In 2007, a micro-blogging service called Twitter took the ‘Net by storm. I will often jump onto public (and sometimes private) betas to check out new products, but for some reason Twitter never grabbed me. In real life I am somewhat social, but online I never really developed the kind of presence I would have liked. On the other hand, my college buddy Bwana did a much better job of developing an online presence over the course of many years.
What Does Microblogging Mean for Me?
For Bwana and other folks like him, Twitter became a natural extension for blogging and podcasting. It became a new and exciting medium to broadcast their wisdom to the masses. For someone like me lacking online presence, it provided little value. Eventually it became something I could not ignore, so I decided to give it another shot. I’ve probed Bwana for answers and he has helped me to try to get a good handle on social networks and microblogging.
I recently signed up for Twitter, FriendFeed, and a host of other microblogging and social networking services. I also came across a nice service called Ping.fm, that allows you to post to multiple social networks simultaneously. I have occasionally posted to some of the microblogging services, but as I told Bwana, it seemed to me that it was much like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it.
For those like me who are trying to develop an online presence, micro-blogging is very much like blogging. Initially you are talking to the wind and there is no one else around to hear you. However, traditional blogging does have one advantage over micro-blogging: search engines. As you develop more content on your blog, you become a legitimate source of good information for search engines. People will find you via search engines when they seek the information you are providing.
How Do You Build a Following?
So what is a microblogging n00b to do? Well, a lot of people on Twitter will simply follow the people that follow them. If you follow 10,000 different people, you are bound to have a few hundred if not thousands of people following you. This is certainly one approach to get a lot of people to follow you. Unfortunately, if you take this route, you will encounter a lot of noise as well.
You may find it difficult to filter information in which you may actually be interested, if you intend to use Twitter as a source of information as well as a medium for dispensing it. If a lot of the people you follow also follow a lot of people, they may not hear the interesting things you have to say or may not really even care to listen to you. Twitterviews has a nice article explaining that followers are not the same as having reach.
Rather than going and following thousands of people, I decided to start off by following some of the people that Bwana follows. Bwana only follows a few of the people he’s really interested in following, which is an approach I like. It results in a lot less noise and more useful information. Unfortunately, for a microblogging n00b like me it won’t result in a lot of people following me on Twitter.
There Is No Silver Bullet
I’ve more or less come to the conclusion that there is really no quick and easy way to build a large following when it comes to microblogging. The process is nearly identical to building a following for a normal blog. I will attempt to build a true following by publishing interesting and useful content on my blog.
I will also do my best to engage and participate in insightful and interesting conversations within the social networks. Participating in the discussions that take place within comments on other popular blogs is another good way to get noticed. I will also make guest blog posts on occasion (if invited to do so), to help promote myself on the blogs with similar content (becoming a Make Use Of author is definitely a step in the right direction).
It is no easy task to build a following in this manner, but I think it will produce the best results. It takes a lot time and effort, but essentially this is how people like Chris Brogan and Chris Pirillo have done it. If I grow impatient, I can always just bring up the followers list for one of these guys and follow everyone that follows them.