How to Get More Twitter Followers Without Looking Like a Self-Promoter

Posted By on January 22, 2013

Marketing to get more Twitter followers without looking like you’re doing it. It’s the twisting half-somersault of social media. If you pull it off, you’ll look like Greg Louganis. If you don’t, it’s your turn to be Stephen Feck, whose back-flop was dubbed the “World’s Worst Dive” after the 2012 Olympics:

How to get more Twitter followers–and on all of social media–requires aerobatic feats. Blare info about your products, appearances, or books and your following will leave the stands. Make them curious, or entertain or incite them, and they’ll pack the bleachers.

One meaning of “promote” is to actively encourage, to help move forward. To promote your product (which may be yourself), you need to believe in its purpose in order to intrigue others.

How This Famous Author Promotes a Book Tour to Get More Twitter Followers

Susan Orlean isn’t just a social-media rock star; she’s the Lady Gaga of authors on social media. Twitter published her guide to tweeting as part of its Help, and she has blogged about social media for the New Yorker since 2010). On Twitter she’s witty, welcoming, inviting, prolific (22,000 tweets so far), and dedicated to her work in the world. No wonder she has a following of more than 246,000.

In this tweet, she promotes a speaking engagement without seeming to.

Very excited to do a panel with the amazing Edwidge Danticat tomorrow at the Women Writers Festival at Notre Dame.

Orlean’s excitement is less about her speaking and more about appearing with Edwidge Danticat, the extraordinary Haitian American writer and social justice activist. Sure, Susan Orlean is promoting herself, but she’s also educating thousands of people about Danticat and building her reputation by speaking on tour with another great writer.

Often hilarious, Orlean tweeted this while on tour in Alaska:

Leaving Alaska tonight. Wonderful trip—and not just because of the fur-bra sighting. #fuzzyfoundationgarments

If an author reports sighting a fuzzy foundation garment, I’d head to her next book signing.

What Not to Do to Promote on Twitter

Contrast Orlean’s tweets with this Facebook status update by a local Seattle author:

So, my reading with Bachelor Smith [fake name] is in a few hours.

What is the reason we should attend her reading? Because we know when it is? Naming her fellow reader doesn’t help, because he’s not well known.

The most common marketing failure on social media is bubbling over with enthusiasm about your own accomplishments. Variations of the phrase “We’re so excited to announce, invite you, etc.” are everywhere on social media. Gag rule: People want to know why they should care, rather than what you feel. Twitter has even made a joke about it with the #soexcited hashtag.

Are you like Forever 21 and abusing "so excited" in your posts? Stop now before Justin Bieber's fans come after you.

Are you like Forever 21 and abusing “so excited” in your posts?

Practice Makes Perfect

Social media, unlike the Olympics, is forgiving. You might commit the audience-shrinking sin of jumping up and down while shrieking, “Look at me, look at me!,” but your tweet or status update will soon, fortunately, sink to the bottom of your feeds. So play with it. Test out humor or poignancy or forthrightness or strangeness when promoting something. But whatever you try, tell your fans what’s in it for them.