Tuesday, December 23, 2008

How I got a gazillion blog subscribers and thousands of Twitter followers

I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that I was going to tone my blog posting down for the rest of the year, as I usually do around the last week of each year. But I came across a blogger that had written a couple of recent blog posts, one about how he had recently added hundreds of blog subscribers, and another about how he had added hundreds of Twitter followers. The main thrust of his advice was to get more subscribers by commenting on highly-trafficked blogs. And he says you get more Twitter followers by following Twitter users with a lot of followers, and replying to them.

Is he wrong? I would say his methods would work, at least in the short-term. But the idea that you 'have to target the influencers' is SO 2005.

Here is what I did; Instead of targeting 'influencers', I targeted smart people. I could care less if they had 2 readers, or 20 when I found their blog. I started reading them because they were smart, and made me smarter for having read them. They are people that write compelling content, that create value for others, and that are motivated by being part of a larger community than themselves, not in drawing attention to themselves. And then I tell you to go read them as well.

This is how you gain subscribers and Twitter followers; you follow people smarter than you are, and you point other people toward these smart people. That is it. These people make YOU smarter, which means you create more VALUABLE content for your blog's subscribers. When you point to the smart work that these people create, that creates value for your Twitter followers.

And here's how my blog's subscribers have grown by following this method:

And this is how my Twitter followers have grown over the past 3 months:

Why? I think because in both cases, I am creating valuable content and pointing readers/followers toward valuable content that others have created. And as I take in more of this smart content, it improves the quality of the content *I* create. I don't care if the content I find is coming from an 'A-Lister', if I think it's smart, I share it.

Case in point, I first discovered Beth Harte and Amber Naslund (AmberCadabra) way back in I think May. Both had just launched their blogs around this time, and what struck me in both cases was how polished their writing was. I remember thinking that both Amber and Beth 'looked' like they had been blogging for years, not days. They literally hit the ground running. I immediately started linking to their content here, and tweeting it on Twitter. At the time, they were both very new to the blogosphere. But I *knew* that as smart as their writing was, that it was only a matter of time before they both were well known. Case in point, check out how many Twitter followers Amber and Beth have, and note that Amber already has more followers than I do, and Beth could pass me soon as well.

This is why I would advise you to please not get too caught up in following people on Twitter or reading their blogs simply based on their traffic/followers. The smartest ideas often come from the edges, while the spotlight is often in the middle. The A-List does indeed provide great value, and you should definitely pay attention to the 'experts' in this space. But at best that should be your STARTING point, not the finish line.

The next Jason Falls or Shannon Paul or even Chris Brogan just launched their blog, and just joined Twitter. The quicker you find them, the smarter you will be.

PS: If we don't talk again before Christmas (or New Year's even), please have a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


Anonymous said...

Mack, you are definitely the king of community! You have made it a point of encouraging others in their blogging efforts and leading us to a lot of smart, smart people. Your Z-List from two Decembers ago was a testament to that!

You are one smart cookie, yourself!! Looking forward to more from you in 2009.

Rock on!

Anonymous said...

Mack, your post elaborates on your specific experiences with one of the classic adages:

"If you want to be successful, then surround yourself with people smarter than you"

A great reminder to us all. Happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

You are smart Mack! I have learned so much from the people I follow on Twitter. And that is what I care about. To me the social web is all about learning. I could care less about how many followers or subscribers I have, but I'm thrilled if I provide insight for someone, and even more thrilled when I am enlightened by someone else.

Anonymous said...

You've got to love a little common sense. This is excellent advice. And Mack, this post's also a fine example of why I follow you.


Mack Collier said...

Becky I'm glad you commented because you're a perfect example of the type of person that people should be following. I think I found Customers Rock! about a week or so after you had launched it. Like Amber and Beth, your blog was wonderfully written, much better than you would expect for a 'new' blogger. I didn't need a 'list' to tell me that you were worth reading, I could tell for myself that your blog was valuable, and would only get better.

