New Tricks: Gain more Twitter followers for your news organization

April 15th, 2009

You’ve been rolling on Twitter for a little while — maybe thanks to our recent posts, even — but now you’re starting to get into it a bit more.

You may be doing all of the right things on Twitter: talking to other people, re-Tweeting folks, posting links to interesting Web sites and being helpful in general, but you may want to boost your visibility. (If anything, it may earn you a bit of breathing room with your bosses, who wonder why the hell you’re spending your time on Twitter.)

To do that, you’ll need to find some more people to follow. You’ll want to start by checking out these sites:

1. BackTweets: I recently wrote about BackTweets. It’s a site that helps you track people who post a link to your story on Twitter. Follow folks who link to you, your competition and, if you’re a local news organization, TV and radio stations, along with local blogs. If someone links to a story from your site, thank them.

2. LocalTweeps: LocalTweeps is relatively new, but it helps you find all sorts of local folks. Think of it as the “Twitter White Pages.”

3. Advanced Twitter Search: Since the main metric for local news organizations should be local unique visits, an advanced search is a great way to find folks in your neck of the woods. Need people within 10 miles of 60614? No problem. Simple.

That sounds like a lot, so here are the people you definitely want to follow:

- People who mention your news organization by name. This is self-explanatory, and you’ll be able to help troubleshoot for folks who, for example, are having problems with their subscription.
- People who re-Tweet you. This is a no-brainer. When the Chicago Tribune announced its redesign, the story got carried all around the Twittersphere:


To be honest, @ColonelTribune already followed most of the people who were mentioning the Tribune, but it never hurts to double-check.

- People who mention local issues and breaking news. In Chicago, for instance, it would behoove Colonel Tribune or @SunTimes to follow people who mention “Roland Burris” or “Rod Blagojevich.” If someone mentions a local issue, give them a follow. If they don’t follow back, you can always unfollow them.

- People who mention local landmarks. Highways, airports and restaurants are things that people love to Tweet about. And if they’re Tweeting from one of these places, chances are they’re bored. Give them a follow. You have nothing to lose.

- Twitter super-users, of course. For a general list of power users, try Twitterholic and Twitter Grader. (Twitter Grader also has a great local search feature; here’s the ranking for Chicago.)

- People who mention your competition. For instance, if I were to run a Twitter page for the New York Daily News, I would follow people who mention:

- The New York Times
- The New York Post
- Newsday
- Local magazines, like New York and The New Yorker
- Gothamist and a couple of other blogs
- Broadcast television and radio Twitter feeds

But there are a few things to consider before you start following lots of folks:

1. Is your profile completely filled out? If you don’t have a photo and profile description
2. Do you have a fairly solid following? If I get a random follow from a news organization that has 20 followers, guess what – I’m not following them back.
3. Do you look like a spammer? If you’re following 1,000 people but only have 100 followers, you look like a spammer. It looks like you’re on Twitter just to gain followers. And if you are, I’m not following you. A good ration is about 3:2, meaning for every three people who follow you, you should follow two back.

Here are some other things you can do to get more followers:

- Tweet content that’s relevant to your audience. This is probably the single most important thing you can do, and it’s testable. You can track the number of clicks on your URLs if you use a service like (There are others out there, but I like this one.)

- Respond to all questions, suggestions and comments. Self-explanatory.

- Evangelize Twitter. Do you know folks who aren’t already on Twitter? Tell them about it and get them to follow you.

- Re-Tweet popular Twitter users. If something Robert Scoble says is relevant to your audience, it couldn’t hurt to re-Tweet it. If anything, it may get that person to notice you.

- Pick a good time to Tweet. On Problogger, Darren Rowse suggests you Tweet during peak hours. That’s OK, but if your followers are following many other people, they may not see your messages. Use the analytics tools at your disposal to see when you get the most clicks and Twitter search to see when you get the most responses.

- Promote your efforts. It couldn’t hurt to have a contest every once in a while. People like swag. You probably have an extra t-shirt or mug around the office somewhere. Figure out a contest and make it happen.

Two final notes: Don’t necessarily choose not to follow someone based on the number of followers/Tweets they have. If you find someone’s profile, and they just joined Twitter, you have a great opportunity to bring them into your digital fold. And if you have something important to say, you may become that person’s best friend…on Twitter at least.

Also, this post may be about how to gain Twitter followers, but Twitter — and social media — is not about numbers. (To your bosses, it may be, but you’ve got to manage their expectations.) You’re much better off having 50 followers, all of whom are highly engaged, than several hundred thousand users, 90 percent of whom you ignore. Being successful in the social media space depend on how useful and personal you are.


