Now that you’re in the Social Media Scene, it’s time to start focusing on the quality of your following. As Business Engagement goes, Twitter has become an absolute favorite for most business owners. As a matter of fact, a new trend is emerging, in which major companies are creating a Twitter Page, especially for Support requests.

Other companies may not create an entire separate page, yet still engage their customers actively and frequently through their Twitter page, creating an instantaneous Support Desk on the fly. I for one, think this is absolutely genius. The viral nature of Twitter, combined with it’s low cost and immediate gratification for your customers, make it an excellent engagement tool for your business.

So, your Marketers, Support Agents, or for those start-ups out there, you, yourself (I know the feeling ;-)), jump on Twitter ready to engage your audience, answer questions, have a little #HashTagParty and get the engagement going, only to discover most of your first tweets, replies and conversation attempts seem to fall on deaf ears. Then it becomes immediately apparent, you must develop a following. However, we want to really stress the point that:  it’s not how many followers you have, but how many relevant followers you have.

Below are 4 Great Tips for growing not only (or even necessarily) a large following (which may or not happen – and which may or may not even need to happen), but for growing a relevant, purposeful and beneficial following. Having 150 followers who engage with you, share your posts, pass your ideas along and converse with you, is worth far more than 20,000 followers who never have a response, a reply, a share or even a nod your way.

Growing your Twitter following into a relevant group of people who engage with you, is done mainly with 4 basic Twitter principles:

  • Find and follow relevant people.
  • Tweet content that will be interesting to your target audience.
  • Engage with your audience.
  • Promote your Twitter account through other channels.

#1 Find and Follow Relevant People:

The first step here, before journeying out into Twitter society, is a very basic and very over-looked one indeed: start with an awesome profile. This includes getting your house in order by keeping a tidy eye on things such as:

  • Profile photo: Make sure you’re using a photo of your face for your personal account or a logo for your business account. Research has shown that people trust faces more that they’ve seen multiple times, which is why a photo of your smiling face works best.
  • Detailed bio: You’ve got 160 characters, so get creative! Let people know why they should be following you.
  • Location: Because so much of business is local these days, make sure you include your location as appropriate. It can be the make or break for follows.

I have recently found a nifty little tool, Twello, a third party tool for finding relevant Twitter users to follow, based on categories and search terms. Yes, that’s right, not to follow you, for you to follow. This is how it works in Twitter, you find users who are relevant to your industry, your goals and what you’re trying to accomplish, and follow them. Remember, don’t be shy because of competitor fear, it’s perfectly acceptable for one Web Design Company to follow a Hub Page where all types of Web Design Companies hang out, or even to follow one of the other companies themselves. Following others is the very best way to get followers.

Most quality users will follow you back, for starters, in addition, you are now on another users list of followers so anyone who follows them, can see that you follow them as well. As a matter of fact, most random or out of the blue follows I receive, come from the follow/followed by lists of other users I have followed.  That being said, it’s easy to see why being on another Web Designer’s follow list, particularly one that has a massive following, may not be such a bad idea for a Web Designer trying to grow his/her own following.

#2: Tweet Interesting Stuff

That’s not quite as easy as it sounds these days, right?

A good method for finding daily interests to write about, is to join several LinkedIn groups of interests and topics your audience would enjoy, and set up daily inbox alerts for new topics and conversations. This is a great way to stay on top of the trending topics for your audience as well. Google Alerts is another awesome idea for content, if you haven’t set up any alerts yet, try it out and see. You can set up alerts to be sent to your inbox from Google, as soon as new conversations and topic trends are noticed about a particular topic you select. This one is even better, as it pulls from a very broad search term based pool, rather than just from group members, yet group members sometimes provide better targeted topics, so I use both.

Pictures, Videos, Pictures, Videos. People love media, from images, to podcasts, to videos – utilize media in each of your tweets, even if it’s just a quick pic; you’ll be much more likely to get re-tweets and attention with media.

#3 – Engage Your Visitors.

Talk to your customers, not at them. Engage them, converse with them. Any time a customer tweets or shares on your profile, respond to them, quickly and most importantly – use their name. This is awesome and amazing content to both existing and potential customers; an inside view into the goings on between actual customers and the staff is something people love to be in on. If utilized properly, this can be pure gold (it can also turn quickly into pure crisis if the wrong individuals are the staff members answering queries – think McDonalds #bashtag crisis – so do be careful).

Learn how to utilize #HashTags.

Anyone can start a chat on Twitter by using a #hashtag. Here is a list of regularly held Tweeter chats. Try joining in on a few of the chats in your area of expertise; first, just watch and see how the conversation flows, then slowly jump in here and there, making sure you have something of value to add. Before you know it, you’ll be chit-chatting away. Once you’re comfortable with the #hashtag and how chats work, start holding your own chats. Whether you’re holding your own chats, or just joining in on popular existing ones, conversations get you in front of more people, more users, more customers – so join in whenever and wherever you can, again, make sure you always have something valuable to add to the conversation.

Joining the conversation in the right chats at the right time, can quickly build your relevant followers.

#4: Promote Your Twitter Account Through Other Channels

A Twitter following is great and greatly needed. However, never underestimate the followings you’ve built elsewhere.

Mention Twitter and embed tweets on your blog, website and through email (i.e. add a Twitter link to your sig). Add a “follow me” link, linked to your Twitter profile, everywhere you possibly can! In your email sigs, next to your name on blog posts, in the footer/sidebar of your websites, on your paperwork (i.e. invoices, estimates, etc.).

Don’t forget to leverage your other Social Accounts.

Add the same link mentioned above, to all your other Social Profiles. Woobox has an awesome Facebook app, which creates a custom tab with your Twitter feed right on your Fan Page. LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon – all your Social Profiles should have a “follow me” link added.

So there you have it folks, Twitter, Down & Dirty – Quick & easy. 😉 What are your thoughts? Are there any techniques y’all have tried that aren’t listed here? Tell us about it in the comments below!