We’ve all experienced this magical moment. You get a *bleep* on your phone, or a notification in your browser. You hurriedly refresh your feed and, lo and behold, it’s a new follower!
This is one of the best moments in all of Twitter: being followed. The rush of excitement, joy, and a touch of narcissism combine into a feeling unlike anything else. For that brief, euphoric instant, we feel we are being catapulted to fame.
But what then?
This is the moment of truth. What do you do after you’ve been followed? The actions taken after receiving a new follower separate the eggs from the eagles on Twitter. These next moments will define your relationship with this person.
What do most people do?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing! They just sit there, business as usual, believing their tweets will continue to rake in heaps of adoring fans. This is the worst possible course of action, aside from sending automated DMs about iPads. (But seriously, if you are sending automated DMs to new followers you should consider a career in shallow pool diving or concrete shoe modeling. Do us all a favor and stop it!)
So, what should you do when you have a new follower?
Here’s my five step strategy I employ when I’m followed:
(1 Look at Their Profile and Recent Tweets.
First, I look at their handle. Anyone with a picture of a half-naked woman making duck lips at a camera with a name like “ghchs13” is a bot, so no point wasting time on them. If they have a picture and a normal handle, I take a more detailed look. I examine their follower ratio (You can tell a lot about a person by their follower ratio), then I quickly peruse their recent tweets.
In their recent tweets, I’m looking for @ mentions and retweets with commentary. If all I see is a syndicated feed of posts, then this person is only good for padding my follower count. Mentions and old-school retweets are demonstrative of an active discourse, which means the tweep in question is far more likely to engage with me. Communicative tweeps are key to building your sphere of influence on Twitter, as only people that talk to me will recommend me to their followers. We may live in the digital era, but word of mouth recommendations are as strong as ever: People who are known and trusted by their followers make killer recommendations.
(2 Look at their bio
Assuming they’ve passed the test of communication, I take a lot at their bio. When looking at a bio, I’m looking for common interests—anything that I can use to craft a personalized and meaningful starting interaction. (A lot of people follow a similar process, so make sure your bio is interesting and effectively documents your passions. Here are some good tips on how to write a killer Twitter bio.)
(3 Welcome Your Follower by Asking an Epic Question.
So I’ve finished looking at their bio. Now it’s time to craft an epic welcome message. This is another place where people fail. Just saying “Thanks for the follow” no longer cuts the mustard in the bustling twittersphere. You need to stand out— make them think. You must showcase how epic you are!
Here are some examples:
When I was followed by a Kindle published author, I said:
“Well howdy there, fellow writer. Saw your book is available on Kindle. How hard was that to do?”
Not the most epic of tweets, but it gets a conversation going in a topic-related direction. Also, Kindle publishing is something I do want to learn, so why not ask someone who knows?
When I was followed by an electronic musician from my hometown, I wanted to make sure I made an impression. I noticed he had been replaying pokemon red from reading his recent tweets, so I asked:
“Thanks for the follow. I see you’re into the EDM game as well. If your music was a Pokemon, which one would it be and why?”
Anything Pokemon-related qualifies as an epic tweet in my book. (His answer was “Likatung,” which is all kinds of awesome. We talk constantly now, and I’m sure it’s partially owing to the epic nature of our introduction.)
(4 Put Your New Follower into a Special List.
In the beginning of a Twitter relationship, I want to pay extra special attention to a person’s tweets. Since I follow a lot of people, it’s easy to lose a new tweep in the noise of the crowd, so I have a list specifically to keep track of the newbies. I think of it as an incubation chamber for future conversational partners, a place to nurture human relationships with all the tender, loving care an epic tweep deserves.
After I see a someone’s activity for a few days, I have a better idea about where I will relocate them, based on activity and topics of interest. If, during this trial period, we fall out of communication or I start to dislike their tweets, I remove them from my list. I still follow them, assuming they are following me, but the sheer number of people I follow renders anyone not listed effectively invisible. Most people get dumped into the pit of ignored lurkers; only the most epic of tweeps make it into my precious lists.
(5 Ask for Referrals.
Once I’ve built a solid Twitter relationship with someone, I get to start the process all over again! I use their connections (we picked the people with active followers for just this reason) to find the people they like most. Meeting new people goes quite smoothly with a mutual point of reference, and I encourage my followers to suggest their favorite tweeps to me. I dive in, talk to their followers, and rinse and repeat my five step process until my entire day is filled by that beautiful *bleep* sound my phone makes.
There you have it, my labor intensive guide to building epic Twitter relationships! It takes a great deal more effort than mass following a bunch of people and flushing the non-followbacks, but this method builds real, lasting Twitter relationships. Tweeps that pass these five steps are far more likely to retweet me, include me in their #FFs, and be a rich source of information and opinions. Communication is the lynchpin of social media, and having an engaged, passionate follower base is essential to make the most of all that Twitter has to offer.
Mr. David Benson is a social media analyst and coffeephile. He currently lives in New York City and works as an analyst for Mashwork, a social media analytics company.