How I gained 5,000 Twitter followers in 4 years

@susanweiner Twitter widget

Twitter plugin that appeared on my website prior to its redesign

This is not a get-rich-quick or even a quick-success story, but you’ll find some helpful Twitter tips in it.

After four years I hit 5,000 Twitter followers in April 2013. Five thousand was not a lot compared to Justin Bieber’s 44,055,359 fans or even The Motley Fool investing website’s 436,638 fans, but it’s not bad in the world of financial advisors, asset managers, and niche writers where @MichaelKitces is a star with 9,305 followers (all stats as of September 3, 2013). Update: As of October 2018, I had over 13,000 followers.

Looking back, I believe four things grew my Twitter numbers.

1. My goal is to engage, not to grow followers

Plenty of hucksters will tell you how to boost your follower count quickly. However, those folks won’t stick with you when you fail to deliver anything of value to them.

I’ve tried to deliver useful content with a dollop of promotion and plenty of interaction. If you’ve ever tweeted a legitimate question to me, I’ve done my best to reply.

I also ask questions of others and highlight their expertise. You may be following someone whom you discovered through one of my retweets.

2. I take initiative to follow members of my target audience

In my early days on Twitter, I mainly followed people who traded tweets with me. However, as I noticed Twitter boosting my e-newsletter list, I began identifying more people to follow.

I used the following techniques:

  • Reviewing the profiles of my new followers
  • Looking at names suggested by Twitter in its “Who to follow” section
  • Checking Twitter lists of people whom I respect

3. I don’t unfollow or block people unless they annoy me

People sometimes tell me they’re trimming the list of people they follow. I don’t spend time on that unless people spam me or annoy me in some other way.

I believe there are two main reasons why other people unfollow. First, they’re overwhelmed by the volume of tweets. However, I use Hootsuite to filter tweets. This helps me focus on more valuable clients and deepening relationships with a small group of people. However, my “home feed” with all of my followers helps me find good content in unexpected places.

Second, people unfollow because they bump up against Twitter’s rules about how many people you can follow if the number of people you follow is greater than the number of your followers. I don’t recall being in that position except in my early days on Twitter.

4. I share my tweets and Twitter handle

I don’t confine my tweets to Twitter. For some years, I shared them in the right-hand column of my website using a plugin (a little bit of software) that displays my most recent tweets attractively in a box. I know this little box works to interest some people in Twitter because it was a little box like this on Bill Winterberg’s FPPad website that worked its lure on me.

I also send some of my tweets to LinkedIn. I don’t recommend sending everything you tweet to LinkedIn, especially not if you’re a frequent tweeter. Oversharing on LinkedIn will annoy some folks.

I post my Twitter handle, along with a  link to my Twitter profile, in many spots. For example: my website, e-newsletter, email signature, and LinkedIn profile.

What about YOU?

What are your thoughts on growing your list of Twitter followers? Do you think it’s worthwhile? If so, how do you pursue your goals? I’m also curious to learn more about why folks cull their followers.

Note: This post was updated in October 2018.

Storify as a tool for online resource lists

Sometimes you want to share a list of resources with links and colorful thumbnails. If you don’t want to spend a lot of time on your list, Storify can help. For instructions on how to create a Storify story, read through the guided tour.

Advantage 1: Spend less time creating clickable links

Normally I create a clickable link on my blog by typing or copy-pasting the content’s title, opening the link box, and then copy-pasting the website address. With Storify, I simply copy-paste the website address into a box on my computer screen. Storify automatically generates a thumbnail image that serves as your clickable link.

This feature isn’t limited to online articles or websites. It also applies to tweets, YouTube videos, and more. When you insert the URL of a tweet, Storify displays an image of the tweet. Later on, when you publish your story, the site will ask if you’d like to notify the authors of the tweets that you’ve quoted.

Advantage 2: Save time sourcing images

Storify automatically generates thumbnails, as I mentioned above. Without this feature, you’d need to do one of the following.

