Two questions always pop up when people visit my Twitter account:

  1. Why is your background so boring?
  2. When do you think you’ll break 100K followers?

The answer to the first question is easy – my graphic design skills are nil, I don’t want to use a free service, and I don’t want to pay someone to make it look good. Besides, it’s about the content, not the background, right?

The second answer is even easier. Never.

Back in the early days of the Twitter craze around 2 years ago, I had a race with a close friend. Both of us were early users of Twitter, but it wasn’t until early 2009 when the race for followers started heating up. We were both approaching the top 1000 amongst followers and thought we’d wager a steak dinner over who could hit 10,000 faster.

From there, we continued to grow. 20k. 30k. 50k. 70k. And then, all of a sudden, I stopped. The good ol’ “churn and burn” technique of getting Twitter followers by following a bunch of people, seeing who followed you back, then dumping those who didn’t and starting over was, well, “dirty” to me. It wasn’t sincere. It was inorganic, wasteful, and made me feel like I was trashing a potentially wonderful system by getting involved with shady growth techniques.

I was.

So I stopped.

At around 75k followers close to the end of 2009, I stopped adding people. I wish there was still a service that would help me to unfollow everyone so I could start over and follow the people that I really wanted to hear. I turned from a Twitter junky to a Twitter purist overnight and I haven’t really looked back since.

It’s about the integrity, man! I’ll be paying for my early sins for a long time as I sift through and unfollow 5-10 spammers and bots every day. It’s going to take forever, but I’ll be able to use it properly. Someday.

Lesson Learned

For those who really want to take advantage of Twitter, don’t do what I did. Regardless of what you’re using Twitter for, there is no reason to grow inorganically. Be interesting and the people will follow you. Reach and “klout” are achievable without bulk as long as your message is strong and you are conversing regularly.

Here are some pointers for those who want to “grow” in Twitter (and keep in mind, growth has very little to do with size of an account):

  • Size and Reach Aren’t The Same Thing: Look at 2 Twitter accounts – @kesgardner and @socialpros. The first has 2700 followers and the second has nearly 10X as much. Yet, if you look at their Klout scores, the smaller account is blowing the big account away. Reach on Twitter is about talking to people, being involved, and most importantly being interesting. Getting big to achieve reach is much, much harder than just being someone that people talk to on Twitter.
  • Tweet Often: The worst piece of advice that anyone can give you is that over-tweeting hurts you. This may have been true last year but it isn’t true anymore. If you are involved in 10 conversations at once, yes, you’re going to annoy a few people who see your name appear too often in their feed. BUT, if your tweets are engaging, not just links, and definitely not automated, you can achieve a lot by hitting the 10-20 Tweets per day range (but don’t think that’s a limit, either).
  • Vet Everyone: My biggest mistake – not vetting the people I followed. In fact, I didn’t even have a clue who I was following – I paid a service to follow everyone back who followed me. Big mistake. Look at everyone who follows you and everyone you want to consider following. Do their Tweets match? Are they interesting? Not a bot? Not a spammer? Oh, and don’t judge people by their background (especially me). Some of the most interesting people on Twitter are graphically challenged.
  • Avoid the Feed: It’s easy to get lost in automation. Facebook updates can easily be fed to Twitter. Blogs can easily be fed to Twitter. Anything can be easily fed to Twitter. Avoid them. Every single thing you Tweet should come from your hands. Even if you have a blog, how hard is it to put 140 characters together? Is it so timely that when you post it, the few extra seconds it takes to tweet it can make or break your post? No.

Twitter is no longer a race. It never really was (even though some of us thought so). It’s an ongoing conversation, a news source, and a community. Treat it as such and you can be successful either personally or for your business. Once it becomes nothing more than a tool, you’ve already lost your way.

Written by JD Rucker
JD Rucker is Editor of this site as well as The New Americana, a Conservative News Aggregator. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and co-founder of the Federalist Party. Find him on Twitter or Facebook.