Yesterday, a college student emailed me with a question that I get every now and then: How do I grow my follower count on Twitter? Occasionally this question is modified for Facebook, Tumblr, Google Plus and so on.
This is how I answered the student’s email:
“There’s three ways to answer it. One, start publishing content worth sharing. If you find an interesting story, share it. Have something interesting to say? Publish it. This can be a bit hard when you start interning or working for a company that may have its own set of social media rules, and you might have to rebel against some of them (I did at ABC), but having a voice and sharing likable content is so important. Find something that’s not being done on Twitter, Facebook, etc. and be the one to do it.
The second is to network. Network like crazy. Network on social, network off of social. There’s no substitution for an in-person meeting, but sometimes that’s not always possible. Before I landed in New York, I networked with east coast journalists for about two years while stuck in a newsroom (and then on a couch, when unemployed) in Sacramento – 3,000 miles away. Treat these networks as your friends – offer advice, share their stories, offer more compliments than criticism. But don’t be fake. Be genuine.
The third is, don’t worry about followers. If you focus on the first two above, the followers will come. This time last year, I had about 3,000. The year before that, 800. It doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it happens in large bursts, but that can be rare. It’s more important to focus on the people who you are following and engaging with, and less on the number of people who are following you.”
To recap, my point was this: Don’t worry about growing your follow or subscriber count. It’s like the old saying goes: “If you build it, they will come.” If you publish likable content, develop a voice and network both online and offline, the followers and subscribers will come.