Wednesday, June 17, 2009

How do you get 10K Twitter-followers legitimately?

NOTE: This post is obsolete. You want this one instead.

I explained yesterday why it's important, professionally, for me to have a large number of Twitter followers, and I pointed out that having quality followers is important: What good is it to have 10K followers if they're all trying to sell you a MLM scam?

I also promised that today, I'd tell you how I got to the 10K Twitter-follower mark legitimately, without sacrificing quality, which is to say without resorting to the sleazy list-juicing tricks that so many "marketing experts" seem to use on Twitter to gain followers.

Here is what worked for me.

I'm in the analyst business. My company doesn't compete directly with Gartner or Forrester or any of the other big analyst firms, but some of Gartner's (and Forrester's, etc.) customers do have an interest in some of the areas we cover. Thus it stands to reason that if someone (a given Twitter user) is following the Twitterstream of a particular analyst working for XYZ Group, that person might very well be interested in following my stream.

So imagine this scenario. Joe Twitter-user works in IT for a big company. He has decided to follow Analyst Linda Lou's Twitterstream because she covers content technology at XYG Group.

I decide to follow Joe Twitter-user on Twitter -- and Joe notices that someone named @kasthomas has decided to follow him. He says: "Hmm, who is this @kasthomas character? I better go check him out." Joe arrives at my Twitter page and sees from my Bio that I'm a content-technology analyst. He scratches his chin, shrugs, and says "Okay, maybe I'll follow this guy and compare what he has to say with what Linda Lou has to say."

The nice thing about Twitter is that people's follower lists are public. I can get the Twitter usernames of all of, say, Forrester's list of 18K+ followers. I can inspect that list by going directly to, or I can harvest the list programmatically by using the Twitter API and a little Javascript.

I have written various scripts (most of which run in the Firebug console; some are Greasemonkey scripts) that do things like harvest a given account's followers, do a diff between my follower list and another list, and batch-follow a given group of IDs. I also have scripts for finding out who I'm following that is not following me back, and purging those people from my Following list. I've blogged before about some of these scripting techniques, which (as I say) often involve only a few lines of code that can be run in the Firefox/Firebug console.

Bottom line, it's not rocket science. You follow people with common interests. They follow you back. Or not.

Now as to how you can meaningfully follow and process incoming tweets from thousands of followees, that's another story. And another blog, for another day.

For more on this, see my 99-cent e-book.


  1. Anonymous9:09 AM

    Follower count on Twitter is very much becoming an inverse to the persons overall value.

    Somehow you ended up following me, and then I followed you back, and then I looked at your contributions and unfollowed you.

    These latest blog posts, spanning multiple days discussing the (non)relevance of your follower count is an example of how little value you have to offer.

    It seems that the majority of unknown names on Twitter with massive follower counts seem to have gotten there script-matically. There is no indication that follower count==value, and there are many indicators that 3/4 or more of your followers are not reading what you post (they follow too many people to keep up with the streams, they are dead/idle accounts, they are spammers, etc.).

  2. "Follower/Followee" counts are quickly becoming irrelevant -- it's nice to be able to broadcast your message to thousands of other users, but if they're overwhelmed with the incoming tweets from the thousands of people they follow, what's the point?

  3. Anonymous11:31 AM

    I want to be able to have different priority levels on the people I follow. For instance, there's a handful of people I NEVER want to miss. Then there's a large group of people I want to only catch up on periodically. The last group would be people I'm not really interested in, only because they post way too much info that I can only peek at once in awhile or filter it based on keywords.

    Is this possible?

  4. Well Kas, you're true to your profile, a real nerd '-)

    With that, I'll just share an experience from the weekend. I started a new Twit identity for a special project. Immediately I had 20 or so followers who apparently did it via some watch script. How annoying. When I had an old account a few years ago, it was fun to watch the count grow without machine annoyance.

    I liked Twitter much better before Oprah and Ellen got on it.

    I got nastygrams from a couple of people I unfollowed. Sorry but I don't need to know when the cat peed while sitting on the couch next to you. There's enough disgusting crap on the web.

    The query from Anonymous about is interesting. A priority queue would be of value.

  5. I understand why Twitter doesn't have an option to auto-follow anyone who follows you. It would greatly increase the drive for spammers to follow everyone they could. It would be nice to have an option (maybe in a user control panel) to see who you may be following and which ones are following you. Also, it might be nice to see some general data on your followers (geographic, age range, etc)

  6. While the number of followers might not be as relevant now. The number of people who list you is becoming very relevant.

    The listing feature seems to remove problems of following so many people the feed is clogged. Listing allows people to separate the content they desire daily from the random things.

    I would say at this point being listed is way more important than being followed.

  7. Anonymous8:59 AM

    I have just under 40,000 followers. I follow everyone back except the porn an MLM people. The fastest way to get unfollowed is to be stupid enough to put MLM in your twitter name.
    I can't keep up with 40k people, I don't even try. In fact I don't read tweets except in my private lists.
    I do post tweets for pay. Between $5 and $40 per tweet. I use to make my own short links so I know that between 100 and 300 people will click anything I post. 24 hours a day, I am sure to get a minimum of 100. For a post I like I'll change the text and tweet it again 8 and 16 hours after the first tweet to cover the time zones. The most I've had is about 1000 people follow one link. The conversion rate? I don't care. That is not my thing. I just post it. If you write poor copy it is you that won't make the sale.

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