Lists are fine, but they should be the start of where you find people to read and follow. And Merry Christmas, Becky!

Stephen Collins said...

I've seen a few people lately claiming to generate followings by being super-linkers. It's essentially a spam technique.

I'm with you 100 per cent, Mack. The value we can create and derive through our engagement in social media is a key underpinning of the whole thing.

Great words!

Jasmin Tragas said...

Brilliant. It's about substance and character, it's about what each one of us can contribute. I like what Liz said in the comment above about not caring how many followers/subscribers she has - I think it's a very healthy attitude to have. Influence is only as pervasive as the value you generate, the message you bring, and the potentially wonderful relationships you develop along the way.
Have a great Christmas & 2009 Mack.

Anonymous said...

OK I've just discovered this blog and will subscribe and leave a comment. I'm torn though, I can't decide if I'm following you because you're smart, or because you have lot's of other followers or because I want traffic to my own blog. Hmmm...

Thanks for the post though, it's great advice.

Degenerasian said...

I agree. A person with 10 followers will notice you more than one with 1000 followers.

A blog with no comments will notice you more than a blog with 300 comments.

And the advice about following/finding smart people is so true. Alot of times people think they're too smart for everyone else.

Kate Richardson said...

Hallelujah Mack (hey it's Christmas).

I am over being followed by holiday lodges in Canada and excited by all the smart, generous people I'm discovering online.

Onward into 2009

Anonymous said...

Great Advice Mack!

While seeking out the new/fresh voices (vs. the "influencers") takes more work, I think it can be more beneficial. Everyone has a voice, it just depends on how they use it.

I appreciate that you've responded to a couple of different topics that arose on Twitter (even though I'm a minor player) :) It makes you more of a person than an identity, which to me, is what makes Twitter great.

Keep up the good work and have a great 2009!

Anonymous said...

Awesome post. You are so on point it's scary. Thank you for being smarter then me.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree. The flight to quality is always a pleasant trip. Some folks with lots of followers write wonderful, insightful things; others write things that leave me scratching my head in wonder. Good for you for bucking the conventional wisdom and building a following by engaging with those who you can learn from and who inspire. I'm relatively new to Twitter and I like the way you think!

Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten said...

Thanks for showing TwitterCounter sats on your blog and linking to us. Displaying our counter is also a good way to get more followers. Similar to the Feedburner counter...

Anonymous said...

Mack, one of your attributes that I enjoy most is your ability to discover new contributors to the community and encourage them to share their gifts/talents. Because of you, I discovered Beth Harte, Gennifer Snowfield and Amber Naslund.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't thank Craig Sutton for connecting me with you.

In addition to connections, social media can be about discovery - you've discovered a less obvious way to get a gazillion blog subscribers and thousands of Twitter followers.

Anonymous said...

Great simple advice, as usual, Mack.

It's no wonder I follow people like yourself, Beth and Amber, among others. It's without a doubt helped me grow as a blogger and has me looking forward to a great 2009.

Happy Holidays, Mack.

Anonymous said...

Mack, what can I say?! I learned from the best and that is YOU! Seriously... Becky is right, you are the King of Community. ;-)

There are so many wonderfully smart, funny and interesting people out there. This might sound dorky, but the part of social media I love the best is finding those people (or them finding me) and having great conversations with them. The second thing I love about SM is getting to meet everyone in person! (Personally, I could care less about the numbers.)

I predict that 2009 will be the year of some great conversations!

Happy holidays & Happy New Year Mack!

Mack Collier said...

Thanks guys for all your comments. They prove my point that following people smarter than you has big benefits ;)

I wanted to write this post because if you ARE new to blogging and Twitter, it's easy to see how you could think that big follower #s and traffic is the best way to judge who is 'influential'. I did the same thing when I first started blogging. But I wanted to add my stats to prove that by focusing on other people, and contributing to the larger community, that you can STILL see your traffic and followers grow.

From my experience, most of the people that are just here for themselves, get frustrated with the results they get, and leave. The ones that are here to learn and help others, are the ones that win.