  1. Find an image from an independent source to illustrate your piece. You’d need to pay for the image or identify it in the manner requested by its creator, or possibly do both things.
  2. Create an image from the content you’re quoting. For example, you can create and use a screenshot of a tweet without violating copyright. Copyright may become an issue when you capture images that you don’t own. So far Storify hasn’t run into major issues on this count.
  3. Go without any image knowing that this makes your content less likely to catch readers.

Advantage 3: You don’t need a blog or website

Your story will exist on, so it’s no problem if you don’t have a blog or website.

Of course, hosting by Storify is a negative, too. Even if your story attracts many viewers, it won’t boost your website or blog’s ranking by search engines. This drawback is why I’m using Storify only for quickly compiled list posts. You can view my Storify stories, including my popular piece on “Ready-to-use content for financial advisors.”

If Storify intrigues you, but you need to draw people to your blog, consider using the Storify widget for WordPress. I’ve read mixed reviews of the widget, so please let me know how it works for you. I have not used it myself.

Have you used Storify?

If you have used Storify, please comment or share a link to your story below. Here’s an example of how the CFA Institute uses Storify for conference coverage.

Poll: Should you go ziplining on LinkedIn?

“Why did you mention ziplining on LinkedIn? It’s not business.” This comment by my husband made me think aboutziplining LinkedIn post what’s appropriate for sharing on social media. It also prompted the poll questions below.

LinkedIn is the most business-oriented of the social media channels I use. I estimate that 95% of my status updates there are strictly business. But I believe it pays to show an occasional glimpse into my personal style. My LinkedIn status update about ziplining, along with updates elsewhere, prompted quite a few responses.

YOUR opinion?

Please answer my two-question survey about whether it’s okay to share non-business information on LinkedIn. I’ll share the results in a future issue of my newsletter.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

Is Google+ worth the effort?

I didn’t understand the appeal of Google+, which is why I decided to read Guy Kawasaki’s What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us.

In his chapter on “Why I love Google+,” Kawasaki says, “Google+ has powerful and sophisticated features that the competition doesn’t, and Google+ does things in ways that make more sense to me.”

Here’s my take on the case for Google+ based on Kawasaki’s chart comparing features of Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Google+

That’s not enough to get me excited about Google+. I have an account so I can keep learning. After all, I hated Twitter the first few weeks I used it. Now I’d hate to live without it.

If you’d like to learn about using Google+ effectively, the rest of Kawasaki’s book offers tips that would probably help if I took the time to apply them.

More reasons to consider Google+

I’ve started to like Google+ a bit better since I originally drafted this blog post in November 2012.  Three things stand out for me.

  1. Google+ Communities make it easier for me to engage with others.
  2. Google Authorship can help me rank better in online searches. Michael Kitces convinced me of this with his communications, including “Why Every Financial Planner With A Blog Needs a Google+ Page, Now.”
  3. Google+ has yielded more helpful comments than other social media on some questions I’ve posted.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from McGraw-Hill in return for agreeing to write about it.

4 Twitter #FF tips from my personal experience

Thanks to everyone who has favored me with a #FollowFriday (#ff for short), I’ve
learned a few things about how to do it right. If you’d like to use the #ff hashtag to show respect or gratitude to others, consider these tips.

1. Keep your #ff tweets short

Your #ff tweets will get retweeted if you limit them to 120 characters or fewer. It’s common for some #ff honorees to thank the folks who honor them by retweeting. But a retweet might add 19 characters or spaces, as with the following text: Thx! RT @tweetname

2. Say why you like the folks you favor with #FF

“Add value with context,” as savvy user Mike Langford suggests. Some folks do this by highlighting one person per #FF tweet, with an explanation of why that person is worth following. Tip #3 offers another approach to this challenge. I know I’m more likely to click and follow if you give me a reason.

UPDATE on July 28, 2014: I’ve discovered that suggests names for you to #ff.

