Wednesday October 02, 2013 | 08:25 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

First and foremost, do you care? If not, you can stop reading now. This post will just annoy you. If you'd like to grow your Twitter following, whether you're an individual or a business, keep reading.

The best way for the average (non-celebrity) user to gain Twitter followers is to follow other users. Once you've grabbed a user's attention by following them, you have only seconds to make an impression. That first impression can make the difference between gaining or losing a new follower.

It's a good idea to check out what users will see when they notice that you've followed them. Chances are they will only click through to your profile summary. So, I suggest taking a look at your profile summary with a critical eye. What does it say about you or your business? Would you follow you? Assuming you were not you, of course. You know what I mean.

I've been an obsessed Twitter user for several years now. I've read loads of great articles on this topic. I've also had the good fortune to talk with many very successful Twitter users about what works for them. Following are 10 things you'll want to avoid doing if you care about growing your Twitter following.

10. Don't be a blank slate - Trust is currency, both for individuals and businesses. An incomplete profile (lacking an avatar, bio, and/or background images) does not help you establish trust. Your Twitter profile should tell us something about you. Both through images and words. There is limited room for both, so make the best use of it.

9. Don't be a dullard - Give us a reason to want to follow you back. Once again, is your bio complete? Does it tell the users you follow something interesting about you or your business? Will your avatar and background images make us want to engage with you? Will your tweets catch our attention? Are they filled with positive affirmations and sales pitches that promise to make us rich overnight? If so, STOP IT. Immediately.

8. Don't be a dead person - When is the last time you posted a tweet? When a individual user takes the time to follow me but hasn't posted a tweet in weeks, I always wonder if I'm being followed by a dead person whose account has been hijacked by an auto-follow spam-bot. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against dead people. However, they're not particularly engaging so, as a rule, I don't follow them back. I'm not even going to get into "dead businesses." I'm sorry, but no one wants to buy anything from a corpse. Tweet something. And, make it good.

7. Don't go overboard with #hashtags - Hashtags serve a very good purpose when used correctly. They enable users to be drawn into conversations on topics of interest to them. Please stop using them in an attempt to be wry, ironic, and/or funny. When you do, it makes you look dumb. Don't be a dummy.

And, please watch this clip - "#Hashtag" with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. Thank you @adamburk for sharing this with me. I love it.

6. Don't engage in excessive automation - Enough with the auto direct messages. When I choose to follow an individual or business and then receive an auto-DM "thank you" message, I immediately unfollow them. Please make it personal or don't do it at all. Even worse, if you wake me up at 2:00 a.m. with an auto-DM trying to sell me something, it makes me hate you. HATE you. 

5. Don't have a disproportionate following ratio - When a user is following 5,000 accounts but is only followed by five, it makes me skeptical. There is nothing wrong with having a higher "following" vs. "followers" number. Just watch your ratios. Conversely, it's pretty easy to detect an inflated "followers" number. If you'd like to know how, read this article. And, please see below.

4. Don't be desperate - Don't buy followers. Ever. C'mon now.

3. Don't be a drunk - When you pick up a cocktail, put down your phone and back away from your computer. And, yes, your iPad counts too. Turn it off. I know you feel like you have something important to say. I've been there. Trust me, you don't. You'll thank me tomorrow. After all, you could end up like this guy.

2. Don't be a "guru." Or, an "expert." And, please don't be a "ninja" - If I see any of these terms in your bio I'm going to run screaming into the night. If you need to tell people you're an expert at something, chances are you're not.

1. DON'T BE AN EGG - I don't care if you're a good egg. If you can't take the time to upload an avatar, you can't expect many users to follow you back. Plus, you'll completely alienate your potential vegan following. If you live in Portland, Maine, you can't have that. You've been warned.

Now, I've definitely been guilty of some of these offenses. I was an egg once. I've tried to be "#hashtag funny." And, I've certainly been dull on many occasions. I've learned the hard way. Let me have learned these painful lessons for you.

I'm also always interested in learning more from other users' Twitter experiences. What's worked for you? What hasn't? If you'd be so kind, please share them with me in the comments section here, or on Twitter. You can find me at @bobbbyg.

Happy tweeting.

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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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