The Top 5 Ways to Grow Your Twitter Following by Leo Widrich of Buffer

Posted on Nov 29, 2011 - 08:00 AM EDT

In this interview, I ask Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer, the best ways to grow your Twitter following.  Leo tell us how they conducted a study at Buffer, analyzing over 1 million tweets to understand which types of tweets perform the best.  From his findings, he tell us the top 5 ways to grow your twitter following!  Leo also tells us where he finds his content, and much much more! Amazing stuff here.

Those top five ways are:

1. Timing
2. Frequency
3. Types of Tweets (content)
4. Art of ReTweeting
5. How to Find Quality Followers

 

About Leo Widrich

Leo Widrich is the Co-Founder of Buffer and a Marketing and Community Geek. He took Buffer to 50,000 users in 8 months. He is a blogger for Mashable, TNW and HubSpot and he loves the hustle. Feel free to hit him up @leowid anytime

Raw transcript

Jay:    Hello everyone, I’m Jay Gould, Founder and Host of Behind the Web. Today I’m joined with Leo Widrich, the co-founder of Buffer. Leo, welcome to the show.

Leo:    Hi Jay, thanks a lot for having me today.

Jay:    So, I brought you back on the show as you know because after using your product, well actually doing the show and using your product, Buffer, before using it my Twitter following was dropping because I was like bombarding people with Tweets. And I was losing them. And you correctly told me how to use Twitter the right way and not only just to use Buffer, which was great, but also like how to get the content and you know just frequency and timing of when to do it and all these different types of things. And so as you know I brought you back on the show so that you can, so that everybody else, the audience could benefit from the same things you taught me.

Leo:    Sure, yeah I know. That’s really great to see. Especially because you know when last time we spoke you told me that even though you started using Buffer a little bit your followers would still be dropping. One of the key things we established back then is there is always, if you take a neater action or if you take a focus on Twitter, there’s always some drop-off you have at the very start. Because there’s that one thing you can’t satisfy everyone. You need to, you know, just a few people drop off. But as soon as you focus and you stick to it I think it just grows again and there’s various things I think people can do very easily for that. And I hope we can get to the bottom and explore a few of the simple techniques that just make Twitter work for you.

Jay:    So some of the things that you were telling me that I thought was very useful is like the time-ins’. So why don’t you tell us about the timing on how to use Twitter.

Leo:    Sure, so, timing and finding the best times for you to Tweet is often a topic that is very, very exciting for others to look at from the outside. And the very first thing I just want to say before we get into this is timing is important but timing is just one thing to look after. So even if you just focus on the timing and not on other factors, you might lose out.

So one of the things we did, so we did a study. We took about a million tweets that had been sent by a buffer and we said, okay, which types of Tweets perform the best? Right. And we found that tweets which were sent between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. time window, they performed vastly better then tweets sent before 8:00 p.m. or after 8:00 p.m. So the key finding for us was that any tweet you post you should post it in between the time window of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. because these are the normal work hours. This might sound counterintuitive because people say, okay, but hang on, everyone is working. But it’s also the most traffic is happening on Twitter. So even though this is the peak time people should go in and post between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in general, this is the peak window. And you can set up inside your buffer and you don’t have to think about it anymore, but.

Jay:    Yeah, so. Is that Eastern standard time you are talking?

Leo:    Yeah, so that’s another. There is an App I would suggest you to take a look at. It’s called SocialBro.com. And it helps you to find out in which time zones your followers live. And normally it’s, people from your, in my case people from the U.S. are the most majority. For me this 8:00 a.m. between 8:00 p.m. time limit is Eastern time. So it’s that time when I take. It’s usually the times that you’re in, and take that 8:00 a.m. between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Jay:    So timing’s important. But as you said, none of the things we are going to talk about today in and of themselves are the most important. You kind of have to mix it all in together. And there’s going to be five points that we talk about. And the second point was the frequency. So how often do I bombard people between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.?

