Twitter Auto Follow – Using Tweet Adder to validate your startup assumptions

*Note as of 26 May 2013 Tweet Adder 3 (and all of it’s automation features) no longer works. Tweet Adder 4 is a free upgrade but the auto follow features are gone. Most of the things in this article can still be done manually but the ROI calculations will be totally incorrect as it will come down to how much you value your time or how cheaply you can hire someone to perform these tasks. The good thing though, is it’s very easy to delegate these to someone and we continue to use this strategy in our business. If you have any questions please feel free to add them in the comments. 

Twitter Auto followI’ve been testing a twitter auto follow strategy along with a bunch of other strategies to validate our upcoming Agency Plan. In this article I’ll run through the surprising results and the exact steps for implementing the Twitter Auto Follow strategy.

High level initial results

Here are some preliminary results from the various strategies I’m using as part of the validation for the Informly Agency Plan. The chart shows actual costs, visits and trial signups and estimates trial to paid conversion at 5% to calculate a cost to acquire a customer from each source.

customer_acquisition

Obviously the traffic numbers are too low to have a lot of confidence in the findings but nonetheless there are some fascinating results here particularly for the Twitter Auto Follow strategy and the Cold Email strategy.

I will address the cold email strategy another time, for now I’ll be going over the Twitter Auto Follow strategy.

Twitter auto follow overview

The basic strategy with the Twitter Auto Follow is this:

  • Automatically follow a bunch of people on Twitter
  • A small percentage of those will look at your twitter profile, maybe even visit your link and some will follow you back
  • When they follow you back you send them an automated message asking them to check out your site

I’ll go into the step by step of how to do it below but first let’s look at the results.

Results

tweetadderI first reported the great results I was getting with the twitter auto following strategy in this Think Traffic article on the best sources of web traffic. At the time I was amazed to see that it not only got more traffic than any of the other 11 strategies tested, it was also free or close to it and amazingly had a conversion rate right up there with the other strategies smashing popular options like Adwords.

Since then I’ve continued to use it to validate our agency plan and as you can see above it continues to be exceptionally effective. In around 6 weeks it’s sent 148 visits, with 10 converting to a trial (at 6.76%).

It’s driven more traffic than other sources that have cost hundreds of dollars but in addition to that it’s also smashed the other methods for opt ins with a conversion rate of double some of the paid traffic sources. And since it costs nothing or close to it (estimated $50 in the example for my time) it’s by far the most cost effective way to acquire traffic.

Before you start

There are a few things you should know about the auto follow strategy before you try it out.

  1. Twitter don’t exactly like it – See their rules here including this comment “The only auto-following behavior Twitter allows is automated or bulk follow-back.” so proceed with caution and if possible don’t use your main Twitter account. Obviously if you are going against their rules there is a chance of getting your account banned and this has happened to a number of people.
  2. It will screw your Twitter experience up – Once you are following thousands of people your Twitter home feed is useless so you can either ignore it or create lists for the people you want regular updates from but that adds a step every time you follow someone on Twitter. Both options are legitimate, lots of high profile people support auto following people who follow them it just depends on how you want to use the service. It’s also solved by doing it with a secondary account.
  3. It’s not scalable. Once you get to be following 2,000 people the Twitter follower limits kick in and the auto following slows down dramatically. Getting around this would involve a level of spamminess most people wouldn’t be comfortable with which is why I like it as a validation technique but not as a long term traffic generation technique.

Step 1 – Get your Twitter profile ready

Some people won’t follow you back and therefore won’t get your automated message. They may however check out your profile so for those people set your profile up with some trackable links. I suggest using a trackable link in your URL and in your description and using a 301 re-direct so it doesn’t look spammy.

You can generate a trackable link from the Google URL Builder, use something that makes sense to you in the Campaign Name (such as ‘TwitterProfile’) see below. Make sure it’s nothing that you wouldn’t want visitors to see because they can see this word in the URL when they visit the site.

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 10.26.53 AM

This will produce a long ugly trackable link like the one you can see above. To sort this out install a WordPress plugin called Simple 301 Re-directs and come up with a nicer name to show people which will then re-direct to the URL above.

