How to get 1000 Twitter followers with (almost) no money

22nd July 2020 | Anjan Vij

How to get 1000 Twitter followers with (almost) no money

As a non-profit organization or a professional seeking to build a profile and communicate what makes one unique, there really is only one social media platform that stands heads and shoulders over the others. That platform is Twitter. No other platform has stakeholders ranging from the head of states to the local district official all active and engaged on it. 

Our own journey consisted of varying results until we decided to chart out a plan and be a lot more systemic and thoughtful about our approach. Given all the expenditure and time that we were allocating towards the platform, the returns were insignificant.

For the organization to succeed, we had to enable leads and relationships with key government stakeholders to drive change for our states. The most acceptable outcome for any of our inputs would’ve been a relationship between the government stakeholder and our state representatives. Attribution is an old challenge for communications and we weren’t helping ourselves by not even focusing towards a solution.

We had been stagnating at approximately 300 followers for years before we were successful in gaining the next 700+ in 3 quarters. 97%+ of these followers and their engagement metrics were gained organically and without any monetary investments.

What we have learned so far:

1. Be clear about your goals: Be very clear about your personal or organisational goals before you make your first moves on Twitter. Only a digital agency and not a non-profit or individual short on resources should be exclusively focusing on social media metrics like impressions or engagement rates. These and any other metrics should accurately reflect your progress towards the larger organisation goals and not be the goals themselves. For any non-profit, a key government stakeholder is someone who can have an outsized influence on their outcomes. 

To take Uttarakhand and Chhattisgarh as an example, we have executed district-specific campaigns wherein we’ve set up kiosks with laptops and volunteers in disadvantaged communities to assist families with online applications. The resultant impact is personally enriching but can be very limiting in its scale. We could at best spend weeks to fill out a few hundred applications which pale in comparison towards driving systemic change like making the online portal more accessible for parents or developing a mobile application that can accept applications offline as well. We have set up these processes in the two states and it has helped us improve outcomes in a sustainable way for lakhs of families as compared to the few hundred from before. 

So, rather than just setting up your posts to drive impression and engagement numbers up, identify and focus on the top stakeholders, monitor their feeds and try to engage them with posts that could best catch their attention. A hundred random tweets would be less valuable than the one that gets a response from someone who can significantly support and multiply your efforts. This is just as true with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)/Foundation heads for fundraising opportunities and Policy Enthusiasts for talent acquisition.

2. ‘What’s happening?’: Twitter is all about what’s happening in the moment. This is in stark contrast to other popular social media platforms where posts are a lot more curated and thought out. Don’t hesitate to chime in with multiple tweets as part of a conversational thread or a trending topic as long as it makes sense with your objectives. Do this with your key stakeholders as well. Monitor and evaluate what they are most passionate about and plug them content that they could consider as valuable.

Our efforts here have yielded heartening results while we iterate the inputs. Detailed and insightful tweets have elicited positive engagement from senior government officials and policy enthusiasts.

3. Reward > Effort = Value: A golden rule of judging any input towards the desired outcome is pegging it with the observed behaviour of the audience. This can be classified into two broad categories. Push and pull tactics. Your audience should find your content compelling enough to put in the desired time and effort to engage with it. A good marker to judge if your inputs are working in the ‘pull’ orbit is when the average post receives a better reaction than the standard 10-15% impression rate. This means your current audience is finding your content interesting enough to share with other people and not just consume it by themselves. On the likeability scale, they like it enough to put their own name and credibility to it while exposing it to their networks. If this goes on long enough, virality is possible.

Push tactics can consist of tagging and DMing people directly either asking for help with a problem or providing the support that they would find valuable. For organisations, this could consist of reaching out to government officials and highlighting bright spots from their areas of work and interest to providing solutions to their challenges. Individuals can offer pro-bono or low-bono support to organisations, prove their worth and credibility and stand a much better chance of converting a more robust engagement.

4. Speed over quality (kinda): Twitter algorithms reward speed with decent quality as opposed to high quality that isn’t relevant in the moment. Your tweet would have a much higher chance of being shown to more people if the first few people who view it decide to engage with it. While this is true for most platforms, forum boards highlight that the time aspect carries a lot more weight with Twitter. 

Try doing 4-6 relevant tweets a day as an exercise without putting too much pressure on the results. The positive change in metrics would surprise you.

5. Decentralize with accountability: Since Twitter rewards relevance and speed, it’ll be good to spread the responsibilities across a few key people within the organisation. It gets difficult for one person to be solely responsible to push out relevant tweets multiple times a day. Assign people to highlight different aspects of your work. Keep rotating responsibilities to keep the content fresh and diverse. 

We’ve done this with four anchors for our four zones with amazing results. In fact, we consider it as the single most important input that has helped us reach 1000 followers as quickly.

6. Production, production, production: All content is just as good as its packaging and presentation. While Twitter is more forgiving on this front, as insightful text-based tweets can travel far and wide. Unfortunately, this holds true for established influencers who have built up their reputations and profiles mostly offline. If you’re relatively unknown in the Twitter-verse, it’ll be good to invest time, if not money, to make your posts stand out with high-quality static and video content. There are enough free-to-use tools and stock videos/pictures for one to learn and experiment with. An average insight with spectacular production usually does much better than a great insight with no or mediocre production.

Never forget to always keep your messaging in sync with your objectives and constantly keep iterating based on the data-performance of your posts. When our team and the world was struck with the implications of COVID-19 in our lives, we immediately pivoted to reorient ourselves to help the most distressed families. Reaching out to them via calls and immediately flagging specific urgent concerns to district officials via Twitter helped us secure critical benefits and relief for families that were struggling to get by. 


In Picture: Leveraging Twitter for hyperlocal outreach during the lockdown. Dated May 09, 2020.


Twitter, more than any other platform, is now the town square, the public performance review and perceived impression for millions of us. It’ll be wise for you to take out some time to figure out how to best maximise your gains while leveraging existing external and publicly accountable profiles of key people. 

Remember, there’s more to learn from people who endure risks than those who seemingly conquered it because the skills you need to endure risks are more likely repeatable and relevant to risks we’ll face in the future. We’re more impressed with someone who has outperformed by a little bit over multiple cycles than someone who has outperformed by a lot over one.

Part of the reason pessimism is more seductive than optimism is because, despite an awareness of how powerfully things have changed in the past, it’s easy to underestimate our ability to change in the future. Psychologists call this the ‘end of history illusion’. It’s a tendency to underestimate how much your tastes and preferences will change in the future.

We take these principles as sacred even as we barely cross ~1100 followers on Twitter knowing we’re much better placed to capitalise in the future as compared to the past. We hope you’ll be there as well, grinding with us for every small win. 

If you don’t already, follow us on Twitter here.

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