Grow Your Twitter Following for Free

In my prior post, A Newbie’s Take on Twitter, I explained five benefits of Twitter from my perspective as an author. Now, I’d like to share what I’ve learned about beginning to build a Twitter following.

Growth in Twitter following
In the past month and a half, my Twitter following has grown from virtually nothing to well over 2,000 followers. If you’re not familiar with Twitter that may sound like a lot of followers, but it isn’t. Every Twitter follower—and each of his or her followers—ideally are people who need to hear what you have to share. They may even be a future customer. Having a large targeted following can only help spread your message.

From my concentrated crash course, here is what seems to be working to increase my Twitter following:

1. Create an authentic, appealing, and non-offensive profile.

Before snatching followers from the Twittersphere, you must establish a credible presence. Design a profile that warmly and concisely communicates who you are and gives others a flavor for your “brand” (i.e., what you represent, your cause, your style, whatever is important for you to share to enhance the lives of others).

Start with a good head shot that allows people to see your eyes and face, the window to your soul. Add an engaging wall photo that reflects your passions. For the written portion of your profile, use succinct verbiage that describes who you are and what you’re about. Include your interests as well as your vocations. It’s appropriate to let others know what do you stand for, but avoid any abrasive or blunt commentary. Providing your general location adds credibility. Lastly, a link to an external website will help people investigate you further if they want to.

The tweets you share with followers will help strengthen your brand if they are consistent with your profile. Twitter also allows you to pin one of your Tweets at the top of your feed. Select a Tweet that reinforces who you are and what you represent. Don’t leave people guessing. Tweet original content that brings value to others and periodically retweet content from others that is consistent with your brand.

2. To have a friend, you need to be a friend.

Take the initiative to follow other users. Show a genuine interest in them by liking or sharing their content or by messaging them directly.

When someone follows you first, consider following him or her back. Look at profiles and tweets to determine which users you should follow.

While the number of followers you gain is important, their quality is too. You don’t want to follow just anyone, but rather people who share your interests and can be mutually supportive or who can benefit from what you offer, since you want them to follow you back.

3. Use tools to expedite the Twitter following process.

Software such as Tweepi and Crowdfire act as filters. They will give you a dashboard view of people who follow you, those you follow, and other users you could follow, and will allow you to more quickly follow and “unfollow” other accounts. You can also run keyword searches to look for people who might be interested in your content. For example, as a bicycle tourist with inspirational content, I ran searches on “cyclist,” “adventure,” “seeker,” and various forms of “God.” Then, I read the profiles of the matches and followed some of them.

Consider the suggestions Twitter either emails to you or posts in the sidebar. Once you’ve established a pattern of who you like to follow, Twitter will provide suggestions that in most cases line up well with your interests.

 

Twitter’s real cost is denominated in time, not in dollars. Be prepared to carve out some of your day as you ramp up your Twitter following. You will be choosing people one by one, and it’s time consuming. However, where else can you quickly find people who can benefit from what you have to share, and handpick them? Everyone’s profile is an advertisement. You’ll be reading many of those “ads” if you want to develop a relevant group of followers. Eventually, as you gain traction, followers will find you!

If you would like to follow me (@TimBishop4) or my wife and traveling partner, Debbie (@DebbieBishop4), please click the associated link. Thank you!

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A Newbie’s Take on Twitter

Twitter profile snapshotAs an author seeking traditional publication, I often see and hear this question: “How big is your following?” I used to think: I have many friends and colleagues who respect me, but I’m not a household name. I’ll never have a large following. It hadn’t dawned on me that the “how big question” was a call to action. I’ve spent the last several weeks discovering why all the buzz about Twitter. Now, I get it. In a month, I’ve developed a following far greater than I would have imagined. And it continues to grow. Read on for a newbie’s take on Twitter.

Elaborate in its simplicity, Twitter is one of the largest social networks on the Internet. According to Twitter’s corporate website, as of December 31, 2015, 320 million users speaking over thirty-five languages visit the site at least monthly. Four in five of those users access Twitter from mobile devices, like cell phones. Furthermore, four in five users are outside the United States.

Why has Twitter become a primary means of connecting people and a doorway of choice to Internet content? Here are its advantages:

1. Instantaneous and concise communication

Twitter revolves around “tweets,” encapsulated tidbits of information that are presented immediately to other users who choose to follow the person who created the tweet. While you would be surprised how much a tweet limited to 140 characters can say, the brevity is a primary strength of the platform, because messages can be read so quickly. Users can also share images with their verbal content, which enables creative types in camp Twitter to stoke the bonfire with compelling messages that immediately drive home their points.

2. Gateway and filter to Internet content

Twitter allows users to link websites to tweets. Currently, users push over one billion webpages monthly to followers! Twitter acts as a news feed that sends content to users who are more likely to care about it, because they’ve already chosen to follow the person sharing the content.

