4 Crucial Steps for Converting Twitter Prospects into Followers

By Susan Rust

Twitter is not for everyone, and in my opinion that’s good. If everyone were on Twitter, the world would always be looking down at their phones instead of watching where they’re going. Wait… they already do that. My point is that there are already millions of people using Twitter every day, and deciding who to follow can be daunting. Furthermore, tweeting seems pointless when the only people following you are spammy or irrelevant to what you care about. After all, are any of these girls who want to “cam” with me reading what I think is the best way to optimize your Facebook Timeline? No, they’re not.

So, I’m going to share with you not only a creative and successful way to gain followers on Twitter, but also a way to make sure every follower is someone worth your time. The goal here is to discover the best Twitter profiles to follow instead of waiting for them to come to you, but in a legitimate way that’s not spammy. We’re looking for tweeps who are relevant to your interests, since we’ll be following them too. We also want to find people who will share what you tweet with others, and profiles that lend authority to yours by simply following you. Finally, we want to get followers who will interact with us and maybe even become a customer if we’re running a business. Sound good? Let’s get started!

First things first, before we even begin to talk strategy, you need to do one important thing for me and everyone else on Twitter: Make US want to follow YOU. I can show you how to attract followers, but if you don’t tweet something worth reading or stay active regularly, then you’ll have a hard time keeping, or even getting worthy followers in the first place. It’s a two way street after all!

Make Us Want To Follow You On Twitter

Let’s outline the steps to my method, which I’ll cover throughout this post:

  1. IDENTIFY – Before searching for potential followers, we will want to identify who they are. We need to know the anatomy of a worthy follower. What do they look like, what do they tweet and what makes them likely to follow us?
  2. DIG – This is where we dig for those people on Twitter that add value to our stream. How should we go about searching for these tweeps? What can we do to cut down on time spent looking?
  3. DIVIDE AND CONQUER – Once we have our list of potential followers, we will want to employ different tactics to entice them to follow us. This is where we make ourselves attractive by splitting our list into different groups and approaching each one separately.
  4. FOLLOW UP – If they’re following us back, what do we do to ensure they stick around? If they’re not following us after our first attempt, what else can we do to convince them to follow?


No matter what site or tool you use to interact with Twitter, everyone’s profile has key metrics that I use to evaluate whether or not someone is a) worth following and b) likely to follow me back. We want profiles that match both of these requirements, and therefore pass some or all of these tests.

Following to Follower Ratio

As much as I sometimes hate being judged by this ratio, I think this is a good way of forming a first impression of someone’s Twitter personality. When using this four step method, we want a ratio that is fairly balanced, and maybe even leans towards having a lower number of followers than following.

To understand this, let’s take a look at the following 3 profiles:

This person is following 1,209 people and only has 368 followers. While the 368 isn’t bad, I can tell that this person followed tons of people all at once (look at how many tweets they have) and just got people to follow back primarily on courtesy. This person is probably likely to follow us once we follow them, but they don’t meet my first requirement, meaning they’re not worth following.

The profile above looks a little more authoritative and has plenty of followers, but this time the ratio is flipped. They don’t seem very likely to follow us back even though they are certainly worth following (judging only on this ratio).

This last profile, however, looks a little more balanced, and they must be doing something right if they have over 1,400 followers with only 168 tweets. This would be someone I would add to my list of prospects (see step 3), since they have a good following to follower ratio and look authoritative in their niche.

Bio Description

Another important component of any Twitter profile is the bio. From the bio alone, I can usually guess someone’s level of maturity, professionalism, expertise and relevance. If I see keywords in the description that apply to my business or interests, then I’ll consider following them, even if their following to follower ratio is less attractive.

Using the same three profiles I mentioned above, I notice that the first profile simply says “None of your bees wax.” Great! Well that totally sold me on following them… or not. Looking at the other profiles, both have solid bios that tell me what they do and seem to demonstrate professionalism. This tells me that they are most likely worth following, since they’ll treat Twitter with respect and could be a good resource in the future.

