How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter)

Twitter

It’s almost a running joke. Whenever my manager introduces me at an event, he always starts by saying how many Twitter followers I have, which is inevitably far more than anyone else in the room. Today, my follower number is a little over 175,000, and it grows by a few hundred every week.

How did my Twitter following reach six figures?

  1. I was an early adopter. I started my Twitter account (@JaneFriedman) on May 22, 2008.
  2. I’m active. Except for the first 7-8 months of joining Twitter, I’ve been actively tweeting for more than four years.
  3. I’m relentlessly focused. Mostly I tweet about writing, media, publishing, and technology.
  4. I mostly share links that I hope are helpful or insightful.
  5. I’m somewhat reserved. It’s rare for me to tweet more than 6-8 times per day. (My total number of tweets has not yet cracked 10,000.) The way I look at it: Each tweet is a potential waste of someone’s time.
  6. I joined Twitter while I was publisher of Writer’s Digest, and I also created the Writer’s Digest Twitter account. Writer’s Digest now has about 370,000 followers, and for its first two years, I operated its account in tandem with mine. It was helpful to have my name associated with a big brand when I got started.

However, none of that probably matters as much as what comes next. Here’s a graph showing the history of my follower growth on Twitter:

Jane Friedman Twitter growth graph

One immediately wonders: What was I doing from summer 2010 through fall 2011—the part where the graph is stepping up? A few things:

  1. I started blogging better (better headlines, better topics, better solutions for writers) and blogging more consistently. (This was during my years at There Are No Rules at Writer’s Digest.)
  2. I ran a weekly blog feature called Best Tweets for Writers. I curated a few dozen of the best online articles (for writers) I’d found via Twitter. The series started around May 2009 and concluded in summer 2011, when I asked Porter Anderson to take the reins, and he created Writing on the Ether.
  3. Also during this time I was actively live-tweeting conferences and other events, which usually results in a following boon.

My blog content reinforced what I was doing on Twitter, and what I was doing on Twitter reinforced the blog. I created a rather virtuous circle that I believe boosted the follower count. But most important, the Best Tweets round-up wasn’t about myself or my own content. It was about drawing attention to other excellent work, which resulted in a lot of mentions, links, tweets, and so on. Some call this link-baiting, and it’s a fairly well-known strategy for building blog traffic. If done well, everyone wins.

There was one thing out of my control, which I can’t track very well: At some point, I became one of Twitter’s “Suggested Users” in the Books category. If I’m still there, I believe my account is listed fairly close to the bottom. If I was being shown higher around 2010-2011, that could also be playing a significant role. But keep in mind, I probably would’ve never been listed if it weren’t for the activity I’ve just described.

Why the Size of My Twitter Following Doesn’t Matter

Some studies show that smaller, more loyal followings are more effective. Check out this ReadWriteWeb article from 2010:  The Million Follower Fallacy: Audience Size Doesn’t Prove Influence on Twitter. That aside, here’s a big reason why no one needs to be impressed by my following:

Fake Twitter Following

[You can check your own stats for free by clicking here.]

What does this mean? That my following is more accurately stated as 71,750, after you weed out the fake and inactive accounts. Of those “good” accounts that follow me, how many do I actually engage? Klout notes that, in the past 90 days, I’ve had more than 2,000 mentions and 1,000 retweets. That’s probably a better reflection of how many I influence via Twitter.

And now you know not to be impressed by that 175,000 number.


Upcoming Online Classes

The following two tabs change content below.
Jane Friedman
Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. From 2001–2010 she worked at Writer's Digest, where she ultimately became publisher; more recently, she was an editor at the Virginia Quarterly Review, where she led digital strategy. Jane currently teaches writing and publishing at the University of Virginia and is a columnist for Publishers Weekly. The Great Courses just released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (2017). Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.
Jane Friedman

Latest posts by Jane Friedman (see all)

Posted in Social Media and tagged .

Join the conversation

63 Comments on "How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter)"

Notify of

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
2 years 11 months ago

Thanks for sharing this. Not only the numbers, but what you’ve done to build your following. I’m not on Twitter, but planning to join soon. But I think you’re right that the numbers don’t tell the whole story and it’s in part how many people you interact with. The reality is that if I follow 1000-2000 people, I won’t have time to read their tweets every day. At least that’s what I’m thinking.

2 years 11 months ago

This is one of the reasons I like you so much. Anyone who’d put a Fake Follower graphic on their own site is someone… well, it sounds an awful lot like something I did. And we do love ourselves (sometimes).

2 years 11 months ago

Those numbers are still a lot better than most even after the weed out! Too bad Twitter feeds are so hard to go through these days that it is becoming nearly useless.

2 years 11 months ago

Still most people would prefer to have a large number of followers, even if it means a lot of them are fake, because it sounds so good to others, especially those not very twitter-friendly. But I see your point! And thank you for the link to check the validity of followers. I will be using that!
Iulian

2 years 11 months ago

Really helpful Jane!