Leo:    Exactly. There is the second thing is that even though if you find out what your top tweeting times are. And you say, okay 11:00 a.m. is really good for me, and 1 p.m. is really good for me. It’s not enough to just tweet once or twice at these times. Because one of the key things of Twitter is it’s so dynamic and tweets are rushing by so quickly that you’re losing a lot of people throughout the day.

So if you don’t post frequently enough, then one of your tweets might only always reach ten percent of your following. So if you want to text for more of your following, just need to step it up. So my suggestion is, if you first sign up to Twitter and you say you know if you’ve got a few hundred followers, don’t try to overdo it because it’s kind of hard when you’re not used to it. A lot of high frequency tweeting. But I think like trying to put between three to five great links or tweets that you came across on Twitter or out on the web. Putting them out consistently throughout the day, that’s kind of one thing but we’ve seen to make a huge difference next to timing.

So take the 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. time window and put three to five tweets in there everyday and that’s kind of combining the first two things together.

Jay:    And that’s the optimum amount for a beginner, right? Somebody who has a few hundred, maybe, followers. Fifty to a 100 to 500 to even a few thousand, it’s three to five tweets a day between 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m.

Leo:    Exactly.

Jay:    It’s like what you said on the pre-call when we were talking about it. It’s very interesting because you said it’s like a newspaper that only send out a newspaper article once this week and then five times next week and then they miss a week and then two times the next week. You’ve got to be consistent, right. There’s a level of consistency.

Leo:    Absolutely. I think if you take Twitter seriously you become a curator for your followers. You become someone who provides them with great content. They go on Twitter, they say OK, it’s Jay again. I don’t have to even think about it, it’s Jay coming through again. He’s posted great stuff the past three days, I have absolutely no problem just clicking on that without any worry. That type of thing. It’s really you building trust amongst your followers by Tweeting and posting more frequently and often.

Jay:    Content would be the next obvious question for somebody who’s starting out. It’s like what do I tweet, what do I send? What type of content should I be sending?

Leo:    Exactly and I think that’s the great kind of tie for the first two. You’re tweeting at a good time, you’re tweeting more frequently and now it’s like what message do you put out? I think the third, with the message a good technique or simple exercise is to say can I pick three words that describe me the best on my Twitter presence. In my case I would pick social media, start-ups, and blogging. These are the three things I am interested in the most, personally. Someone else would say I pick cars, I don’t know, motorcycles and something else. If you pick three things that can just speak to them that makes it a lot easier for you. Because you read something and say OK, is that what I want to tweet about? Yes or no, and then you tweet about it or you don’t.

That’s kind of the first aspect of what you should be tweeting. Then the second one is don’t try to be overly self promotional. Even in my case, I run a social media blog, you know Jay also runs his own [inaudible] website. Even though you do that it’s important that you intersperse tweets to your own blog posts and articles and videos with a lot of content from other sites. Because what people are essentially interested in is adding value to that. It’s kind of, you know, not very true to say everything I post is the only thing that adds value. If you can find different content relevant to your tweet [inaudible], from anywhere on the web, and put that into your buffer or tweet that frequently that’s kind of a great way to create the perfect content focused on what you’re interested in.

Jay:    For me, like you said, I run Behind the Web. If I only tweeted out Behind the Web stuff people would get desensitized. They’re not really that interested, right? It’s too self-promotional.

Leo:    Absolutely.

Jay:    It goes back to the old days on the message boards. You can’t do that. It’s like a spammer.

Leo:    Yeah, absolutely. You just need to intersperse it. Try to make a list, a Twitter list is really good for that, make a list of people who tweet great content from different sites. Or try to have a folder in your Google or wherever where you say OK, this is my Twitter content folder where you have all the great blogs which write different things about the things you normally tweet about. Then just tweet their articles and stuff. That’s really good.

