers in Twitter, or do it a little faster using Tweepi ( You don’t need to spend any money to do this, Tweepi’s basic service is free, and all the tools you need are included. On Tweepi, you can also see the last time a person tweeted. Skip following anyone who hasn’t been on Twitter for a while—they can’t follow you back if they don’t log on regularly.

If you have fewer than 2,000 followers, go ahead and keep following people until you hit the Twitter-imposed wall at 2,000. Once you have more than 2,000 followers, you’ll be able to follow 10% more people than follow you. So on my account, with 8,600 followers, I can follow almost 9,500 people.


Wait three or four days. While you’re waiting, tweet your interesting, topically focused content. Respond to anyone who sends you an @ message. Follow back everyone who follows you (no need to follow the bots, pornographers, and unknown language tweeters if you don’t want to). Chat. Have fun.

If you picked a good list of people to follow, something between a fifth of them and a third of them will follow you back. So now the trick is to clear out all the deadbeats who didn’t follow back. This part is easy. I use the free tools at ManageFlitter ( to do this—they let me unfollow people 100 at a time. When you finish, you’ll probably be following slightly fewer people than are following you. So now what? Easy, go back and repeat step 2. You can do this however often you want. Just don’t repeat the cycle much more often than every three days or so—you’ve got to give people time to follow you back. You should pick up several hundred new followers every time you run through this follow/unfollow cycle.


Okay, so you did steps 1-3 succesfully, and you now have 86 bazillion followers. How do you keep track of them all? I do it using the Twitter lists feature. I keep a list called Interesting Tweeps. I add all the people who retweet me or engage in conversations with me to this list. When I log onto Twitter, I rarely even look at my main feed. Instead I flip to my Interesting Tweeps list. These are the people I want to retweet or chat with—they’re my supporters.

Hope that helps, Angela! Shoot me an email if you have questions. Or we can keep exchanging private blog posts. Whichever.