A simple strategy to increase your influence on Twitter

“How do I increase my influence on Twitter?”

A business colleague asked me this question and I figured if it was on his mind, it might be on yours too.  While it remains to be seen if I have actual influence anywhere, I have undoubtedly created substantial, tangible business benefits through Twitter and the social web.  So here’s my strategy. It’s very simple and I think it could probably work for anybody.

1) Build targeted connections. Most people will tell you the number of followers you have doesn’t matter. They’re wrong.   If you put time into Twitter but nobody is there to listen and respond, it’s a waste of time, right?  Plus, you need a critical mass of at least 300-400 followers before Twitter becomes interesting and fun. And if it’s not fun you’re not going to do it.

The more relevant, targeted connections you have, the more likely somebody is going to relate to you.  It’s like a big dating game. You don’t want to be just stuck with just Bachelor Number 1 do you? That’s the one who collects pipe cleaners and lives with his mother.  Fill your tribe with lots and lots of eligible business connections.  How do you find these lovely folks? There are lots of ways but here are four to get you going!

  • Blogging and Twitter fit like a hand in a glove. Of course the people who come to read your blog are interested in you, so they are natural Twitter followers. Nearly all of my Twitter connections come through my blog. I think. Who really knows?
  • Explore lists. Do a search on Listorious for people and subjects that are related to your business interests. Or look for lists created by people in your industry or even <gasp> your competitors. Follow those people please.
  • Take part in Twitter chats related to your business interests.
  • Twellow is the “yellow pages” of Twitter and you can find many great folks by industry, interest and geographic location
  • Twitter search. Search for keywords related to your business interests. Those people showing up probably share your interests. Follow them too.

2) Provide meaningful content. The key to turning a faceless follower into a real business relationship is by providing compelling content that means something to them. Like this …

  • Linking to your blog is an obvious source of content
  • Use bit.ly or another URL shortener to send along interesting content that you stumble across
  • RT others. No shame in sharing wonderful content discovered by others.
  • Link to comments you create on LinkedIn, Facebook and other platforms.
  • Provide human content. Tell a little about yourself along the way. That’s interesting too. To a point.

3) Provide authentic helpfulness. I find many of the social media axioms to be dumb (“it’s all about the conversation” … gag me) but here is one that is very useful: Think of the social web as a dinner party. If somebody only talks about themselves, their business and how great they are, you’re going to want to get away fast!  But if a person shows genuine interest in you, offers help without regard to their own personal benefit, you will like that person and connect with them.

This is the area where most people fail on the social web because you can’t fake authenticity. People will sniff you out pretty quickly. Here are some ways to demonstrate true helpfulness to others:

  • People throw questions out there all the time. Answer them or refer them to somebody who can.
  • Build your own tribe. Reach out to the real people on Twitter, don’t just kiss the ass of the A-List bloggers. Are those folks really going to deliver business benefits to you?  Doubtful unless you are another A-List blogger. Just the way it is.
  • Read people’s profiles. Visit their websites, read their blogs and comment. You can almost always find something in common with them and this shows you are genuinely interested. And you should be!
  • Nothing says I love you like a re-tweet now and then.
  • Some people hate the whole #FollowFriday thing. That’s because they’re jaded. How can you not like the fact that somebody is providing a recommendation for you? If somebody does a #FF for me, they are automatically on my radar screen. It’s an honor.

I could literally fill many blogposts with ideas about this strategy but I know you hate long blog posts so I’ll shut up. If you look at any business success story on Twitter, I guarantee it follows this pattern. Work it!

What are your thoughts on this little “success formula?”  I love learning from your comments!

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  • Awesome blog post Mark!

    Would also like to mention the importance of actually using your own network as a fuel – to find more followers or friends. People like you or even potential business partners!

    I sent a tweet to one of my followers for a while ago. I asked him to share the names of some other creative swedish teenagers out there on twitter.

    Just by sending that particular tweet, things started to happen 24h later. The reply i recieved helped me connect to several new teenagers like me + I was mentioned on a site and added to the list of all these creative teenagers.

    Not bad for just 1 tweet. I can’t even imagine the power of having 400+ followers.

