“Dance like the photo’s never going to be tagged;
Love like you’ve never been defriended;
Tweet like no one’s following.”
-Henry David Thoreau
Romantic, isn’t it? Tweet as you will, if you actually had zero followers it would be hard not to let yourself straighten out a curve on the Pacific Coast Highway and plummet blissfully down onto the rocky cliffs below, where at least you’d feel something.
Admit it, it’s fine, you want followers. How many? How many is enough? 200,000? Well as the saying goes, “if you want 200,000 followers, follow 200,000 auto follow-back robots.” But some of us want humans to like us too, and that’s what makes life so difficult.
Internet hyperspecialist Alex Blagg has spoken of a day when “a man is judged not by the color of his skin, but by the content of his content.” Do great tweets ensure you a substantial following? Looking at people like Rob Delaney or Julianne Smolinski you might think it does, but we also all know funny people who have the twitter presences of individual blades of grass. In compiling this guide I consulted some of the Internet’s preeminent twitterati (a word that causes me to sneeze blood), as well as some of the least-followed people in the world (twitteteriat?) to see what’s working this summer, and what’s blurking. And, guys, this stuff is hot.
-Dream big, but start small. Every follower counts. In the beginning when someone starts following you, thank them with a DM. But it can’t sound generic, so try googling them and finding out something about them to personalize the message. “I just noticed you started following me. Thanks! I can visit your house in Memphis, TN and meet your child Sadie.” If you’re good at making bread, bring some bread.
-Self promotion. Overt self promotion gives you pimples on your mouth and eyes. Luckily we’re surrounded by hipsters who exist in a hazy suspension between “fetishiz[ing] the authentic and regurgitat[ing] it with a winking inauthenticity.” Irony is the new reality, especially when it comes to style. So you can wear a big white t-shirt or hat with your twitter handle printed on it in huge red letters, and it will play in Echo Park or Williamsburg as well as it would in Atlantic City. Which is to say, it’ll play.
-Corporations. “Hey @Sketchers, I’m loving my new Lady Bounder 400s! Toned up all my problem areas in a jiff!” This sort of obsequious tweeting will buy you a retweet from the good people at Sketchers and a subsequent follower surge from the interesting people who give credence to the Sketchers twitter account. It may feel a little sleazy (especially if you actually dislike or even detest the Lady Bounder 400s), but “at the end of the day, an RT is an RT.” –John Stuart Mill
-Be professional but persistent. When someone says “no” to sex, they mean no. But when they say “no” to following you they usually mean “ask again in 48 hours and I think my answer may pleasantly surprise you.” If they still say no, a polite “can I inquire as to why you find it necessary to not follow me?” will usually get things rolling, especially if you ask it while holding scissors.
-”Add a location to your tweets.” This is an option you can choose in Settings. And it’s a great option that should always be used. If you’re outside someone’s home tweeting at them from a parked car or tree, telling them you can see them, it can feel… empty? Fake. But letting them check your location can really drive the point home. You might think this would freak people out, but you’d be underestimating how lonely most people on twitter are. “It’s nice that someone cares to watch me.” Follow.
-Date up. Find people who are physically or socioeconomically less than you, but have lots of followers for some reason. Seduce them with money or dance. After you’ve been married for a few years, log into their computer sometime when they’re not home and tweet #ff @yourself. Then take the kids and move far away!
-Animals. It probably won’t be long before some of the smarter animals are using twitter. Chimps, medium-large dogs, dolphins (when they’re on land). Befriend the popular ones now. “Oh here let me train you to use twitter. This is how you follow someone, like, for example, let’s say you wanted to follow me. [cackling]”
-Profile picture. A young, busty Asian woman is the best to start out. Then, later on, continue to use a picture of a young, busty Asian woman. “Followers who respect you for your intellect are worth just the same as followers who want to jerk off to your avatar.” -Abraham Lincoln
-Tweet threats to national security. Instant follower surge.
-Begging. You like the idea of not begging for people’s approval, but are you married to it or something? Haha. Try not changing clothes for a few weeks and then sitting in Union Square with a cardboard sign that says “please follow, @_______.” Have a bell that you ring when someone stops and follows you on their phone. Ask a real hobo if you can borrow some urine to put on yourself to round out the je ne sais quois.
-Tweet your feet. Just – okay, listen, it’s not complicated. I’m running out of ideas.
-Tweet at dead people. Do it not right after they die, wishing them a happy afterlife of some sort. Instant Karma may not get you, but don’t ever rule out Eventual Karma. Keep tweeting at them for a long time, until admins deactivate their account. Even though it feels like tweets only exist for 2-3 minutes, “who knows what the space-time continuum situation is like in the afterlife.” -Sketchers twitter account
-Be interesting. Get an interesting life so you have things to tweet about and unique experiences on which to base jokes and insightful commentary. Do something noble that inspires ugh I’m bored just typing this lol
-Retention. Just because people started following you (because maybe you tricked them or slept with them or they’re afraid of you) that doesn’t mean they’re going to follow you forever. You have. to. keep. their. attention. and. their. respect. at. every. moment. because. the. unfollow. button. is. SO. damn. easy. to. click. and. everyone. is. critically. judging. your. value. as. a. person. with. every. character. you. put. before. them. But also don’t freeze up! Keep tweeting, just make every tweet perfect and hilarious and bitingly relevant yet unanimously inoffensive.
Okay, cool. Do you have 200,000 followers yet? Oh, awesome! My work here is done. [Turning, walking slowly into a wheat field, scaring up a covey of quail that flies off into the sunset, tweeting.] Voice over: Always remember that, like a tweeting bird, if you fly too high, you too will freeze solid as a rock in the stratosphere fall to the earth like a rock.
James Hamblin is a physician and comedian in LA. He used to be a huge Twitter Superstar, but his original account got deactivated because of some stupid rules. He just got back in the game, though!