11 Things That Are Keeping You From Building Followers on Twitter

by Neil Patel

Last updated on July 25th, 2017

Remember when Twitter was just a baby?

Some people loved it. Some people scoffed it. Most people didn’t understand it.

Despite limiting messages to 140 characters and being over a decade old, the microblogging site Twitter still boasts over 65 million active users.

number of twitter active users

Although growth has slowed, the user base has remained steady for the past several years. This means there’s plenty of value in marketing on Twitter, but it can be difficult to build a sizable enough following to matter.

And that’s where most brands feel stuck.

Twitter is different from most social media outlets. It can feel cramped, impersonal, too quick, and just plain uncomfortable.

Where is the warmth, community, and continuity of, say, a Facebook tribe?

Is it possible to build a supportive and engaged collection of followers on Twitter?

The answer is yes.

But there are some things you shouldn’t do.

If you’re stuck trying to figure out how to build a following, don’t purchase followers as it artificially inflates numbers, negatively impacts your business, and can even get your Twitter account banned for violating the site’s terms and conditions.

Instead, check your Twitter strategy for one of these fatal errors.

1. You’re Too Self-Promotional

People tend to follow brands and businesses with an authentic message on social media. When all you do is promote your brand and internal links, it quickly becomes boring.

Georgia Tech researchers recently posted the formula for gaining Twitter followers, and here’s a list of reasons Twitter users unfollow an account.

why twitter users unfollow

Tweeting too many generic broadcasts that aren’t directed at anyone can reduce your follower count by 2.6x.

You need to understand how to create engaging content and post at least 3-5 non-promotional tweets for every promotional one to attract followers instead of losing them.

top priorities for b2c

This strategy of sharing free advice helps you become viewed as a thought leader as opposed to just another Internet marketer begging for clicks.

2. You’re Boring

Sorry, but I have to say it.

You might be boring.

If your audience isn’t responding to your tweets, odds are it’s because you bored them.

Twitter users are finicky and can easily mute you if your content doesn’t fit into their desired focus for their timeline.

AdWeek published an infographic guide to creating the perfect tweet that helps break down the anatomy of a great business tweet.

tips for a perfect tweet

One of the most important things to remember is just because you have a 140-character limit doesn’t mean you need to fill every tweet to that limit.

In fact, you’re better off leaving some extra space, even though the new retweet format no longer limits retweet lengths based on the original post length.

And if you want to get more than just the 140-character limit, simply reply to your own post to make a chain of tweets that will show up in people’s feeds.

Keeping things interesting helps you build a bigger following, as the 2016 election cycle proved when Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump dominated both social media and the polls.

most followed presidential candidates

To keep things organized, I recommend improving quality through lists.

3. You Don’t Follow Back

Brands constantly focus on how many followers they have without putting much thought into who they’re following.

Why does this matter?

Twitter users are 79 percent more likely to recommend a brand they follow and 67 percent more likely to buy from a brand they follow, so it’s not hard to see why companies focus on this KPI.

To truly engage users, however, it’s best to follow them.

Twitter is a tit-for-tat community. If you want people to follow you, then you follow them.

And if someone does you the courtesy of following you, then you may want to follow them back.

Active Twitter members use tools that identify and remove people from their follow list who aren’t following back.

Following back keeps your brand from being unfollowed by services like who.unfollowed.me, which scan profiles to allow users to easily scrub their accounts from following users who don’t follow them back.

If you want to see the power of following people back, simply search the hashtag #TeamFollowBack on Twitter to see how important the concept is to the general user base.

Of course, blindly following anyone back makes you seem like a robot, so be at least a little selective about who you’re following.

4. You Don’t Have a Profile Pic

If you don’t have a profile picture, please, just put one up already!

Brands are more likely using Twitter to increase brand awareness, which is difficult to do without a profile picture.

brands use twitter to boost awareness not sales

Instead of looking like a unique brand with a personal message, you’ll look like hundreds of thousands of generic egg users.

The egg is Twitter’s way of indicating you were, indeed, born yesterday, and many people refuse to follow egg accounts.

Just like brands develop logos and register trademarks and copyrights on business images, the image in your profile pic is important to your branding efforts and can determine whether or not people follow you.

5. You Don’t Retweet or Comment

Retweeting is what Twitter users do.

Retweeting other users and commenting on their tweets helps build a conversation and sense of community among users.

Here are some statistics you may not know about retweets and @ replies on Twitter, which are the bread and butter of the platform’s functions.

retweets and replies

If you want people to engage with your account, you’ll need to engage with theirs. This serves three purposes.

