Gaining Your First Followers

5 minutes, 5 links


Updated January 28, 2020
Using Twitter

If you’ve just signed up for a Twitter account or dusted off an old one, beginning to tweet can feel like shouting into the abyss. Heads up: it is. If you’re starting from zero with only a few followers, it’s unlikely your tweets will be seen or you’ll get any feedback that will compel you to keep sharing. Posting on Twitter is a positive feedback loop where positive interactions drive you to share more. Instead of starting from scratch, build a small initial following by tapping into your existing networks.

These strategies won’t net you thousands of followers, but they’ll give you an initial boost of viewership so you’re not yelling at the wind. You will hone the people you follow on Twitter over time; this is simply a starting point to get over the mental barrier of tweeting to nobody. Don’t feel bad about eventually pruning your list and deleting people.

How to follow people on Twitter.

Existing Online Communities

If you belong to professional online communities, follow fellow community members on Twitter. “Online communities” may sound ephemeral, and “professional online communities” may sound extremely lame. But the best of these are gathering places for people with shared passions, interests, and experiences—and they absolutely have the power to help you in your career. They can be a good way to stay abreast of what’s happening in your industry, meet professionals peers, and find new opportunities.

You can find these communities in a number of ways:

  • Google phrases like “top online communities for developers”; “Slack groups for designers in San Francisco”; or “Facebook groups for freelance writers.” You’ll often find articles that list several groups for your area of interest.

  • Use the search query on sites like Facebook or Linkedin to find relevant groups on those platforms.

  • Ask friends and colleagues about the professional online communities they belong to and have found value in.

Online communities you can consider joining and eventually following its members include:

Some communities are open to anyone, while others may require you to answer a few questions about your interest in the community or apply in some other way before allowing you to join. Most online communities are free to join, but some may require a one-time or monthly subscription fee. Additionally, while many online communities are global, you can also find communities with people in your specific city or state by adapting your search queries.

important It’s wise to use the same image, handle, and name if possible across platforms to help people become familiar with you and your presence in and across communities.

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To translate these community connections to Twitter, you might start a thread or topic where you ask everyone to share their handles. You can also check to see if this thread already exists—it is not uncommon or strange to do so. People who enjoy each other’s online company in one community often want to follow each other on other parts of the web.

Colleagues and Industry Peers

Depending on your industry, your colleagues and industry peers may be active on Twitter and are likely to follow you back. Follow the people you work with as well as individuals you may know through previous roles, industry meetings, and more. Often people name the Twitter handle of the company they work at in their bio, so search something like (“@intel”) for people who may work at your company.

Conferences and Events

If you attend a few conferences or events each year, you’ll meet interesting people that you can follow online. Often there will be a conference Slack group where everyone attending can chat. A link and instructions to join this group are typically provided in an email after event registration, generally weeks before an event is slated to start. Join it. Add folks to Twitter that you’re looking forward to meeting or you’ve had interesting conversations with. If you’re at a larger event, temporarily add it directly to your name on Twitter.

For example, if your Twitter name is normally “Alfred Lin,” change it to “Alfred Lin at Cool Eng Event Dec 6-10” so people know you’re going. You might also temporarily pin a tweet to your profile about being there.

How to pin a tweet.

Choosing What to Tweet28 minutes, 44 links

Life is about relationships with people. It’s about building things together and exploring ideas others have and integrating them into your ideas about the world. So, if you want to connect with people, you need to be a person, not a robot. People are messy, they have mundane parts of their life like waiting for their friends to get ready, they get frustrated in traffic, and they have good ideas that are wise and witty and worthy of many retweets.Andy Sparks (@SparksZilla), co-founder and CEO, Holloway*

Posting on Twitter initially feels daunting. People will judge your feed based on what you post and will make quick decisions—on whether to follow you, message you, hire you, and work with you—based on your presence on Twitter. Like anything else, it gets easier the more you do it.

You might think of Twitter as your online storybook and resume, showing people who you are and what you do. On Twitter, your title, current company, and even past jobs might be considered when people choose to follow you or not, but they’re not the most important factor. Instead, it’s how you explain what you’re working on, thinking about, and interested in that will help you connect with others in a meaningful way and lead to potential opportunities. Whether it’s true or not, an inactive feed or one filled with retweets can signal that you’re not doing much. Making Twitter work for you, personally and professionally, relies on you sharing aspects of your work and life, your original insights, and the ideas you’re exploring.

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