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There is too much. Let me sum up.

10 December 2008 · Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

A friend and former colleague asked me how I got to 666 Twitter followers so fast. The short answer: by trying.

Before Twitter, I never knew how many wealth building, Law of Attraction, lifestyle, personal branding coaches there were in the world. Thousands of people out there will gladly (take your money to) advise you on how to build your social circles.

I’m not one of them.

But, after the following tweet and subsequent exchange, I thought I’d put to protons how I’ve built my network, to-date:

@segdeha (that’s me)
Closing in on the mark of the beast! Follower number 666 gets a special prayer said in her/his name!

how’d you get so many so fast?

In the immortal words on [Inigo Montoya](, “Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

Ben Young (@bwagy) said to me the other day, “You and me, we’re not internet celebrities. Guys like us have to work to build our networks by making real connections with people.”

He’s exactly right. I was a bit of a Twitter skeptic at first, but once I decided to dive in, I’ve put in a fair bit of time to build up my network. Like most anything worth a damn, it takes an investment of effort to see a return.

You can either let your network grow passively, or you can actively work to gain followers.

By allowing your network to grow “organically” over time, you will likely end up with a small set of Twitter friends with whom you share a strong connection. This may feel more authentic than befriending hundreds of people you don’t “really” know. Nothing wrong with this approach. Nothing, that is, unless one of the reasons you're on Twitter is to advance your career and/or social life.

Me, I see Twitter as an opportunity. Twitter is a huge, and growing, collection of people, 99.999% of whom I would never otherwise have the opportunity to interact with. Somewhere in the Twitterverse, there is a lead for my next freelancing gig. Somewhere out there, someone needs a setter for their city league volleyball team. Twitter is both global and local. You connect by interest. You connect by proximity.

The bottom line is, if you want Twitter to work for you, you have to work at Twitter.

I’ve gone about building my own network in a few different ways as my understanding of Twitter and comfort with the medium has evolved.

  1. At first, I tentatively added just a few people I was pretty confident I’d want to connect with (e.g., real life colleagues and friends) or be willing to hear their broadcasts (e.g., @gruber).
  2. Next, I went on a bit of a following binge. I followed anyone and everyone who either, a) had any kind of connection to my field (web development), or b) followed heaps of people (on the theory they’d be more likely to follow me back).
  3. More recently, I’ve been more selective in whom I follow, but I still make an effort to follow a few new people a day. The difference is that now, I am more choosy. I follow people for whom it looks like connecting could be of some mutual benefit.

Some follow me back. Some don’t. As Stuart Smalley would say, “…and that’s…OK.”

I’ve remarked before that as the number of people you follow increases, the difference between Twitter and IRC approaches zero. I go through and prune my list of follows every so often as well in an effort to reduce the noise to signal ratio. is quite helpful in this regard.

Beyond following others, there are a small handful of other things I’ve done to build goodwill:

The other thing you can do to gain followers is to link to your Twitter profile and, when appropriate, ask people to follow you. I link to mine from my LinkedIn profile and, of course, my personal website.

There you have it. It’s not rocket science. Heck, it’s not even social science. The best advice is just to put in some effort and be your normal, charming self. Remember, if folks didn’t want to connect, they wouldn’t be on Twitter!

PS: I worked with Aaron Sanders (@aremsan) when we were both at Vianet. He is an expert on software methodologies, having worked as an Agile Coach for Yahoo! If any of that sounds interesting, consider following him.