Screen Shot 2013-01-14 at 10.30.28 AM

So in the example above you would update the description in your Twitter profile and the URL as follows:

  • URL – ‘http://yourbusiness.com/twitter’
  • Profile – ‘Check out the easiest way to do x at http://yourbusiness.com/twitter’ (a special deal for twitter followers would work well here too).

Step 2 – Buy & install Tweet Adder

I have had Tweet Adder for years so I haven’t factored it into the cost above but for 1 profile it’s only $55 one off. You can buy it here (there are no affiliate links on this blog).

I have installed it on my secondary Windows machine because it runs non stop in the background and I don’t want it using resources on my main computer and distracting me.

Step 3 – Set up your account and build your follower list

Once you install Tweet Adder click on Manage Users up the top then on ‘Add user’. Enter your Twitter Username and password and click your Tweet Adder Registration code and click ‘Add User’ as per the screenshow below.

For all Tweet Adder images below you can click the image for a larger version. 

tweet_adder_step_1_640

Once added click ‘Open User / username’ to open the user which will take you to the main area for that user. This is what it looks like.

tweet_adder_step_2_640

There are a few ways to build a list of people to follow but the one that often makes the most sense is to follow users who follow a certain profile (say one of your competitors). To implement this, click on ‘Followers of a user’, enter the User’s Twitter handle and click ‘Search Now’.

tweet_adder_step_3

This will build a list of everyone who follows the profile, it will take a while if it’s a lot of people.

tweet_adder_step_4_640

You can then either check / uncheck the people you want to add manually or hit ‘Check / UnCheck all’ and then click ‘Save All’. This will save them in your ‘To Follow list’. You can click on the ‘To Follow List’ link on the left to view the people in your list and make sure it’s all working as planned.

Note there are other options here including finding Twitter lists and following their members etc but to get a really big list of people to follow often following the followers of a large account is the quickest and easiest way.

Set up your automated Thank you message

Before we do any following we need to set up our automated message. When someone follows you back you can have Tweet Adder send them an automated message with your trackable link along the lines of:

Thanks for the follow, interested in x? Check out my site http://yourbusiness.com/twitter

To set it up click ‘Thank You Message’ on the left, enter your thank you message in and click ‘Add’. Again remember to make sure Automation is on if you intend for the software to message everyone who follows you.

tweet_adder_step_7_640

Set up your auto following

Under ‘Follow / Unfollow Users’  you need to set a few limits and turn on the automated following. Note you have a lot of choices here including whether to not to do the following automatically, how many people to follow per day etc.

The more aggressive you get the more followers but the higher the risk of getting your account banned. Here are my settings which are pretty aggressive.

Once you have it set up you can click ‘Automation Off’ to turn on Automation (already clicked below).

tweet_adder_step_5_640

 Set up your un-following

If you are just going to follow people then you will very quickly get to your limit of following 2,000 people. So if you don’t want to hit this limit too quickly you can also set up automatic unfollowing.

I think it’s reasonable to unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow you back within 3 days so that’s the option I have chosen (see below). You can choose your own settings here and again whether or not you want it to be running automatically.

tweet_adder_step_6_640

Check Activity then minimize Tweet Adder

Click on Activity up the top and you should see a log file with a bunch of records showing that Tweet Adder is following people. Once you are happy it’s working click on ‘Settings’ and check the option to ‘Minimize to System Tray” then minimise the window.

minimise_640

I prefer to have Tweet Adder running in the tray on the bottom right hand side in Windows as opposed to having a place in the Task Bar.

What else?

I also log in from time to time to make sure it’s still actively following people, make sure I haven’t run out of followers and keep tabs on how many people I’m following and how many have followed me etc.

You also should keep an eye on Twitter to see who is replying to your messages, you might even get a bunch of direct messages yourself that are automated. I turn my Twitter email notifications off and just check my Twitter messages within Twitter from time to time. If you are running multiple accounts, Hootsuite rocks for this.

You can then track the progress by looking at all traffic in Google Analytics from the Campaign name that you created in the URL builder above. Our Practical Guide to Actionable Analytics goes through how to do this in detail.

I hope this has been useful, feel free to comment below if you have questions and I’ll reply. I’ll be following this post up in the near future with one about cold emails.