3. Consider grouping your #ff names by type

If your FollowFriday goal is to help others discover the folks whom you honor, then go beyond a simple list of names. Mention a profession–such as advisors or writers–or a characteristic–such as great content for investors. This takes time, but it also boosts the likelihood that your Twitter followers will click to learn more about these individuals or firms.

If this sounds like too much work, consider picking one Twitter account every week. Use the extra space to highlight why that Twitter account is worth following.

4. It’s okay to skip FollowFriday

FollowFriday suits the Twitter personality of some folks, but not others. It’s okay not to participate in it.

It’s rare for me to originate #ff tweets. I figure that I show my respect for other folks on Twitter by retweeting their content and engaging with them.

What’s YOUR approach to FollowFriday?

I’m curious about your approach to FollowFriday. Has it helped you deepen your relationships with others on Twitter, win new business, or gain other benefits? I’d like to hear from you.


Outlook Social Connector: A cool email helper

Outlook Social Connector

You can see multiple categories of information using Outlook Social Connector

Better email communication results from a better understanding of the person with whom you’re exchanging messages. It’s hard to keep all of the relevant information in your head, or even to collect it in one place. This is why I like Outlook Social Connector, which I learned about in consultant Bill Winterberg’s presentation on “Transformative Technology You Can Implement Today” at FPA Experience 2012. While Winterberg highlighted the tool as an aggregator of social media activity, I especially like its email function.

Email history display

When I write anything more than a simple email, it helps to see an overview of my recent emails with the recipient. Sure, I can get that by doing a search, but Outlook Social Connector automatically presents that information to me.

Eyeballing this history may remind me of something that will strengthen my email. Another tab shows me attachments we’ve traded recently, which is handy if I want to confirm that I’ve sent the latest draft or invoice.

Social media information

I’ve connected Social Media Connector to my LinkedIn account. When I click on an email, I see my contact’s LinkedIn

  • Photo
  • Recent activity (New connections)
  • Status updates

This helps me to personalize emails to the recipient. For example, I may comment on a blog post link posted by the recipient.

Facebook is also an option

Outlook Social Connector connects to more than just LinkedIn. The most noteworthy other option is Facebook. I wish they’d add Twitter. However, LinkedIn, in my opinion, is the most helpful option for business.

If you’re using Outlook Social Connector, I’d love to hear how it has helped your emails, client relationships, or marketing.

Social media as practiced by Brittney Castro, Cathy Curtis, and Jeff Rose

Kitces tweet re FPA social media panelFinancial advisors can win new clients from social media. Here are some of the highlights of what I heard from Brittney Castro, Cathy Curtis, and Jeff Rose in a social media panel moderated by Michael Kitces at FPA Experience in San Antonio in October 2012.

Start conversations with prospects

Social media is an inexpensive marketing tool that allows you to connect with people whom you might never have met otherwise. Ideally it means you go to where your niche market is, start a conversation, and hear what your prospects want to learn about, as Castro suggested. Your ideal social media platform will be a function of what you and your target audience prefer.

Castro, Curtis, and Rose say you don’t need to spend tons of time on social media. However, they enjoy social media, so they invest heavily in it. Curtis said she spends 10%-15% of her work hours on social media, but that doesn’t include her time during the rest of the week. Castro said “I love marketing,” so she spends 40%-50% of her time on it, plus she goes out to network face-to-face and tweets about it. Rose spends 20-30 hours a week on marketing, including social media, newsletter, and blog. “It’s almost like a second job,” he said.

Social media and blogs work well together

Blogs work well as a destination to which you send your social media friends. Rose contrasted a static website with a blog. The website says “This is my firm and this is how great I am,” while a blog shows who you are, your personality, and your knowledge. It also offers a community for interactions. Plus, the blog is where Rose captures people as leads.

Don’t drive prospects to a web page where there’s no activity, said Rose,”It’s like the Twilight Zone.” However, a Facebook page might offer enough interaction, he added.