Jay:    Yeah, we were talking about Tweet Smarter @TweetSmarter, right? Amazing content if you’re in social media, right. If you want to find, he does tons of these articles a day, 300,000 plus followers. He’s been doing it for over five years you said, right?

Leo:    Yeah.

Jay:    That’s a great place to start if you’re looking for content because it’s hard to find this content. Another way would be, what, like maybe searching for hashtags of those three key items?

Leo:    Exactly, so searching for hashtags is a great way to do that. Another one is, I think like personally I have Tweet Smarter. Dave Larson is the guy behind it. I’ve got his account open in a separate browser tab with just a news feed of his Tweets because it’s just…

Jay:    That much.

Leo:    Yeah, it’s like a blog really, you know. It’s got all this great stuff coming out and you can just watch and click through it. I think he’s a great, great person to start off observing. @TweetSmarter is just great to understand how to use Twitter properly. Yeah, so hashtags are great.

Jay:    What are some, because most of the people watching us are probably doing what we do, right? They’re in social media. What would you say the top five blogs that they should follow that can get them some sources of content that’s relevant to the social media space.

Leo:    Sure. I think one blog that’s really, really great is actually Tweet Smarter’s blog. It’s blog.tweetsmarter.com and it’s a really, really great resource. Another site is socialmediaexaminer.com which is an amazing resource of different content, different articles. Another site is socialmouse.com

Jay:    Say that again slowly.

Leo:    Socialmouse.com, you know mouse.com. And it is another great resource for all types of things social media focused and social media related. I think there is a great bunch of other sites that I frequent a lot. One is alltwitter.com

Jay:    OK. Yeah.

Leo:    It is a great resource to find different articles that are twitter related in that case. And then I would say there is one site called the kikolani.com which is another great blog…

Jay:    Can you spell that?

Leo:    Sure K-I-K-O-L-A-N-I, kikolani. It is a great social media blog that I do recommend again.

Jay:    And the next thing would be the art of engagement or re-tweeting, you have to be able to engage with the audience that you’re building. And so that they re-tweet you and then you retweet them. But you have to genuinely do this obviously you don’t do it for the sake of doing it, it has to be good content. You have to go back to the content, go back to the timing, go back to the frequency, you can’t do it too much right? So can you explain that, about the art of re-tweeting?

Leo:    Exactly, I think with re-tweeting again it is very interesting, it is just like you said. There is a great quote I read once that said, don’t re-tweet someone for the sake of retweeting, but re-tweet them because it was a great article.

Jay:    Right.

Leo:    If you stick to this, eventually the stuff that you re-tweet provides the value for your followers than the stuff that you find and you tweet. And that is what you want because you win two things with one shot. I would say the most important part with engaging is to be efficient again. You can’t spend all your time on twitter, you can’t so that all day. So what I would do is every time you find an article also include the twitter handle of the author in the article. So your reading something and saying that is a great post, even if you don’t know who wrote it, try to find out there is always the name in there. Say great article by and then…

Jay:    His @ name.

Leo:    Exactly, his @ name. And often you can scroll down to the bottom and see reactions to your posts. You see, OK, this has been tweeted 50 times already and then you see the reactions. They show you all the people who have retweeted it. And if you find someone whom you know from your followers just put an RT at that person. You can win two things with one go, first of all you mention the author, you do a re-tweet, and you provide a great piece of content for your audience. You have three ways that people can now engage with you. They can now retweet your tweet because they thought it was great. The author of the article can get in touch with you and say thanks a lot for re-tweeting. And the person that you have re-tweeted can say well thanks for the re-tweet and you know it can kick off sweet conversations by just doing one tweet.

Jay:    That is really a good point, because a lot of people just take the link on the site and they click it and it just links the article with the title but they don’t give any attribution to the person that wrote it.

Leo:    Exactly. So I think these three things. If you want to take it one step further even, so often if you go to posts with blogs. Blogs, which are very big and you include the author and they don’t respond because they are so busy. One thing you could try is take a different pad line to the article because that really shows that you read the article. So if you read the article and pick out a quote, well this was amazing, and then say great post by then the author will also realize that this person doesn’t just tweet the headline but has read the article and has found the quote. What I found personally this increases the likelihood of human reply.