About

Dan Norris is a co-founder at WP Curve and a passionate entrepreneur with an obsession for content marketing.

  • https://mergepay.com/ Ian Borders

    2 things that stand out to me… 1) Statistically significant data to have an accurate picture of each source (when talking about paid / cpc is somewhere between 1000-1600 per test) and 2) Impressions at the source being a major part of the equation. If LinkedIn had 46 clicks because only 50 people saw your ad, the value becomes much much higher, than if you had 10,000 impressions and only 46 clicks. Which means the source isn’t the problem, but how you are interacting with that source is (i.e. the ad sucks).

    Also, a $100 acquisition cost will cause you to fail before you even start. You can’t look at cost per user vs. avg. lifetime of user (especially since you have zero validation of that number at this point), you have to look at it has cost per user vs. 1 single pay cycle. So if it does cost you $100 but you only charge $49/mo – your running negatives.

    • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

      Hey Ian thanks for the comment mate.

      This statistically significant stuff is interesting (and I did point out above that it wasn’t significant so I’m not fooling myself). Did you see this post during the week http://techcrunch.com/2013/01/12/current-conversion-rate-and-desired-confidence-interval-will-help-you-avoid-analysis-paralysis-stop-running-stupid-tests/ pretty interesting. Anyway yes agreed not statistically significant however:

      1. I have done this on 2 separate occasions and both times I’ve been surprised by the results, and

      2. When you think about it, it’s pretty targeted traffic and depending on your field it may not be very easy to target your audience with traditional means like Adwords. If you are plumber than great but if you provide a service to web design firms who service small business owners who don’t know they have a need for the service then it gets trickier.

      The focus of this post was the Twitter stuff, I’ll address the other stuff later but in terms of linked in, my ads failed miserably mainly because I can’t target them enough. Basically what happened is I set the ads up and for a day (before Linked in could intervene and let their Algo demote me to the bottom of the pile) they did ok. After that they were gone. I could either somehow figure out a way to target them more or increase the CPC. But testing linked in wasn’t the point of the exercise so I did neither.

      If this is true “You can’t look at cost per user vs. avg. lifetime of user (especially since you have zero validation of that number at this point), you have to look at it has cost per user vs. 1 single pay cycle. So if it does cost you $100 but you only charge $49/mo – your running negatives.” If that were true then I’m totally fcked but so are most businesses I’ve been exposed to other than information products. I think it’s more reasonable to make some assumptions in the early days about how long a customer will stick around and constantly refine the estimates as you get more and more data. Time will tell. I may look back and realise how much of an idiot I was. Either way it will be fun!

      • JustinWCooke

        Hey Dan,

        I think Ian is spot-on regarding statistically significant data…you likely don’t have enough visits/sign-ups across any of the platforms to have a high level of confidence in any of them. In fact, chasing any of them down early may put you on a worthless path and/or you may miss out on an excellent traffic/conversion source that, at this point, looks like a loser.

        I disagree on his second point regarding acquisition costs needing to be less than 1st month revenue, though…

        Estimating LTV based on industry standards and adjusting your numbers as you go along is really the best way to go about it, I think. The alternative is EXTREMELY slow growth while you test through it…your numbers will be significantly more accurate/reliable, but you’ll grow old before you figure that out!

        This is particularly relevant to me…I worked at a company that had around a $250 acquisition cost and anywhere from a $1 – $258 first month’s billing. The higher 1st month’s billing was much better for company cash-flow, but once we got some funding we found out that the $79 first-month pricepoint was the sweet-spot in terms of # of sign-ups. LTV was (if I remember right) around $750 for both the $79 and $258 sign-up fee and so the $79 was the better option.

        Interesting note: We tried a $1 setup fee and our LTV dropped to shit as the customers didn’t stick…a painful lesson.

        • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

          Hey Justin thanks for the comment. Interesting re the pricing stuff.

          Regarding the first paragraph, I think my post could have been clearer about the purpose which was to evaluate the ‘product’ not the traffic strategy. I’m not giving up on any of these traffic strategies. I think they can all be tested a lot more & optimized but the point for now was to get some sort of understanding on how the offer would convert to signups.

