50,000 Twitter Followers! Only took 7 years, 2 weeks, and 5 days

50,000 Twitter Followers! Only took 7 years, 2 weeks, and 5 days

Modern recruiters build a strong online personal brand.

It’s not cliche, it’s not marketing babble, it’s not the blathering of some pony-tailed, ear-ringed digital acolyte.

It’s a deal-breaker for recruiting success.

It will become the recruiters biggest asset. And this claim is based on the Twitter experience of a recruiter. An old-school, hard-case recruiter at that. But an old-school recruiter who was also voted the most influential  Australian business person on Twitter.  So you can be old-school and stay updated, it seems.

Here is the news. For a start, you should treat LinkedIn more as a branding platform than a sourcing platform, in my opinion (which if you do well, will mean LinkedIn will become your most effective sourcing platform. Yes, it makes sense… read it again). And what’s more, old-school recruiter business development tactics will become less effective. It’s more about brand and social-selling than cold-calling. Indeed you need to generate inbound inquiries. Do you?

And for many recruiters, if you are serious about building your business, you should be on Twitter.  As with any social media strategy, you have to first determine if your audience is on Twitter, but if they are, the benefits for professionals looking to build brand, enhance their profile, and create relationships are exceptional.

But if you are currently dabbling with Twitter, have few followers, and tweet inconsistently, then my advice to you is change your ways, or get off Twitter now.

Twitter is all or nothing. To build a following where you have influence, takes hard work and time.

How much time?

Well, for me to go from my first tweet to 50,000 targeted followers, it took 7 years, 2 weeks and 5 days. And I was on Twitter every single day.

I started when I was CEO of Firebrand and we were grappling with building a global brand with no money! So my target was recruiters, but also marketing and digital professionals. When I sold Firebrand at the end of 2012, my focus shifted mostly to recruiters and HR professionals, as they became my prime audience. Of course my blog and LinkedIn activities supported that quest, and provided a great deal of the content that ended up on my Twitter stream. So it’s a cocktail of social activities that thrive in a symbiotic relationship.

So here are 26 learnings. How I got there. What I did well. And what I did wrong, that you should avoid. This is a blue print for building a profile that will position you as a thought-leader, open doors, make you money, and introduce you to fabulous people in your niche. All that, and more, has happened for me on my road to 50,000 Twitter followers. (If you read my post two years ago, ‘How I got to 30,000 Twitter Followers‘, this is an updated, refreshed version)

1.    Get serious. If you have decided you will use Twitter for business, behave that way from the start. Create a professional looking profile, with a good picture of your face, a full Bio that has the right key words. We don’t care that you love cats, support Arsenal, or have a cute baby. Sorry, but we don’t. This is not Facebook. We want to know what we can learn from you, and what we can teach you. Include a URL leading to your company web page, or your LinkedIn profile, or your blog.

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2.    Find your ‘voice’. I realise that potentially sounds a bit poncy, but it’s real. The best thing is to tweet in your own style, using your own language, but frame it for a business environment. So if you would not say “Our Prime Minister is a tosser” or “I hate my job” in a client meeting or at a business convention, then you do not say it on Twitter. It’s OK to be casual, conversational, and even comical. But it’s not ok to be racist, sexist, gratuitously crude, or confrontational. It’s not smart to be overtly political or strident about your particular cause or belief either, because you will alienate more people than you will win over. Remember, Twitter is ‘yours‘, but you have decided to use it for business, so many ‘rules’ apply. Stay professional. Get the tone right. Above all, be authentic.

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3.    Having said that, having an opinion is good. People want to be informed and challenged. That is the way to provoke engagement. But be a ‘listener’ too.  Be prepared to be persuaded. Thank and acknowledge. Share the good content put out by others. But do not self-endorse. Shine the light on others. Not yourself.

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4.    Tweet often. Yes very often. 5 times a day from the very start. And then build it up to 10 times a day, or more. Twitter is a stream, not an email inbox. Most people will miss most of what you say.  All the research shows that if you tweet more, you get more followers. I am assuming quality tweets as a given.

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5.    Tweet for your audience, not for you. This goes hand in hand with how often you tweet. You love rugby? Great. So do I. But if you tweet all day about rugby, you will lose your target following, most of whom could not give a continental about the game they play in heaven. I need to emphasise this. You are tweeting to entertain, inform, help, and share. For the community you want to engage with. It’s for them you tweet. Not for you.

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6.    On the subject of tweets, if you are a recruiter, do not tweet your vacant jobs. Twitter is not a job-board. People come to share and engage. Don’t bombard them with streams of your vacancies. Sure, maybe your top job, once a week, is OK. But mainly you tweet ideas or smart content of yours, or pithy insights, or links to other material that your audience can learn from, or be entertained by.