First, it gives a sense of building a meaningful relationship for the other party.

Plus, it encourages Twitter’s algorithms to present your tweets in the timelines of your followers.

Finally, it gives you an opportunity to share information from others to give them a chance to shine, which encourages more followers who wish to build their network.

By retweeting influential tweets by influential users, you yourself can become a Twitter influencer.

6. You Don’t Use Hashtags

Hashtags are an important part of Twitter.

Hashtags are to social media posts what categories and tags are to blog posts. They help search engines, other algorithmic robots, and active users sort through the large amount of information on social media sites.

topics and hashtags frequently mentioned

Although hashtags are also used on Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks with increasing frequency, it all started on Twitter and is still considered a part of the culture.

The rules of hashtagging are simple:

rules of the hashtag

And the effect of hashtags builds a micro-CRO funnel that leads people back to you.

hashtag pyramid

On Twitter, hashtag etiquette has been researched thoroughly.

Here is your roadmap for implementing hashtags for maximum effect on your Twitter following:

twitter hashtag stats

7. You’re Unaware of Trends

Twitter makes viewing trending topics easier than any other social media network, and there are countless third-party apps and sites that allow you to search for trends on Twitter.

Here are the most popular hashtags for 2016 so far.

the most popular hashtag

Pop stars like Rihanna, Justin Bieber, and One Direction typically perform well, as do holidays, special events, and major news events.

Although you may not have originated any of these trends, contributing to them with a meaningful tweet raises your profile’s visibility among the average person browsing through tweets and you can gain a respectable following by continuing to tweet about trending topics each day.

#PowerUserProTip – You can sort trends by geographic locations, such as your (or any other) city, county, state, country, or worldwide in order to understand what topics are being talked about in what areas of the globe.

8. You Don’t Post Enough

Like any other social media platform, you should aim to tweet at least once a day, and here are the optimal times to do it.

best and worst time to tweet

This timing was determined based on the likelihood for retweets and clickthroughs on your links. Here’s some more data to break it down even further.

timing and twitter

best times to tweet eastern time

Unlike Facebook, posting more often on Twitter doesn’t ruin your engagement and actually improves it, which is why even the 2016 political candidates are posting more frequently on Twitter than Facebook.

You’d be wise to follow the lead of these politicians, even if only in this particular case.

9. You Send Direct Messages

While some users recommend sending direct messages, I caution marketers against doing so.

The data on this is being misread and leading to many people losing many followers for sending spammy DMs.

It is true that Twitter power users make constant use of the DM system, but, like email, automated messages (especially related to marketing) come off as spammy and unwanted.

Like Facebook Messenger, Twitter’s DM system is a more intimate form of one-on-one communication, and Twitter users hate receiving unsolicited DMs. Many females even specifically express this as part of their 160-character profile.

As a marketer, I would only recommend using Twitter DMs to make a personal connection and have a personal conversation. Otherwise stop using this feature, as it alienates you from your audience.

10. You Only Focus on Twitter

The most popular Twitter users aren’t popular because of solely Twitter. Believe it or not, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, and Barack Obama have accomplishments beyond simply tweeting, which is why their followings are so large.

If your entire marketing strategy is based on being popular on Twitter, you’re misguided and need to rethink what you’re doing with your life.

Twitter is just one social media platform, and social media is just one part of a digital marketing strategy. Digital marketing is only one piece of an omnichannel marketing strategy, and all of this is just one piece of your overall operations.

Get off of Twitter and focus on live events that and real-life experiences that will actually improve your overall brand recognition instead of tying your success to one social network. Otherwise you’ll be forgotten like last week’s leftovers.

11. You Don’t Use Images

Visual marketing is important, especially on social networks, and especially on Twitter.

Images are 150 percent more likely to be retweeted than plain text.

Images also attract more favorites and clickthroughs, making them the overall winner on Twitter for attracting quality followers and optimizing conversions.

attention grabbing images

You may be limited to 140 characters on Twitter, but you can amplify that message by 1000 words by adding compelling visual content.


Twitter is an important social network to reach out to people. Those who follow you on Twitter get real-time updates that can gain you valuable exposure, including even from the mainstream media.

To be successful on Twitter, you need to interact, follow, retweet, and use hashtags properly. There’s an etiquette and culture on the site unlike any other social media platform.

And remember, although Direct Messages are popular among the Twitter crowd, they really don’t like receiving spam, so give your auto-follow response a rest and watch how much your follower retention improves.

What are your favorite Twitter tips and tricks?

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11 Things That Are Keeping You From Building Followers on Twitter

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Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.


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