          • AnnMullen

            Dan, I used Tweet Adder for awhile and was careful not to get too many follows. You don’t have to create a scale that doesn’t look natural.

          • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

            Hi Ann yeah that’s a good idea to be careful with it. Thanks for stopping by.

          • Kathy

            Hi, I have tweet adder, and haven’t used it for some time. Having read your post I will use it definitely use it now that I am setting up twitter on my site. what do you think of Social oomph? I was thinking of using it for automating some of my tweets.

          • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

            Hi Kathy thanks for the comment. I used to use Social Oomph for their automated replies back when it was free. They have started charing now so I don’t use it. The auto messaging feature is probably not something I’d want to do for my main account although I’m sure it would work – I just think it might annoy people for my main personal account and Tweet Adder does it for the secondary one as long as the person was followed using Tweet Adder.

  • http://twitter.com/iKim22 Kimberly Richter

    I’ve had great success with growing a huge, targeted following for several companies using TweetAdder. I’ve not attempted to track click and conversions, I’ll leave that to them. For those wishing to build a socially relevant user base, it’s quite nice.

    As an aside, if you can manage to get an account verified, Twitter tolerates MUCH more aggressive follow/unfollow behavior. I’ve had to unsuspend a few account from time to time, but one of the verified profiles was following 1000 a day, and unfollowing 980 a day… and they don’t blink.

    • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

      Hey Kimberly thanks, great insights! That’s interesting re verification I’m guessing that’s not an easy thing to do?

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Barnes90 Sam Barnes

    Hi Dan

    I’ve only just discovered inform.ly and I have to say I’m impressed!

    Lots of useful information here, I’ll be using this guide in particular with a Music site.

    Musicians love Twitter and I’m hoping this could be very effective. I’ll only be driving traffic to the site initially. I’m aiming for 250 visitors a day before I start monetization.

    Out of interest do you continue to Tweet normally on these accounts or do you couple this tactic with some kind of social media campaign?

    • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

      Hey Sam yeah mate I continue to tweet normally on the account I think if you didn’t do that it would look a bit sus.

      Why would you want to wait before you start monetization? Does your product rely on some sort of audience to work? If not I wouldn’t be waiting and traffic numbers is a pretty meaningless stat in any case seems like an odd goal to trigger monetization?

      • http://twitter.com/Sam_Barnes90 Sam Barnes

        Because my site is really a community based site.

        I’ve found in the past that monetising it too early turns people off!

        Unique visitors is a very vague indication of the traction the site is getting, that’s all

    • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

      Thanks for the kind words about my site too.

  • David McGowan

    Sorry to say that Tweet Adder 4 does not allow automated following or unfollowing, and the user has to do this themselves. This will probably make Tweet Adder a waste of time. Oh, and they’re changing it from a one-off fee to a monthly subscription. I think it’s a real shame when they do things like this and ruin a great idea. To anyone still running Tweet Adder 3, you can do so until the end of May 2013. I suggest you wait to upgrade until they absolutely force you to!

    • http://inform.ly/ Dan Norris

      Interesting David, can you send us a link about those changes? I’ve looked at the announcement on their site but it doesn’t specifically mention that they won’t be doing automated stuff and doesn’t mention forcing monthly charges. The main title on their site still says ‘Automated Twitter Marketing’.

      I know http://tweepi.com/ does a similar thing if people are looking for an alternative.

      I personally think the one off purchase model is stupid. I paid for Tweet Adder about 3 years ago it’s bought more engaged traffic to my sites than the majority of other methods I’ve used. I’d personally prefer to invest each month in a tool that gives so much value as opposed to paying one off and seeing the software and company suffer long term.

      I don’t think I’d pay if they stopped the auto following but I could potentially get my VA to help out with these tasks and I’m still consistently seeing this strategy as well above my others. I’m currently getting a 20% conversion rate from people who come via the twitter auto follow.

  • http://www.NashvilleRealEstateNow.com/ Steve Jolly

    Dan… Does any other program perform the automated following and unfollowing like Tweet Adder 3 used to do?

  • Twitterguy

    Tweet Adder is a scam. It used to auto follow but does not now as of May 2013. don’t buy it for auto following. You have to manually click each person to follow. I bought it before they changed it and the didn’t refund my money.