If I didn’t convince you, try reading these other posts:

Dosh Dosh – ‘How to Get More Twitter Followers: Some Methods That Work’
Mack Collier, Search Engine Guide – ‘How Do You Get More Followers On Twitter?’


Also, I would like to thank Aaron Brazell, Whet Moser, Mark Hopkins and Rahsheen Porter for inspiring me to tweak this post’s intro a bit. This post is designed for people who already use Twitter the right way, but I did not make that clear at first. Thanks, guys.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Entry Filed under: New Tricks,Twitter

  • rob, BtG

    great tips, thanks. i especially like the Back Tweets suggestion.

    one can never have too many followers !!!

  • Brandon

    Hi Folks, Great post –
    I am not sure about the title, but I guess twitter followers=traffic=revenue=relevance or something, so whatever.
    moving on…One of the most fundamental benefits of having a news org is a news web site(s) with relevant content, good out of the box SEO (or you should have), and presumably a CMS that is flexible enough, or a web guy smart enough, to put your tweets on your site.

    1) You could use twitter for breaking news, make a conditional newslist that ONLY appears on the front page when you use that twitter channel to break a story.
    2) Add an extra field to each article that is twittered about, and have the newsroom drop the atom feed related to your content into that field, and have your template guys wrap your style around it. So now on your article page you have article comments (I hope) and you also have tweets about the story.
    3) Use your CMS or widgetbox or however you need, and put relevant twitter feeds on section fronts.
    4) Widgetize all this stuff so your followers and web traffic can embed all these widgets on their blogs, facebook or whatever pages.
    There are many more uses, but just think aggregation….
    Please excuse my choppy post, I'm not a journalist. ;>

  • Stuartfoster

    If you haven't figured out that Daniel and Rob know their stuff. This should be the tipping point. This information is beyond valuable to an MSM outlet or large corporation of any kind.

    The tools, knowledge, and desire should be there for everyone. So get out there and use these tools!

  • dan360man

    Absolutely, Rob. Thanks for checking us out. Is this your first time on OMNT?

  • TheDudeDean

    The only problem is once you become one of the cool kids, you can't turn it off.

  • dan360man

    Thanks, man.

  • @Agent_Luke

    solid material.

  • dan360man

    It doesn't seem to have gotten Stumbled. Did you submit this link:

  • Gerald Weber

    I think when it comes to picking a good time to Tweet, it's not so much what time you choose that's important, it's that you stick with it. Even if you don't Tweet during the peak hours, you can get the attention of your followers by Tweeting at a consistent time day in and day out. Posting haphazardly whenever you have time can be confusing and it can make it difficult to gain traction.

  • Amber Naslund

    The best part of all of your recommendations is that they have two things in common: context and relevance. Twitter is an organic community that thrives on connections that make sense, not connections for their own sake. For any kind of news outlet or corporate presence, it's exceedingly important that there be personality, context, and a level of engagement that rewards the followers for their attention and time.

    I love being part of this community, and I'm especially excited when I see establishments like the Trib really understanding how to embrace and build relationships with their readers to make the news and information they share more relevant.

    Solid advice from a common sense perspective. Thanks for not making it about numbers, but about an engaged and interested community.

  • dan360man

    Perhaps that's something I didn't add. I could have 10 followers, but if all 10 clicked on one of my links, or responded to me, I'd be overjoyed.

    However, if I have 100K followers, and only get five reTweets, or 100 clicks, I'd be a bit disappointed.

  • Kevin Sablan

    Great tips. Once you gain a following, here are a couple tips that might help you provide them with links that they find valuable:

    1. Use a URL shortener with built-in analytics. I use . Watch those stats and see if people are clicking on links that you share. For example, I usually tweet about journalism and/or linking, but I shared a couple of links about Ashton Kutcher's Twitter “competition” with CNN. Not surprisingly, not too many of my friends found that interesting. Lesson learned. I wont' be sharing many celebrity links in the future.

    2. When you stumble upon a post that you want to share with your followers, check it in BackTweets first. If it has been well-tweeted, there's a good chance your followers have already read the item; a retweet might be received with a groan of “not that again!” If the item you are viewing has not been tweeted much, there is a good chance that your friends will appreciate it when you share the link on Twitter.

  • Aaron Brazell

    In principle, this is a decent approach. However, there's something about it that doesn't *feel* right. Maybe it's the algorithmic approach to this stuff. Really doesn't feel any differently than the old newspaper subscriber recruitment model of sending a carrier around to doors in the neighborhood. If you do x, yand z then you'll have followers and be infuential.

    I think that relationship is probably the better approach, not just for personal twitterers and personal brands but for big brands and media organizations as well. Making friends, influencing people.

