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Create a Twitter Following

There are implications beyond vanity to having a large Twitter fan base.

Late one night in a hotel, I discovered I hadn't brought a MacBook power supply, and I was leaving early the next morning for a remote location. I posted a message to Twitter, and within 10 minutes, five people offered to bring me a power supply; one delivered it to me within an hour.

This illustrates the practical implications of a large following on Twitter. Here's how to get it:

  1. Follow the "smores," or social media whores. Get a good idea of who these opinion leaders are by viewing twittercounter.com , twitterati.alltop.com and egos.alltop.com . Many have scripts that will auto-follow you, and you might learn something from watching what they tweet about.
  2. Send @ messages to the smores. They probably won't answer you, but that's OK. You just want to appear to have a relationship with them. The theory is, "If she's tweeting with @scobleizeer, she must be worth following." It's BS logic, admittedly, but it helps. To bastardize what a famous PR person once told me, "It's not who you know. It's who appears to know you."
  3. Create an effective avatar. Your avatar is a window into your soul, so create one that doesn't look like you shot it with a camera phone while out partying. Use a simple, informal, straight-up mug shot--not you and your dog, kids or surfboard. Increase the exposure. Fix the red-eye. Crop the photo. And if you have access to cool image tools, create an avatar that raises the question, "How did he do that?" When people view a stream of tweets, your avatar should stand out.
  4. Follow everyone who follows you. Some people will respond to you and everyone who follows them will see this--which is more exposure for you.

    That said, when you get to more than 50 followers, it's impossible to read what all your followers tweet. Then you have to focus on direct private and public messages.
  5. Always link to interesting stories and pictures. Think of yourself as a one-person StumbleUpon. The Twitter pickup artist's mantra is "Always be linking."
  6. Establish yourself as a subject expert. That way, you'll be interesting to some subset of people. Say you're an expert on Macintosh. Search for "Macintosh" and answer people's questions. People are likely to not only follow you, but also retweet your posts, giving you additional exposure.

    If and when you're an expert, don't be afraid to express your opinion. It's better that some people refuse to follow you than no one knows who you are.
  7. Incorporate pictures and other media. I've tweeted pictures of showerheads from Microsoft in the Singapore Airlines lounge and the world's longest toilet flush to get followers, so I know multimedia works.
  8. Use the right tools. They can make picking up followers easier. I use TweetDeck on my MacBook and Tweetie on my iPhone, as well as Adjix and Posterous as my main tools.
  9. Repeat your tweets. Post your most interesting tweets three times, eight to 12 hours apart. My theory is that most people check in at about the same time every day, so people probably won't notice repeat tweets.

Ask people to follow. That's right: Just come right out and ask them.

Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of Alltop, a managing director at VC firm Garage Technology Ventures, former chief evangelist for Apple Inc. and author of eight books--most recently The Art of the Start. Visit his company's site, alltop.com.

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This article was originally published in the March 2009 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Create a Twitter Following.

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