2 years 11 months ago

Also, note that she follows very few people (Although it will be interesting to hear from JF how much reading she does.). To be effective, to create work, you have to produce. You don’t have time to consume. She’s not the only one.

2 years 11 months ago

Norman Mailer, asked what he was reading, said “Nothing. You can’t read if you’re writing a book. It distorts your prose.”

2 years 11 months ago

In the spirit of full disclosure, here are my Fake Follower stats as of six months ago: http://www.bookofjoe.com/2012/08/twitter-fake-follower-check.html

2 years 11 months ago

Jane, your strategy for a well-oiled machine of a social media platform is amazing! It’s not something I can fully achieve currently without giving up on either sleep or child-rearing, but I love reading how successful folks like you do it. You are my definitive go-to for most of my writing-business knowledge. As one of your non-fake followers on Twitter, I want to say thank-you from the bottom of my heart! :)

2 years 11 months ago

Super helpful Jane! Thank you

2 years 11 months ago

Great stuff! Thanks for sharing.

2 years 11 months ago

Thanks for the Fake Follower link. I have 300 Twitter followers, but they’re 92 percent “good” according to the app. So, that makes me feel better. :)

2 years 11 months ago

I enjoyed running my own account through this analysis. But what I really want to emulate is your ability to grow a readership through better headlines, content, etc. I know that I don’t yet have this art mastered. I’m getting more focused on audience, though, and that feels good.

2 years 11 months ago

I’m still a little impressed by that 175k number. :)

2 years 11 months ago

I’m at 94% with true followers at 18K and I follow almost 17K. How nice! At times, I would like to extricate myself from Twitter. Yet, it’s the first place I go to find out what’s going on the in the world and it will be the nicest tweet from a follower that makes me want to stay. I tweet inspirational quotes & philosophical posts about things or people that inspire me or my writing and engage with readers there (Some of my most loyal ones are on Twitter and found me there, somehow). I don’t think it’s about the… Read more »

2 years 11 months ago

Great insight. And thanks much for the “fake follower” link. I was pleased to see I’ve got 97% “Good” followers in my 4K Tweeps. I use Tweepi for a sweep of inactive accounts and those creepy people who follow you and then unfollow immediately in order to rack up numbers.

2 years 11 months ago

Wow, Anne, that’s a terrific Faker score. I might try Tweepi to pull out my inactives — I’m actually doing pretty well, but I do have a percentage of inactives that I likely should offload. This is such a good piece, thanks, Jane.

2 years 11 months ago

If you measure conversion, your rate is %0.5 based on the 1,000 mark. This is fairly common of most verticals. I’m glad to see you sharing data like this. Hopefully others will be more concerned about what they’re getting out of social media and less worried about internet fame. :-)

[…] I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter)janefriedman.com/2013/02/19/six… via […]

2 years 11 months ago

Hi Jane My Twitter following of 88,400 followers shows as 0% fakes, 4% inactive and 96% Good. Why? For the same reasons you state. 4 years of interaction, always blogging, always trying to help, and never trying to ‘artificially’ inflate follower numbers. It’s all personal and real. However, it’s sad but true that people are dazzled by numbers. In fact to underscore this, today I took time to email and gently dissuade an author friend from BUYING 10,000 ‘followers’. What would it achieve? She eventually (reluctantly) saw the light. But another acquaintance went ahead last month and actually bought over… Read more »

2 years 11 months ago

Ha, ha, ha, there is a bit of that going on around the net.

2 years 11 months ago

i love stuff like this:) thank you for sharing it! 99% good

2 years 11 months ago

I like this style, the here’s-what-I’m-doing detail.

It reminds me of the style of another new-media star who also started early, Australian Darren Rouse of Problogger. I started reading his work years ago, liking his blog for exactly this same reason, his here’s-what-I’m-doing tidbit news that seemed almost personal.

Another new-media star Joe Konrath, does the same thing. Here’s how much money I make, here’s how many books I sell, here’s how I do it- and, by the way, this is what I think.

This blog style doesn’t sell. It binds.

2 years 11 months ago

Wow, this blew my mind. Thank you so much for writing this!

[…] She doesn’t care. It’s not that she’s arrogant about that number, but as she explains in How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter), there are many things that go into getting such a large following—things that many of the rest […]

[…] How to get 6-figure following on Twitter […]

2 years 11 months ago

Well golly Jane, two thousand active followers is still nothing to sneeze at. But I know what you mean. I have 41,000 followers on a little-known music site (Blip.fm), but it’s not even the most effective source of traffic for my blog.

