Anyone new on Twitter who wants to build in public and create an audience wants to know this - the tactics behind getting a tweet viral.
The more exposure and engagement, the more followers you can get. Make sense.
I got a question from someone new to Building in Public the other day, and this article is inspired from me answering his question.
"I've been building in public already. I tagged posts with #BuildInPublic but hasn't had much of an effect on my personal nor company account. Are there changes you'd suggest to encourage virality?"
Here let's break it down into 4 parts to talk about virality's role in audience building:
- What is virality on Twitter?
- Do hashtags help?
- Should you focus on virality?
- How to get exposure and engagement for your tweets?
What is virality on Twitter?
Virality is when you get a lot of likes, retweets, and quoted retweets for your tweet. People acknowledge the value of your tweet and put it on their Twitter account.
I once got a tweet viral by accident. In a short 36-hour period, my tweet got 2,500 likes and 100 retweets. It eventually reached 3,324 likes and 137 retweets.
This is something you dream of achieving right?
But, honestly, I wasn't excited about it because it didn't mean anything. And I summarized my learnings here: click to see the whole thread.
This shows that virality is only good when it is closely related to the topics you often talk about. Random virality is a waste of time.
Do hashtags help?
If you do a quick Google search on "How to go viral on Twitter?" Many suggest that you use hashtags to go viral. This advice is so 2010 - simply outdated.
Time has changed, hashtags nowadays are mostly used to be part of a community. You'll find #BuildInPublic, #NoCode, #MarketingTwitter to be the more active communities. And people use these hashtags to find out what other people in the community are doing.
In terms of exposure, using hashtags won't get you a ton of exposure, so don't use it to get exposure. You can use it to be part of the community.
Should you focus on virality?
As much as people share about how they engineer virality, I personally find that a lot of it is based on chance.
It might happen or it might not. It is not worth your time to figure out how to get virality.
If you look at any traffic analytics based on virality, it looks like this:
Just like any launch, exposure from viral tweets gets a huge boost and then dies out very quickly. Even if you successfully engineer one viral tweet a month, overall traffic stays flat.
What does this mean to you?
It is much more effective to play the consistent, strategic game than the viral game.
Would it be more sustainable to have a graph like this that is steadily moving upward? This is a graph of Public Lab from late-April to mid-June.
Instead of focusing on the virality of each tweet, aim to influence a few people each time you tweet. If you can keep adding 5 followers from 1 tweet, you'll do pretty well when things start to accumulate.
4 actionable steps get exposure and engagement for your tweets
1. Talk for 90 days straight
It is important that you are giving values to others, or else there is no reason for them to follow you.
You start by asking yourself "Who am I really?" and pick one topic to talk about for 90 days.
This topic must be something you truly enjoy and want to build your brand around. If you find yourself struggling to come up with what to talk about, the answer is obvious - you don't enjoy it that much.
I'll give you an example. Back in 2018, I was doing YouTube videos and my topic was parenting. I wasn't married and, of course, I didn't have kids at that point. So every day I was struggling so much to figure out what to talk about and that burned me out.
You must pick something that you're already familiar with or have access to every single day, then you'll never run out of things to talk about. Plus if you're naturally learning about it, then you have much more to share.
Don't worry if it changes down the road. There is no single person who sticks to the first topic they ever talk about. The point is not to stick to a topic, the point is establishing your voice so that people find you interesting enough to follow.
2. Balance your tweet and thread mix
You have to remember this line.
Tweets get your quick attention and engagement, but threads get your real followers.
Let me explain why.
When someone sees a tweet of yours with 2-3 lines of wisdom, they can easily click "Like" and move on. They might not even pay attention to who you are.
But if you write a thread and an attractive opening line, people who go on to read the entire thread are very interested in what you have to say. If they follow you at this point, they're a real follower. They really want to hear again from you.
So, strike a good balance between tweets and threads to build a sustainable following. I'd suggest writing 3 threads that go out on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Then write 1-2 tweets every single day (7 days a week) on top. I use Hypefury to help me plan for the week.
When you can keep up this frequency, you have a chance to eventually get to a level of exposure and engagement you're excited about.
3. Make 50 Twitter friends in the next 90 days
Another thing most people new to Twitter ignore is building relationships.
How did I get to 4,000+ followers in a couple of months? Because I invest time into interacting with people on and off Twitter.
On Twitter, I engage with their tweets and bring our conversation into DM (direct message). Off Twitter, I enjoy scheduling a few calls each week to meet people and learn about their stories.
Why is this important?
Because virality usually doesn't initiate between strangers. If you can build more meaningful relationships, the moment when you launch something, your friends are all there to help you out. This is the ultimate engineering of virality - through your friends!
Most viral tweets happen this way. They at least start off from your friends’ circle. Still think you can only rely on writing for virality? Good luck.
Most people don't understand how to build meaningful online relationships, that's also why I consolidate all my knowledge and make it into a free 7-day email course called Making Twitter Friends.
4. Don't worry about low engagement
Many people get frustrated when they don't get the likes and replies that they dream of getting. It is completely normal to not have more than 10 combined likes and replies in the beginning.
Look at this as a way of filtering the not-so-serious people. If you want it enough, you'll endure the pain, disappointment, and fear in the initial stage.
There are many reasons why engagement is low: holidays, people are away from their devices, people don't resonate, other tweets get prioritized in the algorithm ... whatever. You don't have to find out why this particular tweet doesn't work. One tweet won't break your strategy.
All you need is to focus on your habit and system to keep doing the 3 points above.
Things that don't seem to matter but they do
A concise and appealing Twitter profile
Finally, in addition to sharing valuable content and making friends, you also need to nail down the basics.
I've come across so many Twitter profiles that are unappealing for people to follow. They lack character and what they try to represent is messy.
All you need are 3 topics that you enjoy and will stick to. You focus on these 3 things on your Twitter profile. And you keep your promises by consistently sharing good knowledge on these 3 things. You can still share other types of tweets, but the main focus is the main focus.
Tweet writing techniques
Another thing most don't spend enough time on is writing good tweets.
In my early days building my personal brand, I broke down how well-known marketer, Dave Gerhardt, writes his LinkedIn posts. This will help you write better tweets too!
You can take a look at Blake's and Janel's Twitter to further understand how they use Twitter. I challenge you to analyze their Twitter and figure out why Twitter is not a social media platform but a library of knowledge.
If you can get started with the tips I have here, you'll start to see magical things happening around you.
You'll enjoy your work, you'll talk about it comfortably, and you'll see that other people can feel your authenticity and passion that they want to hear more from you.
All this doesn't happen overnight, so start tonight.