Between hashtags and handles, retweets and the mystifying character limit, Twitter is a little blue bird that refuses to be tamed. Harness the power of that bird, however, and you have an incredibly powerful platform that can propel your business to the next level, introduce you to a swathe of new potential clients, and establish you as an expert in your field.

Sound too good to be true?

As with most things, there’s a catch. When you’re short on followers your reach will be low no matter how fabulous your content. The more followers you have, the more your content will be liked, retweeted, and replied to, and the higher your reach becomes. It’s a numbers game.

More Followers = More Engagement.

But how do you attract followers? Here are a few tips to help you find your first 500 followers.

1. Your handle is a lever, use it!

Before you start tweeting you need to choose a Twitter Handle (the name on your Twitter URL and profile, used to tag you in Tweets) ours is @mememe_online. Your handle is the first impression you make, so make it count! The best handles are the name of your business (especially if it reflects your niche) your personal name, or something quirky and fun including a keyword/phrase that reflects your niche. Get it right and people in your niche will find you through your handle.

2. Follow others strategically

First, follow popular people in your niche – go for the gurus and successful businesses. Now follow their followers. This assumes people following the big names in your niche love your niche, and consequently will love you! Go to their profile and click ‘followers’. It will bring up a list – these are all potential ideal clients!

Next, use Twitter’s ‘Who to Follow’ feature. Be selective, don’t follow everyone – some may not be right for your niche. Only follow those that really fit your brand.

Finally, once you have some followers, follow their followers. It’s likely your followers will share common interests with their own followers, who in turn will share common interests with you. Tweepi is a quick and inexpensive tool for this.

3. Find people you know

The easiest way to gain followers initially is find people you already know and follow them. It’s far more likely they will follow you back as they already know you. Twitter lets you add your email contacts, just be sure to add friends and followers from other platforms to your email contacts BEFORE you import them.

For Facebook, set up a Yahoo email account (if you don’t have one), sign in, go to contacts,  click ‘import contacts’ then the ‘import’ button to the right of Facebook. You can also import Outlook and Google contacts. You can’t export data on Facebook FANS, only FRIENDS.

For LinkedIn, sign in to your account and go to your Contacts page. Select ‘settings’, then export your contacts to a .CSV file. Upload the file to your email account contacts.

Once you have everyone on your email account, login to your Twitter account and import your email contacts.

4. Quality over quantity

It‘s pivotal that you attract the RIGHT followers, right from the start. Aim to attract followers that are your ideal clients. They will love, engage with, and share your content, attracting even more ideal clients. If they’re not they will, at best, ignore you. At worst they’ll react negatively to your content.

Under no circumstances should you ‘buy’ followers. These are ‘empty follows’ — they increase the number of people following your account, but they never comment, retweet, or like your posts. They have no interest in you or your business.

5. Become a content machine

Aim to tweet several times a day. Share unique content such as tips, memes, questions, quotes, and teasers from your blogs, with links to the full version. Vary what you’re posting and track  what gets the most engagement.

Share links to other people’s content if it’s RELEVANT to your niche. Remember the 80/20 golden ratio– 80% of posts should be informative, interesting, or fun, only 20% should be selling (including ‘selling’ freebies and offers).

6. Use hashtags

They may seem like a waste of valuable characters, but hashtags are an ESSENTIAL part of Twitter and can get you noticed by key groups of people very quickly. By utilising key words, phrases and people specific to your niche (e.g. #blogging, #bloggingtips, #beautybloggers), you ensure that ideal clients find your tweets whenever they search for that particular keyword.

Spend some time researching the best hashtags to use for your brand and business.

Google ‘hashtags for ***’ to find relevant hashtags for your niche or use an online service like www.ritetag.com where you can get a detailed breakdown how many tweets per hour use a particular hashtag, plus how many retweets and how much exposure that hashtag gets.

Work your hashtags into tweets naturally by #hashtagging as you type, or simply add them at the end. Research them well initially, keep them in a spreadsheet and update it regularly. You can easily find trending hashtags on a daily basis by logging into your Twitter account and looking at the ‘Trending’ bar to the left of your profile. You can also use a site like hashtags.org to find current topics that are rising/falling in popularity, and those that remain constant favourites.

7. Schedule your posts

Use software like Hootsuite or CoSchedule and schedule everything in advance, in bulk. These tools are so useful, and enable you to schedule to multiple platforms (blog, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest) and really maximise your efficiency. You’ll never keep up with a Tweeting  schedule as rich and full as the one you need if you try posting everything individually.

Set aside a block of time each week/month, and get all your posts written, images prepared, quotes selected, and links ready. Schedule everything so it’s well-spaced throughout each day.

8. Like, retweet & reply

Once your main content is scheduled you are free to dip in and out of Twitter as you please. If you have a smart phone, install the App. Check your newsfeed whenever you have a spare ten minutes. Show the people you follow a little love – like/retweet/comment/reply to what fits with your brand. Remember, you’ve been strategically following potential ideal clients.

They will get to know, like, and trust you, and follow you in return. Use Buffer to save retweets and ensure they’re staggered — you don’t want to flood your followers’ news feed.

9. Take part in Twitter chats

One great way to grow your network is to get involved in Twitter Chats. Find chats relevant to your niche, which fit your brand, and use them to connect with potential clients, find guest blogging opportunities, and gain new followers. A couple of great ones to get you started are #WomenInBizHour and #CreativeBizHour.

You should also check out local chats like #LondonHour #ManchesterHour, #NorfolkHour etc. which are great for local bricks and mortar businesses. You can use sites like Twubs Chat Schedule, Gnosis Arts, The Chat Diary and Tweet Reports to find chats perfect for your niche.

10. Patience & consistency are key

Building a solid Twitter following of ideal clients takes time and patience. It won’t happen overnight, don’t expect it to. The key is to be consistent in your branding and the topics you post about.

11. Use Twitter’s analytics

Twitter has a good analytics section providing data on all your Tweets. It will tell you which Tweets performed best, and how many likes, retweets, and comments they got. Analytics are invaluable for determining the best times of day to post! Split-test hashtags by scheduling two identical posts on different days, use different hashtags on each, post both at the time optimum time so your results aren’t skewed.

Use this information to refine your schedule and the hashtags you use.