Twitter Follow Strategy: Are You Really Building Relationships?

by Wayne Liew

in Social Media

If you are immersed in the crazy world of social media, you don’t need another person to tell you how powerful Twitter has become as a marketing tool and a platform to network or to discover new connections. People use Twitter in a variety of ways. Marketers and business owners apply different strategies to make Twitter work for them.

I am on Twitter for almost two years now. I achieved a lot in terms of getting business, building traffic for this blog and I also established professional connections that I might not have come across if not because of the platform. However, stepping into 2010, I want to get more out of Twitter by switching my strategies a little, especially after getting some inspiration from Twitter Marketing: Why You Don’t Need to Mass Follow Users by Maki.

Twitter Homepage

Please note that this is not a post on how you should be using Twitter. Everyone is entitled to use Twitter the way they like it. This is just a new strategy that I am experimenting. If you have your own Twitter marketing strategy to share or suggestions which I can implement to improve this strategy of mine, feel free to leave a comment below.

Mass Following on Twitter: How Effective It Is?

On Twitter, most marketers and business owners are following a sequence of steps that can be outlined with the points below:

  • Follow a large number of relevant Twitter users.
  • Initiate a conversation when opportunity arises.
  • Promoting products, services or content occasionally with the hope that 1% of their total followers will click.
  • Remove inactive users from the following list.
  • Rinse and repeat.

I was once a big proponent of this Twitter marketing strategy. The following are the reasons why I adopted it and questions that popped into my head over the last couple of days.

Mass following for traffic. A huge follower base generated spikes of traffic every time I publish a new blog post. However, having not even 1% of my Twitter followers click on the links I tweet got me thinking. Am I truly engaged with the two thousand plus followers that I currently have? Do my followers have enough trust in me?

Low Plane, People Excited

Mass following for professional relationships. Through Twitter, I got to know a lot of like-minded individuals. Yes, the number of people that I know has gone up but am I doing enough to maintain the relationships, and bring them to the next level? With all the noise caused by the thousands of people that I was following, am I missing out tweets from individuals that really matter?

Mass following to listen to your community. I was following close to two thousand people consisting of marketers, small business owners and entrepreneurs because I want to keep tabs on the conversations that are happening. I realized I can do that by monitoring Twitter Search and by following the influencers. By putting everyone in my main Twitter stream, am I focusing more on the noise rather than key happenings or trends?

Turning Twitter into a Relationship Nurturing Platform

Twitter will still be an essential part of my marketing strategy to find new connections but for me, it will slowly become a relationship nurturing tool. Twitter will become a platform that facilitates interaction with people that I care most about rather than just another broadcasting tool.

Formidable relationships cannot be created through once-every-two-months interactions. Constant interactions, value adding and care are the key ingredients to build strong connections that will not only reciprocate but also willing to take that extra step to help you out someday.

Think about this. Instead of spreading your attention everywhere and hope that something will latch on, why not create a loyal community around your business or brand that will go all out to promote you and your business to their followers?

Here’s a challenge for you. How many of your followers actually know who you are by just looking at your username in their main Twitter stream? Also, do you know all the names in your main Twitter stream and what they do for a living?

Twitter Lists for Followers Relationship Management

Twitter Lists will play a huge part in this new strategy. Not all followers and individuals that I am following are equal. Some of them are prospective customers, some are authorities and influencers in my niche while some are just individuals that I love to chat with.

In customer relationship management, we use sophisticated CRM tools to remind us of followups and the stage of engagement with our clients or customers. In the case of Twitter, it will not be that complicated but segmenting will put you in a different mode when interacting with different sets of people.

Twitter Lists of Wayne Liew

Here are the core Twitter Lists that every marketer and business owner must have on Twitter:

  • Buffer. Acting as a waiting list for sorting purposes, new followers or interesting individuals that I came across will first go here. Placing them in this List allows me to understand their tweeting style and determine how I can further develop the connections.
  • Authorities. In every topic, niche or industry, there will be authoritative figures or influencers that boast a large number of followers or a sizeable community. You should be paying attention to them for the purpose of learning, trends monitoring or just to find an opportunity to reach out. You will miss important tweets by them if you fail to separate these individuals from others.
  • Prospects. Twitter can be a very effective tool to help businesses find prospective clients or customers. Questions relevant to your industry are being asked in this massive chat room all the time and as a business, you should approach these users with your answer or solution. While waiting for their response, why not put them into this List? This will ease the follow up and value adding process in the future.
  • Customers. Not all customers are equal and not every one of them purchases the same products or services from you. Segmenting them out according to products or services that you offer or the degree of loyalty can help you in distributing promotional messages in a more targeted manner. On top of that, support staffs can be assigned to handle a particular set of Lists.
  • Competitors. They are monitoring your social media activities anyway so why aren’t you? Follow them from a private List. This will not only let you know about what they are up to but opportunities such as a customer support crisis faced by them might arise from time to time.

If you didn’t realize it yet, you can follow someone using Twitter Lists without actually following him/her from your Twitter profile. This is why even though I unfollowed so many individuals, I am still replying to some of them. Also, by setting a List to private, accounts that are followed will not be notified.

