be my fan on twitterSo, you’ve been working hard to build a following on twitter. By now you have at least ten followers right? Good job. Keep up the hard work. Eventually you’ll have many more, provided you keep your focus off your follow count and on to the more important things, like being a real engager on twitter. That’s right, in case you got sidetracked twitter is a social network, the keyword there being social. So if you get distracted by your follow count, obsessive blog promotion, selfish tweeting or any other number of things; get yourself back on track by engaging in some real conversation.

You’re end goal is not followers it is true fans

I realize my above paragraph carries a hint of sarcasm, but my purpose is to communicate the importance of focus. Twitter is a world full of distraction, and I know the lure of tracking your follow count (for aren’t we all tempted to boast about big numbers?). I’m hoping you have more than ten followers, (if not you certainly will soon) but that doesn’t mean all those followers are your fans. A lot of twitter users have huge follow counts (in the thousands or even tens of thousands), I really scratch my head and wonder how they can pay attention to that many tweets… knowing of course they can’t. For those that are following thousands the only way they can sift through that raging river of tweets is by organizing lists of those tweeps they are really interested in, in other words the people whom they are a true fan of. You may just be a random follow-back at this point, and though it’s another addition to your follow count – you’re end goal is not followers it is true fans. I would estimate (a pure guess, not based on any hard evidence) that your true fans may only be about 10% of your total follow count.

Convert followers into fans

So you have a mission before you. Your goal? Convert followers into fans. I don’t have any hard data on how to do this, but I do have some ideas and practices that I’ve established for myself and appear to be quite effective. It takes work, and time. Sorry, there are no apps to get this done. If you’re not committed to using twitter as a SOCIAL network, then this isn’t going to work for you. Twitter wasn’t designed as a chat room for you to just tell everyone about your latest blog post (you can read more about my opinions on that one: here), you’ve got to leverage your ability to interact with people if you want them to like you. Hey, they won’t be your fans if they don’t like you first, and they can’t like you if they don’t know you. Once they like you, they can start to trust you, and that’s when you earn a fan. Your twitter trustworthiness can be gauged by how often you are retweeted – basically how people say ‘I like what you’re saying, and I know it’s valuable and credible, so I’m going to tell others’. So, here are a few tips to help you convert your existing followers into true fans.

Tip #1 Engage in Conversation

You won’t win fans if you’re not communicating with people. Ask questions, reply to their tweets, say thank you, converse. Interest in you will start with you showing interest in others, so that means you become the initiator. You can’t sit around and depend on people to suddenly clue in to how brilliant you are and how they should pay closer attention to you, this will happen occasionally of course, but early on as your start to build your fan base you need to aggressively pursue those you’re after. My advice, pick a handful of people you’re hoping to ‘convert’ and focus on them for one to two weeks. Don’t focus on too many people at once, keep it small, build your conversations, and use the following tips to hook them as true fans.

Tip #2 Retweet quality posts

Now you’ve got your focus on a few individuals who you suspect could become true fans of you, your website or blog, or your product. Pay close attention to them and retweet some of their quality posts. That doesn’t mean to make yourself into a stalker who retweets everything they say, that would be very strange. No, you must focus on promoting their posts (by the way you should actually read their articles as well), and retweet them when appropriate. They will notice your activity and are likely to thank you with an @ mention. Use the thank you tweet as your opening to a conversation, throw out a question or a compliment, start talking.

Tip #3 Quote and reference them in your articles

Are you a blogger? If so than you can double your impact by both improving your posts and honoring a potential fan by quoting and referencing them in an article. Use a direct Message to ask a question and request a “quote”, perhaps they are (or maybe they aren’t) an expert in a specific field. Leverage their expertise to your advantage, by including their opinions in your blog. Not only will they really like it, they’ll also quickly become an advocate to promoting that post for you.

Tip #4 Promote their material

Visit their website or blog, and capture something that interests you, tweet about it. You can use the via @ reference in your tweet to make sure they notice you are promoting their stuff. Link to them in a creative way, not just through your blogroll but by citing them in an article, tweet about it.

Tip #5 Comment on their blogs

This is critical, you must show your interest in them, often that is the stepping stone to reciprocation. Take some time each day to visit the blog of people you are interested in, and put proper time into commenting on posts. Please not just comments like ‘nice article’ or ‘very interesting…”, you need to read the article and comment intelligently. When you demonstrate that you’ve actually read their article and have a worthwhile comment they will likely reciprocate by investigating you (and upon discovering how great you are, they will soon become a true fan!).

Tip #6 Friend them in other social networks

This will be effective as your web presence increases and people get to know you outside of twitter. There are a ton of social networks that allow you to become friends with or follow others. For bloggers my all time favorite is Blog Engage, there is also Bloggers, and sites like Sphinn or Digg. Utilize these social networks to seek out and befriend those that you hope will begin to show interest in you.

I’m no expert (yet…)

By the way, I’m no expert, herein there is a little experience, a little intuition and a little research combining to create this post. As I have begun to put these ideas into practice I’ve seen results in my little world. I’m certain there are blogging and social media professionals who have additional advice and far more experience than me. As you can see however earning true fans requires you to be genuinely interested in others, you can’t fabricate this by following the above ‘cookie cutter’ steps and expecting to get committed fans. Who are you a fan of? why? Ask yourself questions like that so you can target your followers and earn a true following.

Perhaps you have some advice or an opinion as well, I’d love to hear it. Your comments and objective feedback are encouraged here, please leave a comment with your thoughts.

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