3. Gauges opinion

Users of Twitter collectively determine which information is more important when they “like” or re-tweet content. If you want to find out what people think about your material, post it to Twitter. Its analytics tell each user how each of their posts is performing. If you want to discover what other people find engaging, a sidebar of popular items identifies what is “trending.” If you have something of value to say, as judged by the “Twittersphere,” your message will go as far as its engagement will take it, whether or not you have a sizeable following.

4. Finds the type of people you are looking for

Whether you are a “creative” looking for your next customer, an activist promoting a cause, or someone in search of likeminded friends, Twitter allows you to search profiles and content to find your target audience.

5. Broad scope

Twitter has compiled some astounding numbers, with worldwide reach. If you have any product or information you’d like to introduce to a large audience, there’s no better forum in which to share it!

In my Grow Your Twitter Following for Free, I’ll describe how I went from sixty followers to 1,700 in only one month without paying a dime. In preparation, consider this: While leaders sometimes follow, those who follow can also lead! A “follower” is not always a follower.

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What is a Writers Conference?

midsouth christian writers conference logoWhen I recently heard the term “Christian writers conference,” I thought, What is that? I’m from New England, so the term was foreign to me. While it is apparent who attends a Christian writers conference, I didn’t know what was involved or the benefits—until last weekend.

While pitching a recent project to agents and publishers, one agent described the project as “on the bubble.” That’s a phrase coined by NCAA Basketball Tournament aficionados. It means the project has a chance to be accepted by a traditional publisher, but it’s not “a slam dunk.” He recommended I attend a Christian Writers Conference and report back to him.

Time and money immediately came to mind. Yet the Mid-South Christian Writers Conference outside of Memphis offered a one-day event at a very modest investment. And Debbie was out of town. Since the experience couldn’t hurt, I jumped in the car last weekend and headed west. Two days later, I was sold on the concept. Here is what aspiring Christian writers can gain from attending such a conference.

Networking

People at this conference actually answered me back and engaged with me! One of the facets of the publishing industry that is truly broken these days is the response rate from industry insiders to the people who are slaving to create meaningful content for them. After pitching many agents and publishers recently, I can tell you that not only is obtaining access to industry insiders difficult, but obtaining a timely–or any–response to your correspondence is too. It was refreshing to have peers and experts advise me. You can’t make good progress in any industry without connecting with people.

Learning

This old dog learned some new tricks. The instruction of others who have “been there, done that” can save you time and frustration. One expert presenter shared leads on free software helpful for writers and publishers. Another presenter shared about the value of developing a social media following. Somehow, I felt a strong toe in my hind end. We all need motivation like that from time to time.

Fellowship

When you’re stuck behind a computer screen for most of your work week, it’s helpful to find others who can relate to your challenges and dreams. I found plenty of kindred spirits at this writers conference. What’s more, the “Christian” in “Mid-South Christian Writers Conference” shone forth like a new day dawning. Not only did I find myself among committed believers with the giving spirits you expect from sinners saved by grace, I was reminded repeatedly of the purpose of a Christian writer.

God has given the Christian writer a desire to communicate truth to a world in need. He has called the writer to share that truth in whatever creative way He has impressed upon the writer to do it, and to be diligent and persistent even when the going gets tough. Debbie and I have been praying accordingly, but hearing it from others was an important reminder. So, thank you, Mid-South Christian Writers Conference.

Encouragement

Most profound, however, was seeing what can come from hard work. One such example is Pat Bradley. She got serious about writing and publishing novels at age 69. Now, several years later, she has eight traditionally published novels to her credit and more on the way. It’s never too late to realize a dream. Encouragement like that is worth the price of admission!

After attending this conference, I understand better the wisdom of that prospective agent’s advice. As he told me, “Many writers need the full exposure to a writers conference. I have yet to have one complain it was a useless exercise.” My eyes were opened to some new possibilities. I don’t think I’ll report back to that agent…just yet. I have some projects on my plate now. I got my time and money’s worth from that conference, and you can too.

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Relocation Adventure: Moving Forward

Part IV of IV

Click here for Part I of IV.
Click here for Part II of IV.
Click here for Part III of IV.

MovingWith a new job, a new home, and an imminent sale, it was time to pack the truck and be on our way. Weeks earlier, we’d asked the local U-Haul operator to reserve a truck for us, but we didn’t expect we’d get one of the new ones sitting on her lot. She insisted she would save one for us and that we needn’t even put down a deposit for it—in fact, she wasn’t equipped to accept one.

I was anxious about handling a loose and heavily loaded truck on precarious roads, around low bridges and canopies, and through just about anything else my mind could imagine—and imagine it did! When I picked up the truck a few days before the closing, to my amazement and as promised, we received a brand-new truck. A new truck would certainly help allay some fears.

We were also concerned about loading this truck ourselves, and wondered what help we might muster on such short notice. There was no need to worry. We found the help we needed—no more, no less—and exactly the right kind of help. (And thank you! You know who you are.) We even had someone who knew how to tie down the load. All we had to do was drive the truck to Tennessee, untie the knots, and find someone who could help us unload. By the way, the contents fit snugly inside the truck, the truck didn’t tip over or run out of control down hills, and the load did not shift one iota—despite the potentially disastrous scenarios that my mind had concocted. Our new neighbors even helped us unload!

