Despite having a dormant account for a decade, I got my first thousand followers on Twitter last month.
In the eyes of the Twitter algorithm, a dormant account is WORSE than a brand new account.
But, I turned it around; and I wanted to capture that while it's still fresh. Some of the stuff I did is not conventional advice but it is what worked for me, and I am fairly confident it can work for you too.
First, here what my account looked like for most of last year, when I first came back.
This happens because when you haven't been active for years and you start Tweeting people forgot why they followed you and will say "who the hell is this guy?" and unfollow.
As you can imagine this sends all the wrong signals to the Twitter algorithm, that you must be a spam account if people keep unfollowing you.
But somehow, almost a year later, it looks like night and day.
Onto the how to grow on Twitter, even with a dormant account.
The first step to grow on Twitter is to find a community and make some friends. (I told you this was not going to be conventional advice)
Also, you can't just make real friends by setting out to make friends; you have to have a shared mission and goal.
James Clear says:
"Friendship happens on the way to something else. If you “try to meet new people” it feels weird and forced. The more you aim for friendship, the more it eludes you. But if you aim to learn or achieve something with others, friendship happens naturally during the shared pursuit."
Joining a community around something you enjoy is the best way I found to make real friends.
Twitter hosts many such communities around Writing, Software Engineering, Real-estate, Investing, Entrepreneurship and so on. Meeting people with the same goals and ambitions as you means making friends is inevitable.
Here are four people, their courses, and communities that helped me get started if you are struggling to find a community:
As I got comfortable engaging, I met people doing similar stuff, building a SaaS, Indie Makers, Software Engineers, Writing Books, and so on.
There is real serendipity with regular engagement on Twitter and even with strangers. Still, regular engagement can only happen when you are comfortable, and starting with a few friends at first from a community gave me that comfort.
You need some friends to roll with on Twitter; otherwise, it's hard.
The second step to grow on Twitter is to engage regularly.
The way to engage on Twitter is when you run into genuine stuff you enjoy, support those people and that content, it's the right thing to do. But also, it will come back to you later on, eventually. Even if it does not directly come back, karma will accumulate in your favor. (Trust me!)
Engage for genuine reasons, don't just like something. Engage means comment, quote tweet, and retweet.
I used to just like stuff; likes are not real support. You cant have a conversation from a "like." Likes are just solidarity but not real engagement and to grow you need to train the algorithm that you engage.
Make a list of people you want to support and comment on and engage their Tweets. This means use a private Twitter list, lists are chronological which means that for your few friends you are not at the whims of the algorithm.
Engagement also means reply to everyone that replies to you, especially early on. They took the time to comment on your stuff, you should take the time to reply.
All of this has a funny way of coming back to you; it's come back to me tenfold.
But in short this second step can be summed up as just support people you like and don't worry if some others unfollow because you are being annoying with your support. It's more important for your well-being and the Twitter algorithm to have ten people who genuinely engage with you than 100k who never engage.
Accounts with bought followers have little engagement; a sad place to be.
I tried Twitter ads to boost a few tweets and see for myself; almost ALL of the followers were bots and never engaged with me. It's no wonder Twitter's stock is terrible even though the platform is great.
The third step is to get to a thousand followers get to at least ten friends.
There are power laws at play on these platforms, and Twitter is no exception, which means that if ten friends engage with you regularly, you might have 1000 others lurking.
Power laws are crazy distributions; the 90-9-1 Internet Rule says that 90% of users are lurkers, and only 1% create original content.
To illustrate this point further, if you get to 100 active and engaged friends on Twitter, you probably have 10k followers, maybe even more.
The point is just make ten friends, and you'll get 1,000 followers in no time.
990 people will lurk and watch you ten have conversations🤷♂️
Ironically the people that came up with Power Laws were forced to borrow reputation from Pareto because he was famous for the 80-20 rule.
This brings us to the fourth step to grow, burrow reputation.
A lot of the conventional advice to grow on Twitter says stay in your lane. Talk about stuff that you have a reputation in; the advice is true; most will ignore you if you are not an expert in what you tweet about.
But this is boring advice; you want to learn, grow, and enjoy your time on Twitter otherwise what's the point?
So to overcome the perceived reputation gap (even if in your mind there isn't one) use the words of the people who have a reputation for the things you are interested in; then, it's not just your words; it's also theirs. This helps those people because it further spreads their ideas, and Twitter is all about spreading ideas.
In the beginning, even if you are crazy smart and crazy good at the thing you are talking about, no one knows and trusts that.
So don't be that meme at the party; burrow credibility and remember that it helps you, and it helps the people you borrowed it from too.
I took too long to start "burrowing" credibility even though I directly learned from some great people on here; I rarely mentioned them. That was a huge mistake that hurt my growth.
Don't be like me; burrow credibility early and often.
In fact, a lot of this stuff I learned about writing this tweet thread came directly from @dvassallo, who sells arguably the best course on getting started with Twitter, titled "Everyone Can Build a Twitter Audience"
But it took me far too long to put it into practice (By the way, you see what I just did there, by burrowing credibility 😉 do that)
The fifth step to grow on Twitter is to Tweet regularly.
It's a huge mistake if you don't tweet for days because the algorithm will go cold fast on you if you're not a regular. Twitter only knows who likes you and who you like from recent engagement, and if you aren't recent to the algorithm, then you are dead to it.
To tweet regularly its okay to tweet stuff that seems boring or even personal to you, and not just wait for profound things.
If you don't do this, you lose out on random luck, and just because something is boring to you, it does not mean it's boring to someone else; tweet it.
It took me way too long to realize that tweeting regularly and engaging my friends is more important than waiting for when I had profound things to tweet about.
Sometimes it's okay to tweet stuff that may be personal; people want to talk to people, not bots.
Twitter is not Instagram, so don't just go on there to throw photos, but the occasional tweet with a photo of you living life keeps the algorithm warm, and people will engage.
It takes a while to tweet like ourselves and to be ourselves here; tweeting is awkward. It's a platform that limits characters.
The reasons to tweet regularly are bigger than we think.
We need lots of tweets to carve a voice, don't worry if it's awkward at first; it was for me but if you do it enough.
To force yourself to tweet more regularly, join a challenge like #tweet100, you'll see people on there are awkward too, just like us, but they want to get better. If you are consistent, you won't be awkward for long.
The sixth and final tip feels out of your control but still sort of in your control.
To get lucky, you need to play regularly. Do all of the above regularly; then, luck will find you in some serendipitous way. Buy the tickets daily, and eventually, you'll hit the 1k number.
This article is a a brain dump of everything I learned this year growing on Twitter. It is an adaptation, and expansion, of a Twitter thread I did a few days ago.
If you enjoyed this: Follow me @lbacaj on Twitter so we can discuss and grow together.