Going "viral" on Twitter is a shitty way to grow your following


I see a lot of threads on here about how to grow your Twitter following or build an audience on the platform.

For the last 2 months, I've been running some experiments.

&& have I some data to share!

First of all: I am not an expert at Twitter. Despite building a fairly reputable name and brand for my company over the last 4 years, I've largely ignored my own brand (whoops) and just tweeted for shits and giggles. Until the start of 2020, I think I had under 1,000 total followers.

Got serious about this sometime around September and decided to invest some time in trying to grow my reach.

I'm far from rock-star status, of course, but I have managed to grow my following from ~1,100 to 1,700 in the last 2 months.

Here's what I learned.

Gaining 600 Followers in 3 Months

My hypothesis was that there were 2 ways to grow your Twitter audience:

  1. Native Twitter content that receives lots of engagement/retweets, goes "viral", and gets people to follow you
  2. Content on other platforms with a CTA & link pointing back to your Twitter account.

So, I tested both.

Going "Viral" on Twitter

I'm using the word "viral" in quotes because I think it's a bit of a stupid term. And, of course, going viral is extremely relative.

I mostly tweet about startups, marketing, SEO, etc. So the universe is pretty large. My level of "virality" is small, but pretty large for someone like me without a huge existing audience.

Long story short: I shared 2 pieces of content in the last 2 months as native Twitter threads that received a significant amount of engagement and impressions relative to my normal reach.

Exhibit A:

post a

Exhibit B:

post b

Each of these was a tweet thread, so subsequent tweets also gained lots of impressions as well.

All told, the month of November led to a HUGE surge in both tweet impressions and profile views:

Nov stats

126k total tweet impressions. About 10k profile views.

And it netted me 280 new followers, which is a nice gain!

However, it's horribly inefficient from a conversion rate standpoint.

10k profile views / 126k impressions = 8% CTR

280 followers / 10k profile views = 3% conversion rate

That's a pretty bad funnel.

But here's the fun thing...

I accidentally ran a semi-controlled experiment that tested the efficiency of this method against using other platforms to drive followers back to Twitter. Because, in October, I didn't have any "viral" tweets, but instead gained followers by driving traffic from a popular Reddit thread back to my profile.

Using Reddit to Drive Twitter Followers

In October, I posted a thread on Reddit about value pricing. (I also posted a version here!)

I don't have the exact stats on the traffic or impressions that this kind of content receives because it's Reddit. But, the only link/CTA in the post was asking people to follow me on Twitter.

And here's what happened:

Oct stats

As you can see, I only had a fraction of the tweet impressions and profile views that occurred in November. And I didn't quite gain as many followers.

But, the efficiency is MUCH better.

194 followers / 1.2k profile views = 18% conversion rate

That's a 6x increase!

(Note: I'm leaving out the CTR calculation since most of the profile views would have landed directly on my profile after coming from Reddit.)

TL;DR - If you want to grow your Twitter audience 6x faster, share content on other platforms & include a CTA to Twitter. Stop trying to "go viral" or get people to RT you. It's a hail mary and terribly inefficient.

Which, I guess leads me to only one final thing:

Follow me on Twitter for insights on marketing, content, SEO, startups, & more!

  1. 4

    First of all - go follow Tyler on Twitter. He's really good at content marketing and SEO and I love his stuff.

    However I don't agree with the conclusion of this post.

    Those 1125 profile visits are for the most part people who clicked your Reddit post CTA with the intent of following you on Twitter. No wonder the conversion rate is so high.

    I think that if you could see the impressions your post got on Reddit you'd probably conclude that funnel is inefficient too.

    1. 1

      Hahaha. Thanks Andre!

      Well, I agree that the CTR of the Reddit thread -> Twitter is probably much lower.

      But, I guess my point is that if I can get traffic to my profile coming from Reddit or traffic coming from a viral tweet, I'd rather have the Reddit traffic because it's more likely to convert.

      Also, I'm kinda salty that 10,000 people viewed my profile and only 280 followed! :-P

      1. 2

        If it's of any consolation a while ago I examined data from multiple Twitter accounts and on average they had a 3% conversion rate (profile visits to new followers)!

        1. 1

          Aha, well that makes total sense.

          I think you are just proving my point that publishing on another platform and driving readers back to your Twitter is a better way to grow your followers! ;-)

  2. 1

    First, thanks Tyler for your post and indeed it turn into a follow so it's well though :)

    I've also been studying Twitter and here are my two cents:
    1.- Optimize your Bio, I checked it out and it can be improved. Basically you want other people to see from your bio why would they need to follow you.
    2.- Also add a CTA to follow you in your Twitter threads.

    Personally Twitter is the first step in my customer acquisition channel, so when I write in other platforms I'm a bit more "salesly" so I do not want to redirect them to Twitter I prefer to direct them to my product (might be wrong on that).

    If you would like to exchange views, please consider scheduling a short meeting. I would love to chat.

  3. 1

    Great insights, thanks Tyler! Following you on Twitter.

  4. 1

    This is awesome. Your reddit post was quite detailed and high value. No wonder you got more conversions from there.

    How do you manage the constant need to post something? I think twitter requires a lot more attention every day, unlike a blog post which happens in flashes. What do you think?

  5. 1

    A question though: Did you ask people to follow you on Twitter either early in the thread or end of the thread? If you did not, you are comparing a piece with a clear CTA (only link in the reddit post, highly visible -- above the fold) with content pieces that did not have a clear CTA.

  6. 1

    Thank you for sharing your experience, Tyler!

    Have you tried optimizing your Twitter profile to understand if it makes a difference to the conversion rate? Perhaps changing the bio or pinning a specific tweet?

  7. 1

    Definitely agree, going viral will get you followers that think you're "funny", but it's not your real audience.

    I'm also experimenting with it, and focusing on small-sized accounts. I want to check if my tips are reproducible for growing account from 75 to 500 audience size


    1. 1

      Even if "I'm here for fun" followers aren't a real audience isn't it easier to snowball your followers number if you've got many of "not your target" followers? Sorry if it's a silly question, I'm just getting started with Twitter :)

  8. 1

    I've actually been experimenting with the same thing.

    I tried the traditional way of "engaging" with people, commenting, etc. Couldn't move the needle.

    Yesterday, I said, screw it, I'm going to put my Twitter handle EVERYWHERE. I'm going to suggest to all new subscribers to follow me, I'm going to put my handle in my reports, everywhere. And in the last 2 days I'm getting around 5-6 new followers a day.

    So things kinda started to work when I started treating Twitter as a secondary email list.

    Btw, if I was in your place, I'd send those people on Reddit to an email list first. But that's just me.

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