Big decisions are often affirmed in a variety of ways. The relative ease and speed with which we transitioned spoke loudly to us. When we crossed into Tennessee and saw the welcome sign to the “volunteer state,” we knew we had come to the right place with our volunteer efforts! It was another heaven-sent tidbit to bolster our confidence as we ventured deeper into unfamiliar territory.

Two days after arriving in our new home, an event with impeccable timing brought about yet another unusual blessing with happenstance too improbable to fathom. My hometown pastor and his wife, who lived in “another world” 1,500 miles away, just happened to be “in town” to marry off their son. Debbie and I attended the wedding and celebrated their good news even while sharing our own with them.

As it turns out, an administrative detail in Debbie’s hiring process became a blessing in disguise. She’d been told shortly after interviewing that she’d been recommended for the position. However, the central office found a problem in transferring her teaching certification to Tennessee and rejected her application. What seemed like a cruel twist of fate allowed us to unpack and settle into our new home together without the encumbrance of a new job in a new location. To become certified, Debbie studied for a difficult praxis exam even while school had already begun. She aced the test a month later. Shortly thereafter, she was invited to join the school’s staff. When she arrived on her first day, her principal greeted her warmly with a hug and said, “We knew you were the right candidate all along!” Life was—and is–good.

To top it off, on our second week in Tennessee, Debbie ran into and introduced herself to the founder and CEO of findingbalance.com, an organization that partners with TheHopeLine for follow-up with young women with eating disorders. Years earlier, volunteering for this organization was a mere fantasy for Debbie. Now, it is a reality!

If you’ve been considering a big move of any kind in your life, taking the first step toward it will tell you much about whether God has ordained your pursuit. He may simply be waiting for you to take that first big step of faith. Your strong urge may be the seed to a greater calling. Embrace the challenge, and enjoy the ride! Rest assured you will experience great joy as you venture forth, and you will grow in confidence and faith. You may be faced with a more uncertain future, but then again, they’re all uncertain—even the ones you face from your comfort zone or in your own land of limbo.

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Relocation Adventure: Finding a Home

Part III of IV

Click here for Part I of IV.
Click here for Part II of IV.

Roughly a week before the scheduled closing of our condo in Massachusetts, we traveled to Nashville to look for housing. Debbie had impressed her Skype interviewers enough that they wanted to talk with her in person. That interview would occur during our home-hunting trip.

We met a broker upon arriving late on a Friday afternoon and obtained listings of some houses for sale and for rent. It was a daunting task to find quality housing in such short order without knowing the area, especially in the fast-paced real estate market in Middle Tennessee. On a ride through one particular neighborhood late that evening, we looked at a larger house for sale and agreed it wasn’t right for us. As we drove away, Debbie looked across the street and said, “Awww, isn’t that house cute? I’d like a house just like that.” However, it wasn’t for sale and discouragement had begun to set in.

On Saturday, we were committed to finding a rental. Options were limited, expensive, and twelve-month binding leases were the norm. We spent several hours at only two apartment complexes and neither seemed right. Five o’clock rolled around too soon, leaving us empty-handed and disappointed.

We returned to the motel that evening believing that we’d need to find housing after we returned with our belongings. The following day, Sunday, we planned to go to church and lunch with some friends Debbie had met years ago in Massachusetts. We’d then attend some open houses in Franklin, several miles to the north. Regardless, I emailed the broker for a list of less expensive home rentals, and I received a list from him of only six homes in the greater area and narrowed it even more based on proximity to the school where Debbie would interview.

Church and lunch the next day were great, but our schedule was lagging. We departed at two o’clock for open houses miles away from 2-4 pm. Since a few of the rental options were on our way to Franklin, we decided to drive by them. We liked the looks of the first home on the list, but no one was around and there was contact info. I asked Debbie where the next house on the list was located.

“It’s a block over on a street we were already down Friday evening, so there’s no need to go there,” she said.

“Well, we’re here anyway, so we may as well check it out,” I replied.

New HomeAs we turned down the street for the next house on the listing, to our amazement, the cute little house that Debbie had called out two nights earlier had a sign in the window: “FOR RENT, no pets, no smoking”! Debbie dialed the number on the sign while I explored the premises. I couldn’t see any activity inside, so I walked around the house to check out the back yard. Meanwhile, Debbie’s call wasn’t going through.

Suddenly, the back door flew open. After I apologized for being in his backyard, the man warmly invited us in. He and his wife had just purchased the house Thursday. Their sign had fallen out of the window, and they just put it back today. They were preparing the property for rent. Within an hour (even as another interested party had come to the front door), we had given this couple a deposit check. There was a supernatural level of comfort between us. Two hours later, our new landlord helped us save some money on a new refrigerator.

With home in hand, we were upbeat. The next day, Debbie was beaming after her interview. They would talk with several more candidates that day and decide who to hire. On Tuesday, we parked the car near the airport and flew back to Massachusetts to write our final chapter there.
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For the final part IV, click here.

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