My advice will be to make sensitive Lists and Lists for internal purposes, such as Competitors, Prospects, Cool People, Pretty Chicks, etc., private. The last thing you want to happen is a close friend coming to you asking why isn’t he/she on  the Nice People list.

Will My Twitter Follower Count Drop?

Two Man in a Clear Blue Ocean

What will happen to your follower count if you start unfollowing everyone that you don’t know right now? Your follower count will drop. Why? Well, most accounts on Twitter are managed by bots or simply, they are spam accounts. These accounts detects who unfollowed them and they are programmed to reciprocate just so they can follow more people.

The follower count is irrelevant should you decide to follow this Twitter marketing strategy. Forget about it! What you want is quality followers, a strong community that is not only interactive towards your tweets but also helps to influence others with your message.

Applying the Strategy to Other Social Media Platforms

I am still in the process of testing this strategy out on Twitter and so far, I am glad that keeping up with all user groups that are relevant to what I do is so much easier.

Over the next few days, I might modify this strategy so that it can be applied to my Facebook account. It will be a harder task due to the higher concentration of my personal connections over there. Nevertheless, I will continue to optimize my social media marketing strategy to find one that suits me and my business the best. Marketers, interactive agencies, and business owners apply different strategies to make Twitter work for them. You should too!

Your Take on Twitter Follow Strategy

How are you currently following people on Twitter? Do you use Twitter Lists and how are you using it to your advantage? Do you have any comments about the strategy that I adopted and explained above?

Leave your feedback, questions and opinions in the comments section below.

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Photo Credits: matt.hintsa and visualpanic


Chris Hughes January 20, 2010 at 11:47 am

great post bro! I've found that Twitter lists have helped me dramatically in furthering the relationships I was developing in Twitter. When I first started, I thought “oh, I'll just follow a ton of people and a certain % will follow me back”…that worked to get me a lot of followers but I wasn't creating relationships with them…

Lately I've switched the approach to creating relationships FIRST and foremost. It's helped me dramatically and the information shared here is GOLDEN!

Keep it up bro,

Adam Wexler January 20, 2010 at 12:30 pm

i agree twitter lists is a major development that few have recognized/utilized optimally thus far (including myself).

for example, the “celebrities” i follow should probably be grouped into an “entertainment” list. i think it's important to maintain a ~1:1 follower:following ratio, and since they rarely follow back, lists could be a great asset for their inclusion (rather than following).

additionally, i think you're right-on about focusing on those relationships you want to build & subsequently nurture. it's easy to get caught up in twitter, but if you identified the select number of people you wished to improve your relationship, i think you could be a lot more efficient with your time on twitter…and in the “outside world” 🙂

-adam w.

Wayne Liew January 22, 2010 at 8:30 am

Thank you for the comment, Chris.

I'm glad that you are one of the few Twitter users that focus on building
relationships, interacting with followers and helping them out whenever you
can. Always grateful that I am able to have you as a connection on Twitter.

Keep up your social media efforts dude. You're doing great!

Wayne Liew January 22, 2010 at 8:37 am

Hey Adam, thanks for taking time to comment.

Celebrities rarely follow back but their fans do. Perhaps you should reach
out to super fans on Twitter in order to promote KnowEm. 😉

Reaching out to people that really matter to you, for me, is way better than
blasting your messages out to the space. Yes, people might get to know you
that way, but it will be a very shallow relationship and it's going to be
hard for you to keep up too.

Chris Hughes January 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

Thanks Wayne! You're information's been a huge asset to my development and I'm glad that I got to meet you!

Too many of those silly twitter products have focused on getting quantity of followers and not quality… it's people like you and @DavidBeKing (Twitter Influence) who have helped me realize the importance of quality followers > quantity of followers.

robate159 February 19, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Small business

2) The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary……….

robate159 February 20, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Small business
4) Small Business owners are largely forgotten. Thats why I only focus on them. I have experience several members of my family file bankruptcy due to small business failures. I also I suffered through 2 destroyed businesses due to failure however, in my failings I have learned some of the secrets to success. (Who can say they know it all?)
What I like about small business owners is that they are not afraid to take huge risks and lay it all on the line. But, I agree they do need a lot of help with their marketing. I think having them go the social media and email route is not only the least expensive but its also the most effective. Thanks for the stats!

JBestler September 9, 2010 at 8:37 pm

100% Correct. I believe in starting out every relational building web site small and working on the relationships. Once you have built a real relationship with someone, they are normally willing to promote you to their social grid…

shedsafe January 22, 2011 at 4:46 pm

When I first begun, I considered “oh, I’ll just pursue a ton of persons and a certain % will pursue me back”…that worked to get me many of followers but I wasn’t conceiving connections with them…

Karen Gutierrez October 12, 2011 at 11:02 pm

I just wanted to say that I really like this post. To so many, Twitter is a numbers game. You do a great job explaining and justifying an alternative approach. I’m bookmarking this to share with colleagues. Thanks.

Karen Gutierrez
Social Media Manager
U.S. Bank

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