2 years 11 months ago

“The way I look at it: Each tweet is a potential waste of someone’s time.” Brilliant pithy thought there. Maybe even a potential ironic tweet! I never followed you because you have loads of followers. I followed you because I was drawn into the great, useful and insightful content on your blog. Just so you know! Thanks. :)

[…] before she’s done with How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter), Ether host and VQR Digital Editor Jane Friedman has done what precious few high-ranking (yea, […]

[…] Feature: How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter), by Jane Friedman – “It’s almost a running joke. Whenever my manager introduces me at an event, he always starts by saying how many Twitter followers I have, which is inevitably far more than anyone else in the room. Today, my follower number is a little over 175,000, and it grows by a few hundred every week.” Jane Friedman […]

2 years 11 months ago

Thank you! Most interesting! And of course I checked myself on the fake twitter and a nice surprise awaited – 97% good. I have a small following – about 150 and I follow about 150. It’s irritating though when the feed has dozens of retweets from the same person of uninteresting – to me – tweets. I always retweet interesting ones and favorite ones I can go back to.

2 years 11 months ago

Thank you! Most interesting! And of course I checked myself on the fake twitter and a nice surprise awaited – 97% good. I have a small following – about 150 and I follow about 150. It’s irritating though when the feed has dozens of retweets from the same person of uninteresting – to me – tweets. I always retweet interesting ones and favorite ones I can go back to.

2 years 11 months ago

I just checked and I have 1% Fake, 2% inactive and 97% good on 4800 ish followers. Thanks for the tip on how to check and for the great post!

[…] Friedman explains why her 6-figure Twitter following isn’t all that it seems to be; Jonathan Gunson highlights the biggest mistake authors make on social media; and Thomas Umstattd […]

2 years 11 months ago

This is great, Jane. I’m a big believer in the quality over quantity (my fake followers are at 1%), although as a social media practitioner I find that others look at that number and make assumptions so as a result I’ve been looking to more actively beef it up. I find that a lot of it is the engagement on the channel–talking to people means that more people are seeing my name in their replies. Having great content makes all the difference too…what I tweet determines the retweets which in turn spreads the love around.

2 years 11 months ago

Thanks for sharing this Jane. It’s always interesting to hear how people with great followings got to where they are! Like many others here I’m coming in at 97% good, 2% inactive, 1% fake, on around 15k followers. One tool I like for weeding out the fakes and inactive accounts is ManageFlitter. It looks like it’s time for me to use it again too.

[…] Friedman: How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter). What does your “number” really mean? How many are you really influencing? Jane breaks […]

[…] How I got a six-figure Twitter following (and why it doesn’t matter) by Jane Friedman. […]

[…] How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following […]

picturetalk321
2 years 11 months ago

Great post. It’s basically saying, I guess: there’s no secret miracle, just work hard. (I knew it, *sigh*). 😉

[…] Jane Friedman: How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter) It’s almost a running joke. Whenever my manager introduces me at an event, he always starts by […]

2 years 11 months ago

I can’t read all the tweets of people I follow. I don’t understand Twitter.

Helen Ginger
2 years 11 months ago

Twitter does a lot to try to stop fake tweeters from signing on to Twitter. It’s a big job, considering how many people sign on every day, though. Twitter has what referred to as the Spam department. That department spends most of the day writing algorithms to catch spammers before they can tweet. Their goal is to close those accounts before anyone follows them. I don’t work for Twitter, but I know about this group because my daughter heads up the Spam department at Twitter.

2 years 11 months ago

I also have over 100,000 followers, and have a 95% good rating. I think using tweetdeck where I have many columns for different people helps, my followers are lined up by close friends, agents, other writers, celebrity, fans, french, Russian, Italian, etc,

[…] How I Got a Six-Figure Twitter Following (and Why It Doesn’t Matter) by Jane Friedman […]

2 years 11 months ago

First off I want to say awesome link. I ended up at 97%, so woohoo for me. Funny enough, I had just blogged something a bit similar yesterday about how it is far more important to converse WITH people than AT people on Twitter. This in turn creates true followers for what you are saying and can lead to a real following instead of an inflated number which does absolutely nothing for a person.

Great article. Thanks for writing it.

[…] Jane Freidman on how she grew her 6-figure Twitter following, and why it doesn’t matter. […]

[…] I get followed, but I’m not trying to break any records. In fact, another indomitable force, Jane Friedman, explains why chasing after huge numbers of Twitter followers can just be a waste of time. Like any […]

[…] Signing up for Twitter in 2008 & starting the Best Tweets for Writers series (story here) […]

2 years 9 months ago

Yes, I’ve been blogging for three years now and only realized (1.) My topic–“encouragement”–was too broad and not niche-y enough (“encouragement” is a field often populated by Christian groups and born-again’s, while I am neither) and (2.) I will change the fact I almost never Tweet. To that effect, I’m putting up big banner to remind me. Then, I’ll work on my titles, too, that’ll suggest what the heck I’m writing about (I always went for vague, artsy types that gave no clue–not good for SEO.) It’s total learning curve and I hope I get it before senility sets in…You,… Read more »

Dreamah H. Lockwood
1 year 5 months ago

What amazes me, is the folks that want to sell you followers. I prefer that someone follows me on twitter because that is what they want to do.

[…] How to get 6-figure following on Twitter […]

wpDiscuz