And it seems they are also the ones commenting on this post ;)

BTW here's a lil trick you can use to find new bloggers.


That's a listing of the 'top' marketing blogs ranked according to number of links. You can change it to give you different results, just change 'marketing' to something like 'social media' or 'branding' or 'gardening', whatever.

But notice it ranks the blogs with the most links first. But if you go to the end of the list, you'll find the ones that have very few links. Usually, these are the blogs that have just started, and often you can find some great hidden gems there. And if you can become connected with these bloggers NOW before they become mega-popular and have 10,000 followers on Twitter, why not? ;)

Anonymous said...


That is an awesome tip! Everyone does naturally gravitate to the veterans, but there are great opportunities to working with those that just starting out too. Very insightful advice. One of the best tips in 2008!

Anonymous said...

Mack, sorry I'm late getting over here. I was busy getting followers (I kid).

Here's the crazy thing to some people. I haven't done a thing intentionally to "grow" these numbers. I'm me. I'm saying what's on my mind, writing what's important to me, and using Twitter to connect as much on a social level as a business one. We get so caught up in how these tools build our "networks" that we forget to have a little fun and socialize along the way. Not every darn tweet has to be about social media or marketing, nor does every post have to have heavy implications.

As we've said so many zillions of times, it's about connecting with people on a human level, reaching out, and building relationships. The authentic effort to do that is nearly always a standout, and it has absolutely and positively nothing to do with numbers.

For my part, I'm so glad that we're friends, and that social media gave us the perfect excuse to connect. Thanks for all you do.

Anonymous said...

Mack, if following people smarter than myself is the key, then I'm in really good shape, because that includes just about everyone, especially folks like you, Amber and Beth. (As to those two ladies, my, how their stars have risen over these past few months. Amazing!)

Keep on blogging in 09 my friend. You are one of the great ones!

maria i lavis said...

I completely agree with you Mack and have followed a similar path. To me, many of the coolest people I've met blogging and on Twitter are in little nooks and crannies and tiny communities. It's like stumbling across a lovely cafe in an Italian village with 4 tables, but the most amazing fare... Rich and wonderful.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you brought this up, Mack. I started my blog in early June and joined twitter in May and was a bit overwhelmed by all the tips on growing blog subscribers and getting twitter followers.

Most of it was kind of smarmy and wasn't my style. So I decided to be me and attempt to engage people as if they were in my living room - you know, put the "social" in social media. That made it not overwhelming at all and I looked at both the blog and twitter as ways to meet other really smart folks and create connections and relationships.

I wouldn't go back and do it any differently. And you know what's funny is that I doubled my six-month subscriber goal in 3 months. I'm amazed at the number of comments many of my posts get for such a young blog - many with 15 - 20 or so comments. And, for some reason, I have a good number of folks on twitter who've decided to let me into their twitter streams.

In the end, I think you and Amber and Beth (with their comments) have hit the nail on the head. It ain't a popularity contest. It's about using tools to genuinely engage with PEOPLE.

Hope the holidays treated you well.

Anonymous said...

Makes perfect sense! Now to put this into the context of my business/blog topic.
I'll keep reading for more tips on that!
thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

This is a great blog and proves what you say to be true. Follow people on Twitter who you can learn from. They add learning (value) to your life and then sharing your learning adds value to someone else.

This has always been my policy since getting involved in social media a few months ago.

Thanks for the Value you added to my life.

Anonymous said...

Hey now, you're a smart guy. I think that I might start following you and getting involved in your blogs.

Jokes aside, I really do appreciate the honesty, and the lack of bullshit in this article. I'm so tired of people jumping into social media thinking that the numbers are the barometer. There are tons of people who have tons of followers/subscribers, and must have gathered them with shady methods, as their blogs are crap, and their Twitterstream filled with nonsense "I ate this today" kinda tweets.

Thanks for keeping it real.

Anonymous said...

