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The Indie Hacker Guide to building a Twitter Audience

Wow, guys, wasn’t expecting so many replies to that topic on helping 3 Indiehackers build a Twitter audience. That’s why I decided to create a guide on this fine Monday morning to get you started.

Let’s dive right in.

Step 1: Choose the topics you want to tweet about

Whether you’re into UX like https://twitter.com/ux_daily or A/B testing like https://twitter.com/splitbee, everyone should pick about 3 - 5 topics where they consistently tweet about.

That doesn’t mean you can’t tweet about anything else. It just means these are your main topics.

For Indie hackers with a project the first one should be pretty obvious although it’s not talking about your project. Always go one abstraction level higher than your niche. Let me explain:

If you’re into A/B testing you could talk all day about it, but what you’re actually talking about is conversion rate optimization. One of which is A/B tests. But the end goal is the same: people want to get more sales, more signups, etc.

If you’re into recommending books like https://twitter.com/richardreeze is, you can talk about books, but what you’re really talking about is: lessons learned. Teaching people.

Because you’re talking about a broader subject besides your little niche it’s easier not to be blindfolded by your project. You’ll be more helpful to more people.

You sound more credible talking about a topic you know a lot about. If you don't think someone is credible you won't follow them.

Instead of tweeting: read this book, it was recommended by Elon. You could say: The reason why Elon is such an alien to so many people is that [insight from a book]. IF the tweet does well, add a tweet to at (create a thread) and link to your website.

If it doesn't do well, don't add a link because no one will see it anyway. You want to build impressions and engagement first. Tweets with links in them get fewer impressions.

If you have less than 1k followers your tweets might get 10 - 50 impressions if they do poorly but thousands of impressions if they do well. Don't spam links in the hopes of getting 3 people to click on it and buy from you. That's not how Twitter works.

Choose a couple more topics that are close to what you do in normal life. Don’t be fake. Don’t think: this topic is doing well now, I should do something with that.

You’ll outgrow your topics anyway. Better to start close to self.

Comment below if you don’t know what topics to pick. Let’s help each other out a bit. Tell us a bit about yourself and your project. We can probably help you come up with some nice topics.

Step 2: Get your basics in order

Write a compelling bio. Why should people follow you? What do you bring to the table? What’s credible about you / your Indie project?

Scroll down your timeline and remove all the B/S you’ve been tweeting about. It’s time to get serious.

When people visit your profile they check your header, profile pic and bio. The next thing they do, if they haven’t already left or followed you, scrolls down your timeline to check what you’re writing about. Make sure it’s not all about you and what you ate for breakfast.

If you tweet on your Indie project’s name, make sure you have a profile pic and a link to your project. It seems strange if you act like a “real” company but you don’t have your basics straight.

Step 3: Follow the right people

I’m assuming everyone is below 1k in followers. When you’re below 1k in followers you might as well be tweeting to a wall. You won’t get much engagement on your tweets, The occasional like and the rare RT.

You need to find your audience.

That means joining an existing bigger one. Basically party-crashing without drinking their booze and without stealing (too many) of their (dates) followers.

Follow your incumbents.

There are usually companies you see as your competitor. Follow them. Next, follow their followers.

You want to follow their followers because they already showed interest in a company similar to yours.

I created a small Chrome Extension (as a test) that shows you how many followers your followers have or how many followers those followers, who follow the account you just follow, have. (Yes, I’m the record holder of saying the most amount of “followers” in one sentence)

You can use the extension to save some time. It’s more interesting to follow other big accounts vs just small accounts who don’t have a following themselves. The plugin can be found here: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/twitter-followers-counter/jcilhfimgnigaeoemcdaodolfgehejkf

Twitter doesn’t like mass following. Don’t follow more than a couple of dozen every hour if you’re all in on this guide.

Find a few big accounts next that have massive engagement and are close to your niche.

For people into design / UX here’s a list of accounts to follow that have decent engagement.

https://twitter.com/lukew
https://twitter.com/swissmiss
https://twitter.com/vanschneider
https://twitter.com/pablostanley
https://twitter.com/theChrisDo

Notice how I didn’t mention the obvious Smashing Magazine?

They have shit engagement.

You want to follow accounts that have a lot of RT’s, and comments. Because the more engagement the more impressions. The more impressions the more your time spent on commenting on their tweets is rewarded.

Here are some coding accounts to follow and engage with:

https://twitter.com/iamdevloper is very fun to follow and has a lot of engagement.

https://twitter.com/chriscoyier
https://twitter.com/csswizardry

These are some more great accounts Indie Hackers can follow and engage with:

https://twitter.com/jeresig
https://twitter.com/wesbos
https://twitter.com/dan_abramov
https://twitter.com/jasonfried
https://twitter.com/rjs

Connect to some of the above-mentioned accounts. Set “Notifications” so you get a message whenever they tweet. The quicker you respond to their tweet the more likely you’ll get a lot of engagement/followers on your comment.

That brings us to the next part

Step 4: Tweet smart, not often

Twitter, like any social platform has an algorithm. They want to see engagement. People who interact with your tweets. If you can tickle the algorithm to like you, your tweets will be shown to more people.

