Building a Virtual Army: Part Two

Part Two: So You Wanna Build an Army?


By Jeremy Allmendinger


Everyone hates pointless Facebook notifications. I don’t care how your FarmVille is doing. I don’t want to gift you pigeons in BirdBlazers. I hope your Frolic Simulator character gets an aneurysm. Similarly, sending people bushels of Facebook invites neither makes nor keeps friends. So how do I get people to like my page without bombarding them with reminders like the Allied forces in Dresden?


The answer, I found, is to bombard them slightly less. I sent everyone who might have an interest in the Pavlov’s Hair Conditioner Facebook page (about 800 people) a single invite, and let them decide if they wanted to follow or not.


I also target specific pages and groups. For example, when I post a new entry in the “A Year of Ireland” series, I send a link to the still-active Facebook group of students I studied abroad with. The goal here is to keep the name “Pavlov’s Hair Conditioner” somewhere in the back of people’s minds. I estimate between twenty and thirty new likes came from this method, and hundreds of page views.


Twitter has been a completely different beast. At the start of my experiment, I had forty-one followers, a number which had remained stagnant for several months. In the past few weeks my followers shot up by more than two hundred. How? Well, I figured a few things out.


First off, I wasn’t interacting with people nearly enough. I favorited a good number of tweets, but retweeting and especially mentions were rare at best. Similar to a Facebook like versus a comment, the former is passive and the second is active. Everyone enjoys knowing someone got a kick out of their latest post, but a personalized response – something someone took more time to write than a simple click – will always be miles above. So I simply did more of that. Several A-list musicians have since retweeted me, and I now count Ben & Jerry’s as well as a fair sum of prominent bloggers among my followers.


In addition to interacting with new people, I find out who my followers follow. Twitter is great at connecting bloggers who tend to band together. The site alerts me that, say, Aussa Lorens – a popular travel writer – connected with these other notable travel writers. I’m a travel writer too, so I reach out to these newly discovered talents to see what makes them successful.


Above all, I look for people with a roughly 1:1 follower/following ratio. These users have a higher tendency to reciprocate interaction – you mention them, they’ll mention you, retweet for a retweet, and so on. Most importantly, perhaps, they are most likely to follow you back.


For Instagram and LinkedIn I took a more passive approach. Unlike Facebook, there is little expectation for a user to personally know all of their connections. As long as you have a decent number of mutuals, most users feel comfortable accepting you into their follower list. And thus do you build a wide web of potential readers. More importantly, you broaden the net for anyone looking for someone with your writing skills, which can lead to paid opportunities down the road.



In the next post, Jeremy discusses how important it is to know and understand the people who you are trying to get page likes and re-tweets from.