Smart people are the best! Thanks so much for pointing to me as an example. The irony is that creating content within the social web *really* does enable gate-jumping. It's been less than a year since I joined Twitter and roughly 6 months since I started my blog. The fact that people think they really need to push the river on this stuff just amazes me. Great advice, Mack! Sorry I'm so late to the game.

Anonymous said...

Like many other comments on here I found what you had to say eye opening, yet practical and obvious at the same time.

I personally don't care about how many people follow me though, I get more value when people experience or feel something from what I've written (positive or negative).

Great post and happy holidays!

Anonymous said...

Wow. Great perspective. I think it also takes a lot of the "pressure" off having to follow just the A listers, and explore all the wonderful things people have to say. It's a big world out there, and a lot of smart people are around. Hey, it might even be one of us.

Matt said...

Great post - I couldn't agree more - my day job is not social media but it is what I have become very interested in. I am looking for those smart people to follow. Following people like @Scobelizer and @GuyKawasaki is just too much. Their blog is enough and on twitter they seem to post just to post. It is stressful to keep up. In the end quality will attract the right people - leave the RT wannabes to the people with 10s of thousands of followers. I want good conversation and smart insight. Thanks for the post
- @mkh001

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm shocked that this strategy is considered to be pivotal enough to be worth mentioning and that so many people hadn't figured it out. My first thought was MOTO.

Fwiw, I don't link to smart people to get more followers. I follow them because they don't bore me with insipid drivel.

AJ in Nashville said...

Mack, I'm happy to have finally followed you and introduced myself to your blog. Great stuff, and I totally agree! I've been blogging for 4 and a half years but am still pretty new to Twitter (@ajinnashville). I also feel pretty good about the fact that I had already followed 90% of those great folks you mentioned (and I just added the rest) -- so does that mean I'm *already* smart? *LOL*

Mack Collier said...

Kathleen I think I am blessed with readers that are smart enough, on the whole, to get this. But at the same time, I know that many people are just discovering blogs and social media. That includes individuals AND companies. I especially want to make sure that companies understand how to create value for their customers, so that they can 1 - Get more interaction with their customers, 2 - Not simply use SM to broadcast messages at current and potential customers like all of us.

BTW to perfectly illustrate the point of this post, last night several of you tweeted a link to this post (thanks!), and I would guess the total number of followers of all the people that tweeted it was still a third of a Scoble or Guy Kawasaki. Yet my traffic in the hour or so after everyone RTed the link was about 20X normal. Even a link from a Scoble or Kawasaki likely wouldn't have given me as much of a boost.

The real power is in the community, not the 'A-Listers'. As long as your efforts are creating value for the community, the community will give you that value back, in spades.

TMo said...

Mack, I always enjoy your take. It is indeed easy to get caught up in worrying about number of followers on Twitter, blog readership, etc. Many of the best conversations I have had, advice received, etc., was one-on-one, not from a mic to a large audience. If someone's message speaks to you, that's good enough, right? Thanks again, and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic perspective on communicating vs. ego feeding contest! I find myself simply un-following or ignoring people who engage in purely numbers game. Some of the most valuable people I have found not necessarily have thousands of subscribers. Finding those hidden jewels is a hunt in itself.

Just my 2 cents
Apolinaras Sinkevicius

Angela Connor said...

I can't tell you how many people I've followed based on a RT from someone in my network that included a link to something very valuable. I commented on a post earlier today where the theme was essentially that twitter should add some sort of authority based search that values tweets based on the number of followers that particular person has. I balk at a one-size fits all methodology that assumes that twitter is used in only one way. With twitter, quantity is nice, but quality rules.

Derek Phillips said...

Funny how we keep returning to the old adage that content really does matter. Provide relevant, valuable content and the hardest part is done.

Great post, Mack!

Penina said...

Hi Mack,

I finally have the bandwidth to revisit my personal mission of facilitating a more credible mentoring environment for a current project… and suddenly found myself skimming back through tweets you'd posted about genuine influencers. At the moment, users on the site are rated by quantity of posts - Ack! So thankful for your inspiring reminders!

