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There’s a lot more that goes into being part of a brand newsroom than brainstorming and creating content for brands. You have to figure out the numbers game of what works and what doesn’t, and you have to figure out how to get the messages you’re created to your audiences … who often don’t even know they are your audiences. An effective way to do this is by growing your Twitter following.

If you do a quick Google search about building your Twitter following, you’ll find information about how many followers you can follow at any given time, and you can find tools that actually do the work for you. Sounds great, right? Too bad that doesn’t teach you what you really need to know to be effective in growing your Twitter following.

These are a few of the things I’ve found over time that work best at growing your audience.

Remember your location.

If your brand is national or international, this isn’t really of any concern because people all over the place already know about your brand. If you’re a smaller business, however, this is key. Think about it: If you live in Indiana, and a company that only exists or provides services to people in Oregon follows you, that probably wouldn’t interest you. I know I certainly wouldn’t follow that brand back or care about what they have to say. Look for people who clearly define themselves as living in your certain city or area. That’s right, that means you have to pay attention to Twitter bios. I’m sorry.

Think of people who would be interested in following your brand.

I always start by finding out brand competitors and going to their Twitter accounts. If they’re your competitors, their audience should be interested in your brand, as well. Additionally, you can look at other companies or brands with followers who might be interested in your brand or products/services.

For example, if your brand specializes in furniture or home decor, you might look for competitors’ accounts as well as people who are interested in decoration or design — home magazines, interior designers, architects, or even contractors, for example. You can do Google searches to identify these people or companies.

Look for people who are already following similar brands.

Once you’ve found these competitors’ accounts or have identified a brand or company that similarly aligns with your brand, you’ve done half the work. There are two things you should do.

First, go directly to their “Followers” section. Because these people are already following the brand you’ve chosen, that more than likely shows that they have an established interest in what that brand (and your brand!) does. They’re therefore more likely to follow you back because you have similar content on your account.

Next, go to the “Lists” section of their account and click on the “Member of” link. Boom, you just stumbled upon a) people who have grouped like-minded businesses or people together based on interests and have done the legwork for you, and b) people who care enough about the topic of their list (aka your brand or products/services or location) to add your competitors to a list to begin with. The number of people for you to follow just grew exponentially! Follow them. (Side note: Don’t forget to explore lists your brand has been added to, as well.)

WORD OF WARNING: Don’t get trigger happy.

There are limits, and you need to know them. Most limits have to do with ratios. You can only follow 1,000 people a day. Additionally, you have a following cap of 2,000 total. These limits were created by the Twitter gods to prevent spamming. You can follow more than 2,000 people when your ratio of followers to following is close, however, so you definitely need to unfollow inactive accounts or accounts that don’t follow you back.

BUT WAIT. There’s more.

You can also get your account temporarily suspended for “aggressive following” or “aggressive follow churn” if you aren’t careful. If this ever happens, it means that you followed a ton of people but not as many followed back; you then followed just as many the next time you looked for followers, OR you just unfollowed them all in return when they didn’t follow you. Both actions can lead to trouble. Twitter monitors to see if the following and following back is a close ratio. If it’s not, your account could get suspended because you got flagged for spamming — even if you weren’t spamming.

Here are a few tips on how to avoid follow churn:

1.) Follow less than 50 people at any given time unless you know for sure that those people will follow back. Less would be even better.

2.) Pay attention to the amount of people who follow back. If you didn’t get a bunch to follow back, take a few days or a week break so it doesn’t look like you’re spamming people.

3.) Adjust the amount of people you follow based on what happened the last time you followed people. If you have a new account, an account with very few followers, or an account that struggles to get followers, don’t worry about unfollowing; you don’t want the number of “following” to jump all over the place and become alarming to the Twitter gods. In this case, you should also follow 20 or fewer new people every week and hope for the best until your following starts to grow.

There’s no way to know if or when your account is being monitored for spamming until you’ve been suspended. There is literally no rhyme or reason, but the aforementioned tips should keep you in the safe zone. If you do get suspended, however, don’t fret. By reaching out to the Twitter gods (which shows you’re not in the business of spamming), you can get your account reinstated in a matter of hours. You’ll be inconvenienced in the meantime, though, so you should just assume you’re always being monitored.

Now that you know all my secrets and the method to my madness, you should be able to grow your following considerably over time. Remember, results may vary based on brand and the content you’re sharing, but why not give it a go?