Financial advisors are winning new clients

Curtis, Rose, and Castro have all won clients through social media and online searches. The social media and search are related because social media activity boosts your visibility in online searches. Curtis gets more new clients through online searches than referrals. Prospects often say something like “I love your website. I found you on Google.”

Rose’s client with the most assets also found him online, through a search for “certified financial planner Illinois.” At that point he’d been active in social media for six months without any direct financial benefits. You can’t expect immediate results from social media.

Twitter has also paid off for Curtis, who has built a community of women through tweets. “Almost every one of them has asked me to become their advisor,” she said.

Some people with money look for advisors on the internet. One such client pulls in $1 million a year in income. However, these wealthy clients may be on the younger side. Castro works with women in their thirties and forties who are accumulators.

Social media’s 80-20 rule

Castro’s final tip was to spend at least 80% of your social media activity “providing value.” Twenty percent or less should be promoting yourself or your services. “The less you talk about what you do, the better it is,” Castro said.

Curtis agreed with Castro’s closing tips, mentioning that her social media activity focuses more on food than finance. “Don’t be afraid to be who you are. People hire people they like,” Curtis said.

Rose said, “So many advisor bios look alike. Social media helps you to show your personality.”

Moderator Michael Kitces said, “The leads we get off social media are the warmest leads we get because they know us.” That’s a particularly intriguing comment.

What about YOU?

How is social media working for you? Also, do you have any advice for the advisor who told me that he tried social media for 18 months with no results? Please leave comments.

Poll: Which social media tools are helping you win new business?

Almost 20% of advisors have gained a new client from social media, despite the limited social media involvement of many advisors, according to a press release from SEI, “SEI Survey: Advisors Start to Realize the Business Benefits of Social Media.

LinkedIn and Twitter have both contributed directly to my winning new clients. My active participation in LinkedIn Groups has brought me new connections and kept me visible until they had a project that required my help. Twitter has helped to a lesser extent.

What about YOUR new business from social media?

I’m curious about you. Which of the social media have YOU found most helpful? Please vote on the poll in the right-hand column of this blog. If you have time to elaborate on your answer in the comments section below, that would also be great.

Here are your poll choices:

  • Facebook
  • GooglePlus
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Twitter
  • [Other option that you specify]

Facebook likes and links for financial advisors vs. the rest of the world

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, or so the cliche’ goes. But financial planners regulated by the SEC and FINRA often can’t use techniques promoted by social media gurus. This article discusses one such Facebook page technique.

Somewhere I read that I should ask people who “like” the Investment Writing Facebook page to post a link to my page as their Facebook status. I’ve never had much luck with this tactic. Nor have I noticed any of my Facebook financial friends trying this technique. This prompted me to pose a question about this on my Facebook page.

Have you had any luck asking people who “like” your Facebook page to post a link to your page as their FB status?

This is the question I asked on the Investment Writing Facebook page and on my personal page. Here are some of the answers.


Pink trash: An internet-era reminder

Financial Times

photo: herdeirodocaos33

The cook’s question caught my ear as she spoke loudly across the small hotel’s quiet breakfast room.

Where did you get that pink newspaper in your hotel room trash? We were talking about it,” said the cook, who also served as waitress.

Whoa! Who knew that the maid and the cook talk? Or maybe the cook did double-duty as a maid. In any event, it’s unusual for most of us to be asked about our trash, even if we discard exotic newspapers, such as the salmon-pink Financial Times.

This question made me think about how often we’re unaware of people watching us. Being curious about others is human nature. But the scale of observation has increased dramatically with the internet.

The pink trash conversation was overheard only by my husband and me. But the audience could have been much larger if the waitress had asked her question on Twitter and automatically pushed it into her LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ feeds.

I am a big fan and beneficiary of social media. But every once in a while it’s important for me—and you—to remember that others may be silently watching us.