Scientists conduct experiments with Twitter followers

3 Twitter experiments to grow your followers

I’ve hit another critical milestone this week, reaching over 500 Twitter followers in just over a month’s time. I’m tracking well ahead of my projected timeline, attempting to reach 1,000 followers by the end of December 2015.

In the beginning, the growth was exponential, and I thought that I might really overachieve on my target, but recently that growth has leveled off a bit. Now is a good time to take stock in my progress and make some revisions for the way forward. When I reached 100 followers I did a quick recap of that experience, and I think another batch of learnings is in order.

Here are a few examples of what I have done to get here, whether they worked, and what I would consider doing differently from here on in.

Experiment #1

What I did and why: Follow back as many people as possible. It’s no secret that a great number of people tend to unfollow people who do not follow back, so in the early going my default behavior was to follow people who followed me.

The result: I had quite a few great interactions with my follow-back strategy, and it has helped keep people from unfollowing before giving me a chance to wow them with my content. It worked for a while, but then I noticed a significant drop in the quality of new followers. I attribute it to Twitter’s suggested followers algorithm that would place me either beside their stream or in an email notification, depending on their preferences. I have no data for that assumption, only anecdotal evidence from my own experience, so take it with a grain of salt. I’ve seen that Twitter can be a fickle place where people are only in it for the audience numbers, and not the quality of that audience, so I intend to refine my strategy as I work toward my goal.

What I would do differently: For the sake of the community, I am going to start being more picky about whom I follow back, as I have noticed a small contingent of what I would consider ‘spam-followers’ or possibly bots. They are usually accounts with no profile information, or are encouraging me to ‘tweet the opportunity’ – whatever that means. Without the follow backs, they tend to fall off the radar and make it less likely for others to join in.

Experiment #2

What I did and why: Mind my Ps and Qs. As new followers joined my community, I stayed on top of thanking each of them with a public tweet. This helped build a sense of community without relying on individual direct messages. Plus, who doesn’t like seeing a few complimentary mentions on the notifications page?

The result: Many of my most favourited and clicked tweets have been thank yous, shouting out new followers in my community. This may be an antiquated practice, as many have resorted to canned direct messages, but it is appreciated by many.

What I would do differently: To increase each tweet’s exposure, I have started including fewer followers in my ‘thank you’ tweets and categorizing them into similar groups so I can add a hashtag or two. Favouriting has increased with this change, and has led to a slight increase in followers as other people start to take notice.

Experiment #3

What I did and why: Ensure I have a robust content mix. A content strategy will get you most of the way there, but I have found that refining the right mixture of promotional, curated and user-generated tweets will help people see the value in your content. Too heavy on the promotional and you lose authenticity. Too heavy on the curated and you lose authority. Too heavy on the user-generated and you lose credibility. Promotional content comes through my blog, articles I’ve written, and any guest spots I have had on other sites. With curated content, I try to keep it relevant and reliable, and provide my own commentary where appropriate. With user-generated content, I keep an eye out for interesting tweets from my followers.

The result: So far, I have done pretty well maintaining a balance of content. If there has been one weakness, it has been in the user-generated arena. I find that I am so busy keeping up with the other two, that I have neglected the third. As for the content itself, I have not seen the same click-through rates for my promotional content as I have for the curated.

What I would do differently: To keep a balance in the mix, I am going to dedicate a piece of my weekly curating time to retweeting my followers. It’s a key piece of interaction that is too infrequent, and my hope is that it will accelerate follows, favourites and clicks. To address my promotional material, I am going to play with a few different headline options, and work on repurposing my blog content for other platforms. I’ve experimented a bit with Slideshare and LinkedIn and found them to be good amplifiers for content.


I am firmly on the way to my goal of 1,000 Twitter followers by year end, but I do have a few things that I am working on to make sure it happens sooner. What will I do when I get there? Good question. At present, I’m not entirely sure. But I will be looking to optimize my blog and find opportunities to monetize it in 2016. A lofty goal to be sure, but I believe it is possible if I can turn the promotional tweeting results around.

Have you had a similar experience growing your followers? Should I try something else? Let me know in the comments below.

photo credit: Fort Monmouth Environmental Testing Laboratory via photopin (license)


Published by

Ashley Brown, APR

I have seen and done it all, on large and small scales, including communications planning, event coordination, print production, digital presence management, media relations, and more. Bringing in an outside perspective, with an objective set of eyes to pour over your organization's communications programs is considered best practice and yields actionable results. I gather anecdotal and empirical evidence to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of your current communications programs, and make suggestions about how to improve your planning and execution processes, as well as your communications products and materials.

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