Twitter's Email Tools Can Expand Your Twitter FollowingOne easy way to start growing your Twitter following is by taking advantage of Twitter's built-in email and networking tools. Click "Who to Follow" in the top menu and then the "Friends" tab. Select your email provider or your LinkedIn network and let Twitter try to identify your contacts so you can follow them.
Follow the ExpertsBut on Twitter, people you don't know often are more helpful contacts for growing your Twitter following than your friends. In fact, one of the most commonly used--and successful-- strategies is simply to follow people who have a lot of followers and try to engage in conversation with them and some of their followers.
Auto Following Carries Risk of Violating Twitter's Rules
Another strategy, which is more controversial and carries certain risks, is to follow people who are known to do automatic following or to "auto follow" everyone who follows them.
Auto-follow means that whenever someone follows you, you automatically follow them back. Various auto-follow systems piggyback on auto-follow practices to turbo-charge your Twitter following behavior.
An example that combines auto-follow strategies is finding people who have a lot of followers and also tend to do auto-following. Following them means they likely will follow you back. One way to identify "automatic followers" is through so-called follow-back lists such as one maintained by SocialNewsWatch, which lists people known to be willing to follow you back if you follow them. There are risks to auto following, however, so you should take time to learn what they are before using any strategy involving automation.
The SocialNewsWatch list contains links to the Twitter pages of people with a ton of followers who typically follow people back. Many are celebrities or public figures, but don't expect all of those listed to follow you back. President Obama, for example, is on the list and doesn't follow everyone who follows him on Twitter.
A ton of free and premium services exist that take different approaches to automatic following on Twitter, from social network matchmaking service Twiends to the tweet-management tool Tweet Adder, which has a built-in auto-follow tool.
Twitter Forbids Many Auto Following Services
But as a rule, most auto-follower services are not a smart way to expand your Twitter following. One reason is that they run the risk of getting you booted off Twitter if the automation service gets carried away and has people automatically following you when you are not actually following them.
Twitter's rules forbid automatic following except it does allow people to automatically follow those who are following them. That is a common practice--following everyone who follows you on Twitter, and Twitter has no problem with automation tools that help you accomplish it. Read Twitter's following rules and best practices guide for more details on what Twitter allows.
There are other downsides to aggressive auto-follow strategies. One is that you will clutter your tweet timeline with messages that don't really interest you. In other words, one trade-off of auto-follow practices is getting more Twitter followers in return for making your tweet-reading experience much less useful.
Attend Conferences and Tweet About Them
A more effective strategy to get more followers is to attend a conference and tweet using the Twitter hashtag for that conference, so other attendees will read your tweets and some will start following you.
If done carefully, this strategy can also work without you physically attending the conference. You can watch the livestreamed video feeds online and tweet about what you see and hear.
Transparency is important on Twitter, though, so be sure to drop in a line about how you are watching the conference online, not in person.
Interact, Engage, DM to Grow Your Twitter Following
Another strategy for getting expand your Twitter following is to interact a lot with the people who follow you,by sending them @reply messages to create a public conversation.
Retweeting people's messages also triggers more followers, since the user who sent the tweet may see your retweet and decide to follow you.
Promote Yourself Widely
The more you can let other people know you are tweeting, the more followers you likely will attract. Try adding a link to your Twitter feed on your blog or website, or adding a widget that displays your latest tweets.
Other things you can do are to list yourself in a Twitter directory like WeFollow.com and join forums and listservs that discuss Twitter.
Another way to boost your Twitter following is to heed the Twitter Follow Friday tradition of users suggesting people for each other to follow on Fridays, using the hashtags #FF or #FollowFriday.
Just search on those hashtags and see what comes up. Enter the conversation by suggesting someone others should follow and use #FF in your tweet.
Be sure to include something about why people should follow the person you recommend, though. It will grab more attention and potentially more followers than if you simply throw out a user name.
Patience Helps Expand Your Twitter Following Wisely
To expand your Twitter following effectively takes time.
It's important not to grow impatient and use the many "get Twitter followers fast" schemes that offer to build your following in a week or two. The followers you attract with those tools are not likely to add much to your conversation on Twitter.