It basically means: don’t tweet trash, but make ‘em splash.

The basic rule is: always talk about them. I don’t have statistics on this but if YOU mention the word YOU in your tweet, chances are a lot bigger you’ll get more engagement while saying almost the same. They read you and think (he's talking about) me.

The reason you followed those big accounts is not for appearances. You want to use their audience.

Fun fact: there are many, many people following the Dalai Lama to be the first to comment on his tweet (he has 19M followers). I’ve seen people grow their audiences so quickly with this simple trick:

Have 10 quotes ready from the account you’re following. Once they tweet you immediately comment on his tweet with a quote (that’s easy with His Holiness) and you RT your tweet. (Don't do this yourself unless you are in the self-help niche)

The more engagement your tweet gets the higher it “ranks” when someone opens the comments. By RT'ing your comment you’ll create that extra engagement. You’ll also allow your tweet to be seen by your audience thus increasing the chance someone who follows you will engage with your tweet. And so forth and so on.

I advise you not to do this (too much) with the accounts I mentioned. As in: limit it to once a week. They might notice and block you. His Holiness doesn't really care.

You still want to be genuine. You always want to be helpful. You always want to add value to their timeline.

Don’t plug your product/service. Answer questions without being overly pushy. If people like what you have to say you’ll be checked out anyway.

Don’t be blown away but you should be commenting about 10x - 15x a day on other people's timelines vs only tweeting 2 - 3x a day on your own to start with.

Build genuine connections. Don’t engage and run.

When you used someone else’s advice/platform/product/etc. share your story. What worked? Why? How did you go about it? What did you gain? Mention the user/platform that helped you. Pretty big chance they’ll RT you and you’ll gain followers. Bonus points if you engage with them before you mention them. They’ll remember you.

Step 5: What to tweet about

As this Monday morning is turning into a Monday afternoon (for me) I’m going to wrap it up here (for now :))

Don’t overthink. It’s a bit counterintuitive if you look back on what I said. You can’t learn to tweet from books. You have to learn by doing.

What not to do:

Don’t tweet platitudes.
Don’t copy/paste quotes everyone has already seen a million times.
Don’t copy tweets from others.

What to do:

Talk about your users. Show people interesting angles not directly related to your project. Don’t show screenshots from your product. Show something a user did or create a (small) case study.

Share your ups and downs but always inspire. That means you can have a shitty day or a tweet that talks shit but people are more likely to engage if something is inspiring about it. Like (I can’t remember his name) but the guy that shared his story on how shit his Indie Hacker day was. That stuck and inspired.

Share your revenue numbers and what it took to get you there.

People read tweets in their minds. If they sound good in their head, your tweets’ engagement will be fed. (See what I did there? 😉)

You have to find your tweet-mojo. 😀 You can’t find it if you don’t tweet.

Once you get started you’ll notice that Twitter is a huge time-sink. If you want to save some time and increase your engagement while you’re at it, you should try Hypefury 😀 Many of our users schedule their tweets once a day for the entire day or week. It saves them hours a day. You can have your best tweets automatically retweeted if you want. Lots more of course but I’ll leave it at that.🤓

Step 6: leverage your existing audience

Create an affiliate program for your Indie project. Send all your customers a message saying you have an affiliate program.

Contact your followers on Twitter and do the same.

Why? Because you want to leverage your audience. You want other people to talk about you. It’s a lot more powerful than you talking about you.

Last tip for now:

When you’re thinking of creating a new feature, involve your current customers. Contact them via Twitter. Ask their feedback.

Next: build the feature and ask them to test it out for you.

Announce the new feature on Twitter mentioning the people who helped you. Big chance they'll RT you.

Bonus points if you do this with a feature that is “mainstream” so more people on Twitter will be engaged by the new thing you launched and not just your super niched down audience.

Tell me what you think about this guide and what you’d like me to add. I’ll create the ebook from this part (with more visuals and examples) and based on the feedback you give me!

You can follow me on Twitter here.

  1. 4

    I really like the browser extension. That is one legitimately useful piece of software.

    1. 3

      Thanks Arvid! :) You can always spread the love if you want ;-)

      1. 2

        This guy has no shame. 🤣 @arvidkahl

  2. 3

    @YannickVeys Thanks for the advice! I will try them right away

    1. 1

      Welcome Semy! :)

      If you have any questions, shoot!

  3. 2

    thank you - really loved it. Also using Hypefury for 2 months now, wayyy better than other platforms.

    1. 1

      Thanks Anita! That’s great to hear :))

  4. 2

    I was literally searching indiehackers for "how to grow on twitter" this morning. This is exactly what I needed.

    Thank you so much, @YannickVeys.

    1. 1

      Hahaha :) What a coincidence :) Enjoy!

  5. 2

    Thanks Yannick, I especially liked step 3 & 5 :)

    1. 2

      Great to hear! :) Tell me what worked and what didn't :)

  6. 2

    Avoid echo chambers, especially purely male ones. 🤷🏽‍♀️

    Here's some great women to add to your potential list of followers too - https://twitter.com/i/lists/992336279089176577

    1. 1

      Hi Rosie,

      Thanks for your response! :) I actually only look at the engagement rate. I had no idea these were all men.