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7.    Be generous. Yes this is a key to social media, especially Twitter, that so few seem to understand. Share your insights. Give away research and tips and tactics. Answer questions (and you will get some doozies!). Share other Tweeps content via Re-tweets.

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8.    Thank people on Twitter. If they share your content. Or make a positive remark about your tweet. I did this religiously for the first few years. Thanked people for every RT received. Now I can’t thank every RT, there are just too many, but I still try to acknowledge every kind word or positive endorsement. When you meet people in real life you will be amazed how they always remember the fact you responded on Twitter, and how it increased their loyalty to you.

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9.     Do not subscribe to Twitter services that announce your location, tell everyone how many people followed you, or unfollowed you, or any other spammy nonsense like that. It pollutes the Twitter-stream and you will lose followers.

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10.    Do not set up Auto DMs to welcome new followers or, worse, to try and point new followers to your blog or Facebook page. Instant unfollow!

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11.    Use Twitter to drive your content. I used Twitter in association with my blog, as well as other social platforms. So Twitter allows me to get my content to more people. Obviously your content has to be relevant and high quality, but your social channels work best when integrated and working in tandem.

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12.    Schedule tweets. Yes, even today people say to me, “I was in an all-day training session with you. How did you keep on tweeting?” There are many tools that allow you to schedule your tweets to go out in the future. Tweetdeck, SocialOomph, Buffer to name a few. I am not suggesting you automate your Twitter content totally. Not at all. But it’s fine to schedule tweets out into the future to make sure you are staying relevant and ‘in the stream’.

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13.    Some people use Twitter to ‘broadcast’ only, just pumping out links and content. Others spend all their time ‘engaging’ using Twitter almost like a chat room. Me? I believe in “brengagement”. Broadcast a lot of great stuff and engage with people who like your stuff. That’s the secret! “Brengagement’.

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14.    Use a Twitter management tool such as Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to manage your followers, your ‘mentions’, and your tweet scheduling.

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15.    Remember that no matter how great your content, how witty your tweets, they are all wasted unless you have followers! In fact, tweeting to a handful of followers is like putting on a musical in an empty theatre. Might be great, but who knows? So how do you build your following? There are three ways i) tweet good stuff consistently ii) Re-tweet and engage with influential people in your sector, and the most crucial of all iii) follow people you want to follow you back.

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16.    And when I say ‘follow people,’ I mean follow lots of people. Hundreds a day. That’s right, hundreds. Remember I said getting to 50,000 Twitter followers takes work?  So, go to a very influential person in your sector who is on Twitter. Click on her followers. Scan down the list and follow the ones who look like they would be interesting to you. If you are a recruiter, then potential clients or candidates in your space. Don’t agonise over it. Go for it! This is not like friending someone on Facebook or Linking In, which are a totally different dynamic altogether. The person you follow does not ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ you. You just ‘follow’ and they are grateful for the attention (or could not care less either way!). You can also look at Twitter lists key people have been included in (all available on their Twitter profile page). This can be a great source of potential targeted followers. About 30% of the people you follow will follow you back. As you get more credibility in your space, that percentage will rise.

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17.    Twitter has follower limits. I am not even sure they publish what they are, but I do know you can’t follow more than 5,000 people unless you have more than 5,000 followers. Do you stop then? No! Once you get close to 5,000 people you are following, and they have not followed you back after several weeks, you unfollow them. Feel no guilt, this is not Facebook. Once you have ‘freed up’ your following limit you can start following more people, and so it goes. Let me be brutally honest. How did I get to 50,000 followers? Sure, lots of them followed me because my content is just SO interesting, and my repartee so pithy :). But many more initially followed me because they got a follow from me! Then I like to think I kept them through good content and engagement. So for 2 years I reckon I followed several hundred people a week. People in my niche who I wanted to follow my Twitter stream. That’s right. Hard work! But as a result I now have a massive pool of people in my community who are likely to share my content, and be interested in my business proposals.

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18.    Clean up your following by using Twitter tools such as ManageFlitter. These tools tell you who do not follow you back, and who you follow who have not tweeted for months. These are prime people to unfollow.

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19.    Resist the temptation to fight on Twitter. This is easier said than done because the Twitterverse is packed with idiots, cowards and bullies who like to provoke or who are just plain ignorant (like life generally, really).  My approach for the most part is to try to answer with a reasoned reply. If the next tweet is obnoxious I either ignore or just block the person. Life is FAR too short to spend your time tweeting with dickheads, and you never look good in a twitterspat. (It has been pointed out to me that since I sold Firebrand, and no longer represent anyone but myself, I do occasionally respond to a twitter fuckwit with swift kick in the online nuts, but that’s me..I don’t advise it as a rule)

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20.    Most of your tweets will be about your area of business interest or topics of general interest. The odd personal tweet is OK, but limit these. I really DO NOT care if you had a good weekend or had a bacon sandwich for breakfast, and you don’t care that my wife is ill, or that my son took 5 wickets for 9 runs on the weekend. Right? ( Disclosure: I did tweet the 5 wickets for 9 runs,…sorry.. but I mean, FIVE for NINE!)