Once I've got a clearer plan, must sell the business guys on allocating the resources to make these changes… so please keep Questioning Authority, and writing about it!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff Mack. I used to be a tech journalist, and we would try to make our readers smarter for having read out publications.

This is the same thing you seem to be saying about Twitter and blogging; that it makes sense to follow those who are smarter and that we can build a following by helping others become smarter.

Anonymous said...

Quality content will always be the most important thing in any medium. It's so important to provide value, whether it's through your own content or by giving people directions!

Anonymous said...

This is the first time I have heard the ideal use of twitter described so well. Follow people who you think are smarter than you!

This is why the recipricol followee / follower rule should not apply on twitter.

I don't feel obliged to follow people who follow me on twitter.

I do have a peak at what folks are up to and give many a chance to make themselves invaluable to me, but if they don't prove their worth, I'll need to encounter them again and again and then follow them.

Commenting and engaging with smart people. Yes. And there are many kinds of smart.

I use http://www.backtype.com on my blog so that comments like this one, aren't left spread all over the place. I like getting them back on my blog, where folks can catch everything I do at http://www.tourismkeys.ca/blog

Unknown said...

Seeking out and hiring, following, studying, etc. people smarter than you has been a long known strategy for business.

Are Blogs dead?

Anonymous said...

Surrounding yourself with top-notch talent is critical for succeeding in business. This is a very crucial trait of a successful CEO.

Building your network of influencers should follow the same method. Great thoughts, Mack. Thanks.

Keith Parnell

Anonymous said...

Hey Mac. Nice post. I just found your post through Twitter via a tweet my @chrisbrogan. Gotta love twitter.

I like your point and agree that promoting/pointing out/sharing people on the web who are doing cool/smart/creative things is what it's all about.

I need to get better at this in general. What it comes down to for me is just finding those types of people. It takes time and effort to do this consistently :) but it's definitely worth it as some day i'd want someone to do the same.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for giving hope to those of us who are brand new in this arena!

Anonymous said...

Nice post. I hadn't read these types of suggestions for earning more RSS readers.
Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

You've definitely done that example you presented for offering value. I fully belief in this technique as well and that the subscribers and followers will come solely based on what you can provide and offer them. Sure, some people will grow faster, but it's with less value so how long will it last or impact people's lives?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Collier, thank you for this post. It was forwarded to me by one of our Contributors, USC Professor Adlai Wertman. Let me tell you, Professor Wertman is a lot like the old EF Hutton; when he writes, I read.

We launched about a week ago (after MONTHS in development), but I've been a fairly avid blog reader for years. Intuitively, I understood the importance of smart people and linking. I'm still working on teaching this to our Contributor base-- a LOT of smart people in there, but a lot of new bloggers as well.

Twitter I haven't used, but it's my next stop after this one. Would love to hear feedback from you on The Thresher (ThresherOnline.com), and I'll be watching the Viral Garden a lot more closely from now on.

Thanks again,


Anonymous said...

Wow... What was funny is I was doing a google search for bloggers who had 1,000 followers at the time that they were indexed by google last, and one of the first entries from my search was this blog! Go fig. I'll take your advice and try to find some smart people in the blogging community who might blow up and pointing to them. I will definitely point to you too! Hah. Genious.

Joe said...

Yea this is great. You can always learn from those SMARTER than you are. Even more so than from your own mistakes because these "smarter" people have already made mistakes so you can learn with what they are currently doing. Keep up the good work Bro.

Unknown said...

This makes sense but why would you spend hours building a twitter account when most of the leading marketing agencies are using media tools such as www.twitterdose.com
I used twitterdose to get more followers and all I do is maintain daily tweets redirecting targeted traffic to my blogs. the new age is marketing...its all about being viral!

Onix said...

I agree with Samantha. TwitterDose delivers what it promises !

Unknown said...

I think personally that TwitterDose is the next big thing. They are sending the exact followers i want and/or need to each and one of my 46 twitter accounts. TwitterDose a must see. AND TRY !