      I looked at your list and added Ire. https://twitter.com/ireaderinokun If you have others who have great engagement on their tweets, please mention them in the comments!

      I noticed this profile on your list too. https://twitter.com/flaviocopes (I assume Flavio is male?)

      1. 1

        It's my pet hate. Men barely notice it. Women notice it majority of the time. And it does help to be mindful of it.

        The list is not mine, just one that I know exists and better maintained than one I would ever make.

        Neither do I have time to go doing research at this point in time. This is also a common request from men - they ask us to do their research. Sorry, I say this with a smile on my face, even though it actually hurts. I'm honestly not having a dig at you. More I'm highlighting how easy it is to fall into these traps. 😇

        Of course, it not only applies to women, but just representing a more diverse set of people, experiences and advice. Tech suffers so much from lack of diversity, it's depressing.

  7. 2

    Thank you @YannickVeys this article is amazing. Will be using these principles for self and project.

    1. 1

      You are very welcome Botvader!

  8. 2

    You're on fire Yannick. :D

    Few things I'll add:

    • Don't mass follow other accounts: try to keep your following counter smaller than your followers counters
    • If you're hesitating between using mainly your personal account or your project's account, use your personal account. A personal brand is powerful. People feel connection to other people more than to other projects/companies. Keep your project's account for "serious business" such as features announcements, highly specific advice, etc.
    1. 1

      why this samy? "Don't mass follow other accounts: try to keep your following counter smaller than your followers counters". how does this matter?

      1. 1
        1. It makes your account look spammy (following thousands of accounts is usually done using mass tools) and low quality 2) No one can know about this, but Twitter might limit your engagement depending on your followers to following ratio (I know IG does)
    2. 1

      Nice additions Samy!

      These will definitely be included in the ebook ;-)

  9. 2

    Thank you, Yannick! I love your guide :-)

    1. 1

      You're very welcome!

  10. 1

    Great tips! These can really add more followers and keep them hooked to one’s Twitter handle. Most of the doubts about building Twitter audience have been solved by reading this post. Thanks a lot for all that you’ve described. I am going to follow your tips for sure.

  11. 1

    thanks, Yannick, very useful recommendation especially finding a niche and deleting shit talk about breakfast. I was doing that a lot 🤦🏻‍♂️

  12. 1

    Great guide, and very helpful for a relative newbie to doing serious audience building on Twitter. Thank you for sharing!

  13. 1

    Thanks for the guide! I already implemented some of these things and I followed you.

    https://twitter.com/indiefounder

  14. 1

    For step #1 - topics. I would love to learn what people would like to see me tweet.

    My project is Story Creator - it's an online video editor. I am a solo startup founder bootstrapping off savings. I enjoy self-development and overcoming your mind to produce amazing things.

    I worked in San Francisco as an engineer for 5 years. I dropped out of school and drove to California with $300. So I've taken some crazy risks to get here. I have a long way to go but I definitely have some interesting insights I'd like to share.

    I am curious how I can channel all that into a more focused approach that will create engagement. Ideally, I'd like people who engage with the content to be in demand for the tool. This would be podcasters, entrepreneurs who need video, and I would be happy to have investors engage. Also not just target customers but folks who would be awesome to have in my network, other influential people, people who have audiences themselves full of my target audience.

    1. 2

      Nice project Michael!

      (I checked your website. I'd go for: Share stories instead of Create videos)

      Next, find other indie projects you like. Create a video for them. Share it on your Twitter mentioning them. Tell a story that goes with the video. What do you think about when you look at that other person's project? What's the story behind the product/service? What's the story behind the founder?

      Rinse and repeat.

  15. 1

    This is gold 😍 Awesome post, we are struggling to get any followers on twitter that we thought of quiting it all together, but these tips might help us get back to twitter 👌

  16. 1

    Tweets with links in them get fewer impressions.

    How many fewer do they get in your dataset?

    I'm guessing my account is a bit of an outlier based on a few things in this piece!

    1. 2

      TBH it's not based on a lot of data. It's based on my own account's data and my observation. But you are also right. I should nuance that a bit too.

      Too many ppl just have a Wordpress plugin that spits out Tweets with a link to their blog without being attuned to Twitter. Most of those tweets fall flat and don't get a lot of engagement.

  17. 1

    Great tips, thanks Yannick! Can't believe I missed the follow when person tweets feature. Actually I once made one of the first comments on a popular account and it blew up and till now I wondered why...

    1. 1

      Hahaha :)

      Now you know :)

  18. 1

    This comment was deleted a year ago.

    1. 2

      Hey Paolo,

      Thanks for your reply!

      Focus on days that are normally spent with family. Thanksgiving, Christmas, (what's up in the coming months?)

      Give examples of things people could do to have a great time with their family.

      Create blog posts on these. Extract tweets from those articles.

      Search on twitter for family-related accounts. Follow the big ones with high engagement. Add value to their tweets.

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