Recent Tweets

Recent tweets are key later on in our process, but for now I want to point out that you will see a profile’s 3 most recent tweets on and some 3rd party tools like HootSuite when you first click on a profile. This is probably the weakest indicator out of this list, since they may have been having a conversation with someone, and their last 3 tweets could be unrelated to our interests. However, it can be very telling. If the majority of their tweets are quotes from famous politicians or inspirational speakers, that’s not going to be very engaging (for me at least).


Another important factor to consider is location, which can heavily swing someone to follow you if you’re located in the same area. I’ve found people in San Diego are more likely to follow me, or a company that is based in San Diego, for that reason alone. Any time I find a prospect located nearby, I will usually consider adding them to my list even if they aren’t completely relevant (barring they fulfill both requirements mentioned earlier).

San Diego Tweeps

After checking these basic metrics on Twitter or your third party tool of choice, run their profile through twtrland to glean more insight, like tweets with the most retweets, a profile’s top followers, and photos that tweep has shared in the past.

2. DIG

Now that we know what the profile of someone worth following looks like, we need to determine the best way to find them. There are tons of sites out there that can help you search for potential followers (like Follower Wonk and Hoosaid), but here are a few of my favorites tactics, and the best ways to use them. The goal here is to save time searching, and to find decent prospects to add to our list in the next step.

Search Similar Profile’s Followers

A sure way to know if someone is interested in following you is to find those who are already following people or companies similar to you! I like to go through my competitor’s followers because presumably, they are on the same level as me socially, and their followers have shown interest in what they tweet. Well if I’m tweeting similar things, then why not follow me too? I use Twitter for this to quickly scan bios and follower ratios, and once I see one that entices me, I’ll click on their profile to view their location and recent tweets. If everything meets my requirements, I’ll add them to my list in preparation for step 3.

Advanced Search in Twitter

You may use advanced search operators in Google but did you know you could use them in Twitter too? Here’s a great list of the operators you can use directly in Twitter.

Twitter's Advanced Search Operators

I like to search for specific keywords that are relevant to the business profile I’m trying to build up, but with the help of restricting results. For example, let’s say I want to find beer enthusiasts in the San Diego area. Here’s an example search I would use in Twitter’s search bar:

San Diego beer search in Twitter

I’m using the near:operator to find tweets that came from San Diego and I’m using the smiley face emoticon to filter out negative or generic tweets. This will give me the people who are excited about beer and happy people like to follow others!


Sometimes it’s easy to forget Twitter exists when you use Hootsuite all the time. It’s such a great tool to monitor multiple profiles and brand mentions, but it can also be utilized for our search here too.

Add columns to your dashboard that monitor key phrases for your business, and you’ll often find people tweeting highly relevant content. I like to add columns for Twitter chat hashtags too, since these users are generally more knowledgeable about their interests, and thus more worthy of a follow.

Advanced Search in Google

Using Google to search tweets and bios helps cover any missed opportunities. To conduct a thorough search for our earlier example of San Diego beer enthusiasts, I would use the following advanced search operators:

Search for Twitter bios and tweets in Google

A little more digging around is required here, since we’re dealing with a larger set of results, but I have often found some quality followers using this method. Again though, saving time is key, so use plenty of filters (like the time restraint) and advanced operators to find a good list of prospects.


Now that we know who we’re looking for and how to find them, it’s time to create different groups, and start placing the people we find under relevant columns. Why are we doing this? I mentioned earlier that your 3 recent tweets are key to this whole process. We’re going to put profiles into short lists and then tweet 3 things that speak to the people on that list. After we’ve tweeted 3 times, we’ll follow these profiles. When they click on our profile to see who we are, they’ll see 3 things that peak their interest.

You might be asking: Won’t the tweets listed after the 3 latest updates throw them off? Well first, ask yourself how often you read every single tweet from a new follower. Second, I’m hoping you’re looking for people interested in similar or related industries and hobbies. If so, then you’re most likely tweeting something that doesn’t take a 180-degree turn from the norm.