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21.    Promote your Twitter account everywhere. On your email signature. On your website. On your blog. On your Facebook page. On your business card. On your PowerPoint slides.

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22.     Work out what times your audience is on Twitter, and tweet in those time windows. There are tools to help you with this. Followerwonk does, I believe. Remember to tweet for time zones if you have a wide target geography.

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23.    Use #Hashtags. They put content into topics that others with similar interests can find, which will enhance traffic, engagement, sharing, and followers. (Not too many # in a single tweet though..that has the opposite effect!)

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24.    Never forget that there are real people behind those Twitter handles. Be careful not to be sarcastic, rude, dismissive, or short. Take newbies under your wing. Forgive minor slights. I have met scores of people in real life after first connecting on Twitter. Many have become clients. Many are now friends. Tread with care.

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25. Commit the time. Every day. At least 30 minutes, but often more. No you don’t have to work longer hours to achieve this. Just stop doing things you have always done that no longer work!

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26.     Twitter is a long game. A very long game. The return on your time and generosity may seem like a lifetime in the coming. Avoid thinking in the short term. It’s a journey. It’s a way of life. Build it into your week. 30 minutes a day. That is all you need. That and great content. And time.

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Read how my business Firebrand, used Social Media to build a massively successful content marketing strategy. (I sold this business in late 2012).

Look also at the Twitter work of recruitment companies I am involved with and have advised on social media. They are doing it well (people2people, WattsNext, Consult Recruitment)

As for me, Twitter in conjunction with my blog, have given me a global brand as an advisor and speaker in the recruitment industry. That is no exaggeration. I get clients from all over the world who learn of me via social media and contact me via social media. Between two to five inbound inquiries a week is the averageSpeaking events I do in Asia, South Africa, Europe, Australia, and NZ are now routinely filled via marketing to my engaged and targeted audience on Twitter. My blog is read by a million people a year, many of them driven there via Twitter. The business benefits of that fact would need another blog.

None of that is because I am especially clever. In fact, I am not very clever at all. It’s because I have worked hard to build a social profile in a niche. Every recruiter can do that too. And must.

Footnote. Please don’t email me contesting the ‘most influential business person in Australia’ thing. I don’t know if I am actually Australia’s most influential businessperson on Twitter, and frankly I could not care less. But these guys say I am, and it makes for a great intro to my blog….so…that’s it then…


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About Greg Savage

Over a career spanning thirty years, Greg Savage has established himself as a global recruitment leader. Greg is a regular keynote speaker at staffing and recruitment conferences around the world.

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9 Responses to 50,000 Twitter Followers! Only took 7 years, 2 weeks, and 5 days

  1. Jan September 13, 2016 at 11:26 am #

    Useful comments for an old school recruiter Greg. I’ll definitely take on board “tweeting to a handful of followers is like putting on a musical in an empty theatre” Love it! No audience – No encores. 🙂

  2. carolyn September 13, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    Tweeting 5 to 10 times a day? And where would we get time to do that? Good article but lost me there

    • Greg Savage September 13, 2016 at 11:59 am #

      1) you can schedule at least half your tweets.. months in advance if you wish. Its all explained in the article
      2) If you regard building brand as important, you MAKE the time, by stopping all the time wasting you currently to do like putting ads on job board and getting 50 inappropriate responses that you then ‘screen’, looking REALLY busy but going nowhere

      Its first about realising there is a new way.. and then about evolving to become a modern recruiter…

      Or, you can say you “dont have time”, and stay exactly as you are as job boards become less effective, LI gets increasingly spammy, and you end up with nothing to offer you clients that they cant get themselves

  3. Bob Ferro September 14, 2016 at 3:28 am #

    This is very good advice, it is good to hear from someone who is making it work.
    Thank you.

  4. Achyut Menon September 25, 2016 at 1:01 am #

    Thank you Greg. You have been an inspiration. Great checklist. Love the words of wisdom! Helps remove blind spots.Keep em coming…

  5. Jim October 13, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    This is 100% spot on. As a Recruiter of 10 years plus and someone who has been steadily building my Twitter community for a while, I am really starting to see the results. It’s hard work, and takes time, but without a doubt what you put in is definitely rewarded with what you get back out.

  6. Kevin Garber November 22, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

    Greg thanks for the mention.

    Did you know that ManageFlitter was developed in Sydney Australia!

    All the best.
    Kevin – CEO ManageFlitter

    • Greg Savage November 22, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

      I did not know that Kevin.. but that is good to know, and another good reason to use it…:)

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