10k Twitter Followers on $0 Budget

Thanks to all the followers who have just recently pushed Atlanta Tech Blogs over that glorious vanity milestone of 10,000 followers on Twitter. Y’all rock. For anyone trying to build a following on Twitter (or any other social network), here’s how we got to this point in just over 2 years without spending any money.

In the beginning

A little background first. As it says on our “About” page, I created Atlanta Tech Blogs as a project for me. It was a list of blogs of tech startups that I wanted to keep an eye on as I sought out my next adventure after closing down deductmor/cd8a in May of 2014. At first, it was just a list on this blog. Then someone told me that it was a valuable list and people might find it interesting.

OK, so that might be fun. I bought the domain, a WordPress theme modeled after The Drudge Report, my favorite news site, and organized the startup RSS feeds. Then I reorganized them. And I reorganized them again. Then added pictures into the feeds. I set up an RSS email campaign at Mailchimp. I setup social accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, tumblr, Google+, and LinkedIn. I’ve never spent any money on marketing the site.

Meanwhile, I was trying every social network to determine which channel might offer the best opportunity for driving awareness and engagement. Quickly, Twitter took the crown. We’re still on the other channels, but they don’t come close to Twitter and we don’t put any effort into promoting those channels. The Atlanta tech startup community lives on Twitter & Instagram.

Gaining Traction

The Twitter following started growing, as did our opt-in daily digest email subscription. Each was growing at a steady clip; however, Twitter’s engagement and growth has always been better than the daily email. Still, we decided to focus on those channels for distribution and engagement.

Blah blah blah, fast forward to November of 2015. I met with an experienced startup entrepreneur who plays in this space (digital media about startups). In our conversation, we got around to UGC or “user generated content”. Well, all the content on Atlanta Tech Blogs is user generated. But that’s not what he meant. Yes, blogs are user generated, but we go out and curate them via RSS. They did not come to atlantatechblogs.com to submit or upload content.

Yet.

That day, I sought out a WordPress plugin that could do just that: let non-logged in people submit content for posting and sharing. I found one (free!), installed and configured it, and then emailed (a) everyone who had ever reached out and asked how to submit their blog and (b) every PR person I knew because they would manage the publicity efforts for dozens of clients.

It worked. Today, 30% of all our posts are user submitted posts, or what we call “USPs”, hence the URL at which you submit a post, atlantatechblogs.com/usps/

More than once?

Right after this little, but powerful, adjustment, it occurred to me that, while it’s great that we are republishing and sharing and linking to all these great blog posts from the Atlanta startup community, we are only sharing them one time. For context, the current lifetime of the average tweet is less than 30 seconds. That’s not much. So, I needed to find a way to re-post or re-share all these 3rd party RSS feeds and user submitted posts.

This realization came on the heels of DGM Camp, in which Scott Alan Turner revealed that he automates nearly 100% of his social media using Meet Edgar, and that he posts more than 80 times per day on Twitter. WOW!

I was shocked. Eighty tweets a day?? Yes, almost all his posts are automated, so Scott isn’t working any harder than he was before, but wouldn’t 80+ tweets a day drive followers away? Remember, the average life span of a tweet is less than 30 seconds, so, the answer to that question is a resounding “no.”

Tests Yield Results

In May of 2016, I found just the service to re-share all our organic posts. It came in the form of yet another free WordPress plugin. I installed and configured it, and cranked it up. This plugin simply re-shares your selection of posts based on date, tag, and category criteria you set up. I started sharing one random post from the past week each hour. Those were additional Twitter posts each day, added to the 20–40 posts that are created when we publish your blog posts via RSS feeds. So now we were posting somewhere between 40–60 times each day.

It worked. Our Twitter followers, engagement rate, impressions, profile visits, clicks, and shares all increased significantly. Interesting. Then I thought, if some is good, more is better, right?

To get to the point of diminishing returns quicker, I really cranked it up to a post every 15 minutes. That’s right, 96 new posts per day in addition to the 20–40 organic new posts. I couldn’t believe the results. We went from approximately 50 new followers per month to more than 50 net new followers per day.

The result was growth from just over 3k followers on Twitter to more than 10k followers in less than 4 months. Free.

It’s all about the Content

I’ve typed more than 750 words at this point in this post. I could have said all this in one word: CONTENT.

In this case, user generated content. The more content we share, the more followers, engagement, clicks, and shares we get on Twitter. With that knowledge, we are now seeking new ways to collect user generated content that is easily shareable but still relevant to the Atlanta tech startup community. Got any ideas? If so, we’d love to hear them.

Like I’ve said from the beginning, Atlanta Tech Blogs has always been about sharing the content of Atlanta’s tech startup community, first just for me, and now for all those startups and for all those people like me who want to keep up with and learn about these startups. Some say that the number of Twitter followers you have is a vanity metric, and I tend to agree, but when we share your content to 10k people, you never know who might take an interest.

Again, thank you to all our followers. We really appreciate you. And, for all you startups & entrepreneurs who are trying to reach 10,000 Twitter followers on zero budget, we’ve got you covered. Need a retweet? Tag us, and we’ll give you some RT love. Want to push some great content out to 10,000+ followers multiple times? Submit your content here. We’ll share, re-share, share again, re-share again, then re-re-re-share again. Why? It’s what we do.

You never know who you might find.