  • Mark

    @GT — Great advice and an even better story Alexander! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thanks for practicing what you preach Mark. Your post is informative and meaningful. Many of the strategies you suggest are crucial to gaining a solid reputation on Twitter. The part of the post I like the most is about sincerity and honesty. People always know when a user is really genuine, and tend to relate to those who they can connect with. I’m an avid reader and follower of you and your blog, and really enjoy your excellent content and friendly advice! Keep up the great work 😉

  • Mark

    @Reza Thanks for the wonderful words of encouragement. Means a lot to me!

  • Great Advice Mark!

    One thing I took me a while to learn is to get over shyness with initiating contact with anyone. Your network pretty much depends on you seeking it out. Plus it’s surprising how approachable most users are.

  • Great stuff. I think people who believe there is a magic bullet or special trick to this, have it all wrong. You can use bots, tools and other products to find followers, but at the end of the day, it’s all about providing value. Be helpful. Be engaging. Be interesting.

    Think about who you want to attract and what would be valuable to them. Or, (gasp) even ask them! Chances are, they might have some ideas on how you can improve.

  • This is a great post and it really does set the stage for a successful twitter campaign. Along the same lines, readers may find another post useful as it describes a formal process for running B2B Twitter Campaigns. In case you’re a little rusty on these things, a formal process specification breaks a process into the following stages: Think, Plan, Do, Measure and Repeat – the secret sauce which guarantees Continuous Process Improvements. You literally get better and better as you go!
    Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/bzaac9

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  • Great points, Mark.

    I also tell people to never be reluctant to jump into conversations. If someone is having a conversation in the public stream it is actually INVITED that you participate. If they wanted to have a private conversation, they would be doing it privately. That is one of the beautiful things about Twitter.

    Also, when someone new speaks with me, joins a conversation or just @s me, before answering I often pop over to their profile page, look at their bio and then answer them by saying something like “That’s awesome, Mark….” By making time to actually get to “know” the people with whom you’re conversing, you show that you are not only genuine, but genuinely interested. You wouldn’t act any differently than that in real life, so I just use that rule of thumb when it comes to online interactions.

    Bottom line, people matter. Social media is all about people. And the most important thing of all – you GET what you GIVE. If you read blogs, comment, engage, start conversations, jump into conversations, ask opinions, be sympathetic, offer help, solutions, advice without ever thinking of how it will benefit you (which is very hard for some people to do) …. it will come back to you, without question, a hundredfold.

    So simple: Get what you give.

    Thanks for the thoughts – lovely as always my smarty-smarterson friend.


  • Mark

    Thanks for the contributions today folks! I appreciate you so much!

  • I love your thoughts, Shelly. I do the same thing – try to reply in a personal way. Just adding the person’s name to your @reply means you took time to get to know them (and we all love to hear our own name, right?).

    Your point reminds me of how much I hate “bots”. Auto DMs are such a turn off and don’t make me want to engage – it does just the opposite. As you said, you get what you give. Thanks for weighing in!

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  • Nice post, Mark. Only thing I’d add would be to use a tool like Tweedeck so that you can set up a dashboard of columns that have search terms and groups that you care about. For example, I find so much value in just having a column with the search term “B2B.” It helps me find people who will be valuable to me and gives me a shot at having something valuable to offer them.

    Another tip: Always put your Twitter handle in your blog comments (like this: @ckochster ; ))

  • Mark

    @Chris Great points. Thanks so much!

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  • As usual – I love it. And I’ll just reiterate the point: when you engage in other blogs and make comments, you are creating a new community of connections. It’s about laying a firm foundation on which to build real, lasting, meaningful and beneficial relationships.

  • Mark

    Thanks, Arminda!

  • Mark, very happy to find this while catching up on last week’s blogs. It’s nice to have a strategy with a very real, practical structure to it…instead of justing “doing” social media. Eager to apply this.

  • Mark

    @Bill I guess this post will sound quite familiar to you! It was inspired by our conversation! : )

  • I figured as much! And this post is certainly much neater than my handwritten notes…

  • I had to chuckle at this line:

    (“it’s all about the conversation” … gag me)

    Thank you! I feel much the same way about that point. People disregard proven principals and, frankly, disrespect the old school (and this is coming from a “totally digital” 23-year-old).

    I think there’s a lot to learn from the old school way of marketing and advertising. No greater example sticks out to me than when the agency I was working for folded last year and, while searching for employment, I stooped to the level of selling office supplies to small businesses door-to-door.

