I have tweeted 480 times and I have 74,790 followers. Some of you will say my large following is just because I have a very popular blog. This might be true, (and hopefully some of you will go check out some of my favorite posts.) But the truth is that big Twitter followings usually come from big Twitter use.
For example, Guy Kawasaki has 300,000 followers, but he sent out more than 80,000 tweets. Seth Godin, who has a wildly popular blog, has 800 tweets and 700 followers, and he focuses his tweets 100% on his blog. These examples show that you cannot simply leverage a popular blog to get a big Twitter following. There is something else going on.
I think the key is to write interesting tweets. If you can only be interesting one out of twenty times, which is likely when you're tweeting frequently, then your ratio of tweets to followers will be low. Your goal should be to be interesting 100% of the time.
The way I reached 70,000 Twitter followers with only 500 tweets is because I am a fanatic about making sure that my Twitter feed is interesting. There is evidence that it's working. Research from Sysmos shows that only 1.53 percent of tweets get three @ replies. In my case, almost 100% of my tweets get at least three.
Here are the rules I have follow to succeed at Twitter:
1. Give, don't take. Promoting something is not giving, it's taking. You are asking someone to give their attention to you because you are trying to make money off them. I do this with my tweets about 10% of the time.
2. Be funny. I run the tweet by at least one person before I post. If I don't get a laugh, I don't post it. Twitter is not good for big ideas. It's too short. But the 140-character length almost forces perfect comedic timing. Leverage that, and people will appreciate it.
3. Edit yourself. People are careful what they say in a room full of 20 people, so why not be as careful when tweeting to 20 people? You have to respect your audience, no matter how small or large, to get respect back. This is not news to you; you were just hoping that Twitter is different. But it isn't.
4. Have a clear goal for your feed. My goal is to write well. I love the format because the brevity of characters coupled with the scope of the audience absolutely forces the best writing I can do.
5. Make money without being annoying. My secondary goal is to leverage Twitter to make me money because I can't just write in a vacuum because I have to feed my kids. So first, I make sure I'm interesting, and then, if something comes along that I can use my feed to leverage (in a way that's not too annoying), I will use it to drive traffic to earn money.
6. Use indirect ways to earn money on Twitter. Earning money is not always direct. For example, I am writing this to lure you to my blog, not my Twitter feed, in the hope that my blog audience will expand. My blog is easier to make money from. (I've been making six-figures from my blog for four years, but you don't need to use Twitter to promote your blog. You can use it to make money anywhere). Often I use my Twitter feed to do favors for people. Sometimes a favor generates more money indirectly than a call to action could generate directly.
7. Use Twitter to make you happy instead of rich. The great thing about having a large Twitter following is that I can use it to help people. A lot of times, doing a favor directly impacts my happiness, because doing nice things feels nice. And, ironically, most of us get more happiness from doing a favor on Twitter than from making money on Twitter. (Here's the research to back that up - pointing, naturally, to my blog.)
8. Do your best work. Twitter is just another time sink if you are not using it in a focused way that makes you feel kind, smart and connected. Sysmos also reports that 71 percent of tweets go unread. There is no way to feel good about participating in a field like that. So change up how you use Twitter so it makes a positive contribution to your well-being.