Create Unique Lists

I’ve put together 3 lists of people who all have interest in beer. They all fulfill my two requirements of being worthy of following and likely to follow back. I made one list based on people who work in breweries or bars, another with homebrewers and a third listing people who have tweeted about the craft beer they just drank. All 3 of these lists are similar, but we can increase the likelihood of reciprocal following by tweeting 3 things spaced out in a day that are specifically familiar to them.

Tweet 3 Relevant Things

Targeting the brewers and bar owners first, I’ll use a mix of retweets, mentions and basic text tweets that are all about hanging out at a local brewery or maybe asking questions about a large scale brewing system. I know these people like to share knowledge, but also have high respect for what they do. They definitely don’t want to follow every person who happens to like beer.

So, one mention to a head brewer saying their recent collaboration beer with Stone Brewery was great, and that you liked the video they posted could be a good start. Follow that up with two more tweets spaced apart by a couple of hours (to not seem like a frequent tweeter who annoys others), and then we’re ready to follow them!

Here are my 3 tweets targeting the homebrewers:

Homebrewers Tweets

Follow Them First

After we’ve tweeted, it’s time to follow the entire list you’ve targeted. If it is a large list, you may want to break it up since we want to keep our following to follower ratio appealing. After you’ve followed the entire list, repeat the process for the other groups after you’ve given the previous list time to follow back.


Depending on a large number of factors, including whom you targeted and how appealing you’ve made your profile, the number of people who follow you back will vary. With practice and an eye for potential follower opportunities, you will start to see a higher number of people follow back each time. When they do sign up to read your tweets, it may be appropriate to thank them, but be careful not to send out 20 thank you tweets, since you want to make them feel like they’re a beautiful unique snowflake.

Encourage Interaction

I mentioned earlier that the point of this method was not only to gain followers, but also not to seem spammy. Well in order to do that, you need to actually interact with your new followers! Mention a recent blog post of theirs. Ask them a question about something they’re experts in or like to do. This is how you’ll retain the followers you’ve worked hard to get, and also how you will become an active part of the community.

Attempt One More Time

If you’re left with a good number of people who didn’t follow you the first time, try getting their attention with a mention, and you might convert them into a follower this time around. I personally like to refer them to someone else in a tweet, so that they will see I’m seriously interested in them and looking to provide value. An example would be telling your friend to check out the potential follower’s latest blog post, since you know it would excite them. This is indirect and likely to make them feel like they should follow you as payback for your nice reference.

Finally, I would like to mention that even though this whole process seems like it’s taking advantage of others to some extent, it is meant to help you easily find like-minded profiles on Twitter, and encourage you to get involved in the conversation. Twitter can be an amazing tool for those who use it right, and hopefully this helps you find others who make the community great.

Now that you’ve seen my method, do you think this is something that could work for you? I’m also interested in hearing if there are any other tools or sites you’ve used to get followers that I haven’t mentioned here. Leave your answers in the comments!

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Susan Rust

By Susan Rust

I believe we hear and learn to say "no, it can't be done, that's too hard" rather than say "yes, let's do it now!" I have many mottos, mine for now is "Run fast, break things."

  • A lot of really interesting points here. I can already see these tips being integrated in twitter tools – that’ll be really awesome!

    • Thanks Kim! That would be nice to see. Which tools do you use most often?

  • Shawn – excellent post. Now I have more insight into why you’re so good at social media! (big smile) Thanks for outlining your process in such a clear and compelling way. You mention several tactics and approaches I haven’t tried. I look forward to experimenting with Twitter advanced operators. Lastly, thanks for reminding us that Twitter really is “quality over quantity”, no matter how alluring a big number of followers might be. Again, great post!

    • Well thank you! I would definitely recommend trying out some of the adv operators in Twitter. I forgot to mention I really like the “?” search which I use to answer questions. It’s a great way to be helpful, contribute and gain a follower. I appreciate the feedback!

  • This is quite the blog! Coverting Twitter users into followers is important. Great post! But what is really tough is getting business from Twitter followers. It has proven to be the most difficult of the social media sites to generate leads and sales from. I would love to see a post on this specifically.