    Participation in general will develop an organic, and much more solid core of followers. The tools above help with that but they should be just support mechanisms, and not the game play itself.

    Other than that, great work (since you asked for my feedback) :-)

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  • Mark 'Rizzn' Hopkins

    I see what you're saying, Aaron. It's sorta like Twitter's becoming the new SEO (hrm, didn't Steven write an article about that recently?).

    The approach has a danger of taking the social aspect away from social media, I guess, which ends up defeating the purpose.

  • whet moser

    One thing I'd add: have a human voice. I'm much more likely to follow an institutional account that's clearly run by a person with a sense of humor/gravity/compassion/etc.

    It's not just a matter of avoiding auto-tweets, it's also avoiding stock phrasing that sounds like auto-tweets.

  • Rahsheen

    I agree with both of you, Aaron and Mark. Algorithmic approaches like this take the social out of social media and if you really simplify the formula, you'll end up realizing that basic social interactions and engagement with like-minded individuals will get the same results.

    That is the point of social media. Not sure why people keep trying to “solve” it.

  • whet moser

    FWIW, the most RT'd thing I've ever written was just a homily: “Tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you.” Twittering's not different from regular old writing/blogging/anything – being charming/wise/novel is the best thing you can do. It's just more constrained, which makes it fun.

  • dan360man

    You're absolutely right, Aaron.

    One of the questions I get asked most frequently in newsroom is, “I'm on Twitter, and I talk to people, but how can I expand my reach?”

    This post is designed as a resource for folks who are looking to be helpful in the conversations that already exist.

    Why use BackTweets? To find folks who linked to your stories and thank them.

    Why follow local Twitter users? To be helpful in the conversations that have already been started, and get your finger on the pulse of what's happening.

    This post was designed to be a resource for folks who are already using Twitter the right way, but I'll add that tidbit to my post. Thanks for the idea, man.

  • Aaron Brazell

    No worries. Like I said, these are great tools to support the core goals. I'd recommend them too! :)

  • dan360man

    You're right, Whet. Auto-Tweets = bad.

    BTW, you may want to register for Disqus. Just saying. :-)

  • dan360man

    You're right, Whet. Auto-Tweets = bad.

    BTW, you may want to register for Disqus. Just saying. :-)

  • JasonFalls

    I like all the suggestions here and I suppose if you're trying to drive up your number of followers, these are better suggestions than the “just follow everyone you can find and hope they follow you back” thing that the hacks promote. I guess I just have to wonder why people would collect followers intently? I have quite a few followers on Twitter, but I've gotten them all because I communicate genuinely on Twitter. I don't try to game it or drive up my numbers. I just follow people back who follow me, jump in and have conversations with folks, share links to good content and leave it at that. So far, it's worked pretty well.

    But your tips are certainly better than a lot I've seen.

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  • dan360man

    So I take it you're not using scripts, then? I know plenty of folks have tens of thousands of followers overnight from using scripts. Folks I've never even heard of.

    Here's a question for you: Do you follow everyone who follows you? What criteria do you use when making that decision?

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  • Daniel

    Thanks for posting a link to my post on Twitter.

    Teaching someone how to use Twitter is fairly easy; however, teaching someone to have a good time while doing it is quite difficult. These days, newsrooms are quite negative, but convincing folks that we’re all learning with each other, and there’s no one "right" way to do one’s job — just like there’s no one "right" way to use social media — I find folks are more willing to try these tools, and try them in ways I haven’t even thought of.

    This comment was originally posted on noodlepie

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  • Twitter Loco

    Thanks for this post. never knew these sites existed.

  • faisalmajeed

    The Completely Automated Twitter Growth & Money Making System for People That Want to Set Up A System ONCE, Forget About It, and Have it Grow and Make Money EVERY Day!

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  • NewTweep

    I seen a good list of Follow Back users at Just add your name and others start following you. Simple to me without having to bug folks, lol.

  • Linn

    nice article indeed. loving it


  • KurtReckz

    so true.

    people want to be interacting with real people.. if you're not putting the effort into creating original content for your tweet, then why should i put the effort into following it?

    well said, whet.

  • afallison

    i am really liking disqus. especially the way it integrates twitter. ;)

  • James Agureo

    Or just leave it up to us, and get 5,000 targeted followers within a month.

  • boston movers

    all of you guys were right :)
    Twitter is an organic community that thrives on connections that make sense, not connections for their own sake. :)

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  • bobjmoore

    I hope this doesn’t overlap much with what’s already been said but I’ve been compiling data on the different techniques for the past few weeks and thought I’d share… I put everything up here:

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