My Experiment with Twitter

I know you are all patiently waiting for the next chapter (on Attribution). It is coming along nicely. It has expanded so much that it will actually be split in two: Attribution is Hard and Attribution is EasyStay tuned.

In the meantime I wanted to share my new experiment with Twitter.

In general for a business I don’t believe Twitter is a great place to sell your product. But it has a lot of value in creating social signals which drive SEO results (which I will go over in my Social Media Chapter). And it also has great uses beyond sales.

Twitter is an incredible tool for communicating with people who otherwise would never spend the time to talk to you. I can’t pick up the phone and call Tom Peters. If I sent him an email it would very likely be ignored or handled by an assistant. But I can sent him a Twitter message and more often than not he will write back (and if it’s interesting enough reply publicly to his following). Lady Gaga isn’t going to chat with you, but your favorite author may only have 100 followers and jump at the chance to interact.

Apart from the interaction, Twitter, to me, is a great media discovery tool. When I started on Twitter I only followed media outlets. My Twitter feed was just a list of headlines I could click through to. Apart from maybe Reddit, it’s the best tool I’ve found.

Over time I’ve added personalities and some friends to my Twitter feed. I tend to follow other people who post links to interesting content. Effectively just expanding the diversity of the headlines. It was a great model, and I recommend it for anyone who is looking for a media-discovery solution.

The issue is that the model doesn’t help me build my following. With the launch of this blog I am putting out content – but I get more traffic to this site from my facebook friends than I do my tiny Twitter following.

So I am changing my tactics from being optimized for content discovery to optimizing for follower growth. And the strategy I am going to use is copied from  Jeff Faria. Jeff is an author who’s first book is ‘coming soon’. Without being any sort of celebrity he managed to build a following of almost 100,000 people.

Here is how he did it:

  1. Find/create lists of people to follow who you would like to follow you
  2. Follow as many of those people as you can every day (within Twitter’s limits)
  3. Wait a week or so. Unfollow the people that don’t follow you back
  4. If someone follows you un-prompted, send them a direct message with content you would like shared, and then scan their recent tweets and re-tweet something that you think would be valuable for them. If they re-tweet your content then follow them. If they don’t then don’t follow them

That’s it.

The tool he used was

The challenge in all of this is two-fold:

  1. You have to follow and unfollow a lot of people – and you have to do it manually. Thankfully for $12/month ManageFilter makes it a lot easier
  2. Twitter has all sorts of rules to prevent spammers, and this strategy can trigger those rules if you aren’t careful

Due to Twitter rules when you have a small following you can only add about 200 or so new ‘follows’ per day. And unless you have more than 2000 followers yourself, you can’t follow more than 2000 people. Which means that after ten days you have to start cleaning out your followers (i.e., unfollow people who haven’t followed you) before you can start trying to build again.


So here is my plan starting today – February 18th, 2014.

I will start following 200 or so people a day who are interested in Marketing or Marathons (two pick two of my interests). Once I get to 2000 people I am following I will start unfollowing the earliest 200 accounts that are not following me, and I will add 200 more new accounts. I will keep repeating this process.

If you were recently followed by me (and found your way to this post), now you know why. Hopefully you will follow back.

I will come back to this post every week or so with my results.

February 18th (morning): Followers (167), Following (260)

February 18th (evening): Followers (189), Following (560)



I tried to continue the plan I started on the 18th following 400 or so people a day. I was immediately warned by the software that I was following too many people in a seven-day period and that I was likely to set-off Twitters spam filters. They gave me that warning even if I only followed 10 people in a specific day. So I wasn’t able to follow many more people for a week after my ‘splurge’. So latest numbers:

February 25th (evening): Followers: (226), Following (585)

So net effect was I followed an additional 315 people and picked up an additional 59 followers – or about 19% follow-back rate.


On March 3rd I found a way to export all of my LinkedIn contacts into a CSV file and upload the CSV file to Gmail. Then I linked my Twitter account with Gmail and followed any LinkIn contact that had a profile picture and at least one tweet (about 250 people of my 1000+ LI contacts). On the recommendation of ManageFlitter I’ve pulled back on my daily follows to 50 folks, but doing it every day (rather than 100/day for 3-4 days/week).

My new totals:

March 6th (mid-day): Followers: (343), Following (1,305)

That’s 117 new followers with 675 new follows (not counting this morning) -> 17.3% follow-back rate

The difference between 19% and 17% is likely noise. But at the same time I have implemented BufferApp to create a stead (~4-5/day) of quality tweets (which is driving un-initiated followers). It could be that the reduced follow-back ratio is driven by the disproportionate Follower:Following ratio I now have (3.8:1). It will be interesting to continue to monitor that follow-back rate and see how it trends as my F:F ratio changes.


The experiment continues. I will continue to follow ~50 folks a day for the next 2 weeks. At that point I should have numbers that look something like Following (2000), Followers (450). When I hit that point I will start unfollowing people at the same rate as I follow new folks until I get my follower count up to 2000.


Next update in a week.


Stay tuned!

If you are reading this and haven’t followed me yet, now would be a great time: @ednever

Have any other tips for growing your Twitter base? Please comment below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.