Jay:    That is really interesting. So that leads us to the next point right, the last point out of these top five which is how to find followers. I guess that is one way to find them is to start @ replying and you know giving people attribution when necessary, but what are the others?

Leo:    One of the things I would do as the very first thing is to browse a few of the directories. There are a few follower directories. One is called twello.com it is like yellow pages for twitter followers. The other one is called wefollow.com. The great thing is you can do the exact same thing with the different people that you are interested in. You pick the three keywords and then you can actually use these keywords in these directories. Say you know blogging, you just want the top people who are interested in blogging because you categorize these people in there.

So that is actually a great way of browsing and the important thing is following them and because they are relevant to you, engaging with them, not just following them. I found Jay, I think he does amazing interviews, I found him on this directory. Hit the follow button and at the same time I say [inaudible], I started following you. Loved your content [inaudible]. It’s kind of, you know, you do that five, ten times just in a ten, fifteen minute time window and gradually you’ll build up your followers.

I think, the second thing again is to browse by hashtag. Do a search term for, let’s say, hashtag blogging, hashtag social media and then see which people are hashtagging that same topic you are. These are people who are probably very relevant to what you’re doing. That’s kind of another way to find relevant followers.

Jay:    Then you have to be careful, right? Because you want to click on that person’s profile so that you can see is this just a one time hashtag for them or are they consistently talking about these types of things?

Leo:    Exactly, then you can check out the stream and see whether they actually do that. Was it just one tweet they found or something like that? I think you need to be careful a little bit around that.

One third point I want to add to gaining followers and finding target ones is doing it more passively. There are a lot of things which are very simple and easy to do but a lot of people forget them. One of the greatest sources for followers for my Twitter account is, we have it very presently on our blog, it just says follow @viaweb on here. A way to do it is put it into your email signature. People often overlook the email signature but one of the things you really can get out of this is your Twitter handle.

Just take Hiten Shah, the CEO of KISSMetrics, whenever he sends an email at the bottom he says “I tweet, do you? Follow me @HNShaw.” He has an amazing large volume following because he’s putting it everywhere. I think letting that work for you, you’d be surprised by how many emails you’re sending to people who could be following you on Twitter.

Jay:    That’s really a good point. I actually have it at the bottom of mine but I don’t have “I tweet, do you?” Something like that is pretty cool

Leo:    I hang out a lot on Twitter.

Jay:    Mine’s just at, it’s not even a hyperlink. I probably should think twice about it. It probably should be a hyperlink.

These were great. My advice to everybody is you should start using a buffer. I genuinely really do believe in your product. I had like 10,000 plus followers. I think at one time it was over 11,000. Then I was bombarding people and I was doing it sporadically. I would do like 30 tweets in a day and then I would do none for like almost a month or something. Then you lose people because that one day you do 30, there’s this thing called Quitter. I don’t know if you’ve seen Quitter. People would just literally, like you’d see a tweet and then you’d see a huge drop off. Not one tweet but you’d see like 20 tweets in a day and you’d just annoy the crap out of people so they just started leaving.

Now my Twitter counter, on Twittercounter.com, my Twitter following has been increasing lately and I genuinely believe it’s because of the timing and the frequency. I was already doing the relevant content but I was just doing it inconsistently, like you said.

I thank you for doing the interview today and giving everybody these top five tips to help them grow their Twitter following.

Leo:    No worries, Jay. Thanks a lot for having me on for the second time. I really appreciate it. If anyone says you know, I have another question on Twitter just let me know. I’m always happy to help you out.

Jay:    On this one I’ll make sure the edit has your Twitter handle. I won’t even put your name, that’s all. Leo, thanks again.

Leo:    No worries, Jay.

Jay:    And thank you to everybody who watched.