    In door-to-door, you do everything that’s considered ineffective by social media evangelists. It’s cold, impersonal (in that you don’t know the prospect), and heavily sales focused. The tactics seem counter productive.

    So at first, I didn’t follow the system. I didn’t listen to the principles, and I loosely followed the tactics. I found that while prospects LOVED me, they didn’t buy from me. I was really friendly, and I could chat about just about anything with customers.

    But I couldn’t close.

    When I finally married the sales techniques with the relationship building skills I had mastered, I started selling like a monster.

    Then I quit. I still hated the walking door-to-door aspect of it and dreaded what that would be like during NY winters.

    But I learned invaluable lessons that are lit ablaze by social media peeps.

    I like the industry. I like the theories. I like the people. I dislike the rose-colored glasses. I dislike the echo chamber.

    And lately I’ve been feeling that some of my thoughts may brand me as an outcast, kind of like in this Ogilvy quote:

    “I run the risk of being denounced by the idiots who hold that any advertising technique which has been in use for more than two years is ipso facto obsolete.”

  • Mark

    @Brandthony You’re my 23-year-old hero, dude. Wisdom beyond your years. Stick to it.

    I recently talked with a fella who wanted to get into social media marketing. He’s getting an IT degree because he figures it’s about the web. It’s about people. It’s about relationships and yes, it’s about the marketing fundamentals. Those won’t change. The tactics will, but the fundamentals will serve us well!

  • Haha, thanks. I do sometimes get caught up in analysis paralysis because I’m always arguing with myself over social media’s role in the marketing mix – for the record, I think it can accomplish a few things other than engagement, still thinking on it though – but you can’t find the truths if you don’t dig deep.

    Thanks for the comment on my post about celebs. I’ve never been a big believer in celeb endorsements in the first place, but that’s me.

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  • Mark, great post! I really enjoyed your perspective on this topic and you provide terrific advice to your readers. I also blogged about the same topic. Check it out and let me know what you think.


  • Mark

    Very excellent post, Matthew. Well done!

  • ManniMonster

    I love long blog posts! Once I like what someone is writing about, I almost wish the blog would never end!

  • Mark

    @Manni — I’ll keep that in mind!

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  • Another excellent post and great comments too! If it’s true that “successful” blogs are those that get comments, GROW should be rated on of the top blogs ever! It is in my book! Twitter is for people who like people. I tell my clients this often and actually encourage some of them not to join Twitter. A lot of this is psychology 101 but I think there are certain profiles of personalities that determine influence as well. Some people are just genetically wired for it! I also think that Twitter has become a repository for places to find encouragement and good news. In a world that spreads bad, negative, cynical…we have this place called Twitter that lets us choose what who we want to listen to. Wow. It also is a great place to find mentors and others who have similar goals. I think it’s way more powerful than we even realize and I’m still learning everyday which is why I love it. Meeting new people has been the most rewarding for me. Thanks for sharing. PS: This is the longest comment I’ve ever posted. New record.

  • Mark

    @Amy — You are perilously close to a blog post here! : ) Absolutely fantastic observation. Thanks!

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  • I’m a Twitter newbie and needed the guidance and advice in your blog. I’ve subscribed too.

  • Follow me @ladymik 😀

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  • Jeff Brown

    So much agree. I hear all this ‘keep it short’ nonsense, but it’s interesting that in online, and even offline, sales letters longer is better. One successful marketer mentions that every time he adds length to his offline direct marketing letters, the better the response. With one increasingly successful letter he’s up to 60 pages! I write both. I think variety and going by gut instinct is best. What works for one or a few doesn’t work for all. Tired of the tin-soldier file and follow mentality. Right on!

  • Jeff Brown

    As a funny guy (former standup), person guy (higher education, career / life coach), I know it’s all about people. If you build it real, they will come. Sales is mainly 80-90% relationship building, building trust and familiarity, then and only then is the sale made. I find that if you’re not real and authentic, as well as ethical and fair minded, your career is short lived. I’ve been building my career slowly, methodically, and to the plan for 15 years now. If it’s not built on a solid foundation, longevity is not in the cards. Connecting is the key, and that’s what social media is all about, especially important in these over-hyped, overly-commercialized, overly-jaded times. People can not only smell bs a mile away, they can see it coming. Duck! Love your post.

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