We’ve all seen adverts offering hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers for a few pounds, and some of us may have even purchased these services. In reality, bulking up your Twitter account in this way offers very little benefit.

The stark reality is that your unique followers are likely spoof profiles, created on mass using specialist software. Your new followers will not become active members of your social community and they certainly won’t increase your social footprint or share your content.

Building your Twitter account organically with unique active followers takes time and effort, but it is possible and it is beneficial to your bottom line. What’s more it doesn’t have to take a long time. In fact Twitter should take no more than 1 hour a week to manage.

Here’s how I’ve accumulated a following of over 17,000 people:

1. Build an audience

The first thing to do is to reach out to a targeted group of people that you think will be interested in your content. There are many useful tools for keyword searches based on a user’s profile. Try Refollow or Origenate. I always go for active users who have tweeted in the last 3 days, within a specific geographic area (ie London, Paris etc), and then apply my keyword (eg: “Managing Director” for business owners or “Manchester United” for club football supporters). Look at competitors and consider reviewing their followers. Once you have a list, the trick is to follow up to 1,000 people in week one. Don’t be greedy or Twitter will revoke your account. Roughly 30% of people will follow you back. In week two, unfollow everyone who didn’t follow you and repeat the process of reaching out. You will immediately begin to see organic, genuine growth in Twitter followers.

2. Tweet at times that your new followers will see you

Research shows us that active Twitter users check their accounts on their mobile devices between three to five times per day. With this in mind, you need to communicate with your audience between three to five times a day. With such a plethora of tweets, it is easy for your message to fall off the timeline so it is vital to post at the right time of day. Try posting between 8am-9am to catch the commuters, pre and post lunch between 12pm – 2pm, on the way home between 5pm-7pm and just before bed 10pm -11pm. There are three types of Twitter users – broadcasters, consumers and engagers. We want to be the latter and encourage a discussion. It is therefore vital to not only broadcast but to also engage in discussion. Try personal messaging or responding to other peoples tweets as a start and watch people begin to share your content.

3. What to Tweet and how to schedule

Each week you will need 25 tweets to broadcast. Please don’t be one of those people who “Wee” on their followers – “we’ve just done this”, “we’ve launched a new service” – no one really cares! Instead, limit your posts to just 30% about your own company. The other 30% can be relevant blog content from either your company or other industry bloggers. The final 40% of content should be thought leadership pieces. Don’t be afraid to tweet the competition. Research shows that those who Tweet competitors are 5 times more likely to win the respect of their audience and thus generate trust and new business from this channel. Tweets should take the form of a short teaser followed by a tiny url or similar shortened url. Experts amongst us may wish to at UTM values to links to monitor the conversion in Google Analytics.  We recommend Tweetdeck or Hootsuite for scheduling. Both tools are good and offer different benefits dependant on your requirements. Try them out and see which one works for you. The next step is to schedule your messages and then watch your followers grow.

Once you’ve mastered the techniques you need to get yourself up to date and ensure you engage.

4. Update Your Profile

You have just a few seconds to appeal to the typical Twitter user. They may see a Tweet they like, or notice that somebody they follow is already following you. Their next step? In most cases, they will click through and check your profile.

Ensure that you make the most of your 160 character profile. This doesn’t mean cramming your bio full of keywords, but it does mean providing genuine information. Let people know what type of information you provide, and try to include one or two personal details as well. Add a profile picture and do include a link to your website or blog.

One of the most common mistakes that businesses make on Twitter is assuming that a great profile and a couple of Tweets from the day of registration will attract followers.

The reality is that unless you post insightful and useful tweets regularly, you will not attract the number of followers that you are hoping for. Try to determine a schedule, and stick loosely to it. If you promise daily updates, then do provide them, but be prepared to act if there is breaking news that you need to share.

5. Get Involved In Other Conversations

Follow people that are relevant to you, and avoid the temptation of only following high profile names. Many people that you follow will follow back, but the more followers a person has the less likely this becomes.

By following people that are relevant to the information that you offer, you will see conversations and Tweets that are relevant to what you do. Don’t just read news updates, and watch threads of conversations. Offer your own insight, and don’t be afraid to get involved in a conversation. As long as you provide something useful and genuine as a response, you will see your Twitter followers increase.

6. Start Conversations

Once you have started to build your profile, and you have a few hundred active and relevant followers, you don’t have to be the one that butts in on conversations.  If you have a number of followers that always respond to your Tweets, it’s time to start relevant conversations in a bid to attract new followers.

Direct a tweet at some of your own followers, and encourage responses by asking questions or encouraging others to provide their own opinion on a relevant topic. Their followers will see their responses, and may even join in. Not only will this gain you some followers, but it could see your conversation go viral and you could amass a large number of followers.

7. Use #Hashtags Properly

Hashtags were developed as a means of gathering intelligible data together. They have evolved to now offer humorous opinions on just about everything, as well as a means of telling the world what you had for breakfast this morning.

By all means, use hashtags, but avoid the temptation of adding a hashtag to every word of a tweet, and ensure that you do your research before joining in a hashtag conversation.

8. Live-Tweeting – Developing The Conversation

Live-tweeting can really open new doors and encourage followers to walk through those doors. Essentially, a live-tweet conversation can be started on just about any topic, and you should avoid getting involved in every single conversation that you see occurring at any given moment.

If you attend relevant events, or watch shows that are relevant to your business and your Twitter account, live tweet insightful comments regarding these events and do make sure that you use the hashtags associated with them.

There are many ways to use Twitter, and many ways to encourage followers. Develop a voice, offer unique tweets, and avoid services that sound too good to be true – they probably are.

Please give me your feedback and check out more information on How To Get More Twitter Followers.