a writer, how much time do you spend on social media? While it’s an essential marketing tool, social media can also drain your energy for other projects (the far more important ones). So I devote quite a bit of my social media energy and attention to Twitter as it’s an excellent place to network with writers (and readers). To save time on this social media platform, I developed my very own 5-5-5 Rule (otherwise known as my “lazy rule”) for Twitter. When I follow this rule, my engagement increases and my followers increase—all for the price of a little effort each day.
What is the 5-5-5 Rule?
The 5-5-5 Rule is this:
1) Follow five people.
2) Unfollow five people.
3) Tweet (or engage with others) five times.
Before we dive into each point, I want to establish the fact that this rule is not a perfect system. In fact, there are countless other guidelines, books, and courses out there on how to manage Twitter. However, following this rule daily is an excellent bare minimum to give yourself while also providing limits. I don’t know about you; but for me, when it comes to social media, limits are important. If I don’t have a limit like this, I risk devoting my entire day to social media growth.
With this rule in mind, let’s take a look at aspect of this rule:
1) Follow five people.
Following five people every day helps to build your Twitter community. However, this is one rule I often break, especially if I’m on a roll of finding some great accounts to follow. Here are a few tips to consider when following people on Twitter:
- If you are new on Twitter, follow as many people as you can. There is an excellent newbie guide to Twitter on Buffer that addresses this very point. If you are interested in expanding your presence on this social media platform, following as many people as you can is essential to growth.
- Follow people similar to yourself (or people who tweet about things you want to read). One major reason for this is because the last thing you want is for Twitter to become boring. If you really want to enjoy this social media platform, follow people who share similar interests or tweet things you want to read. Here are a few authors to help you get started.
- Utilize Triberr to find your supporters. For those who are unaware, Triberr is a content curator, where you share other people’s blog posts across social media (for the most part, on Twitter). Not every writer is a blogger (although there are many reasons why you should be); but if you do blog, Triberr is a great way to figure out whom to follow based on who shares your content.
(What my post looks like on Triberr.)
(What my post looks shared on Twitter.)
With these tips in mind, how do you find people to follow? I have a few simple suggestions:
- Follow people who are following someone you like. Take me for example. I identify as a few things on my Twitter bio, including being a writer and a reader. So when you go to my followers list, you can see the people following me are writers, readers, and bloggers. Sure, there are some unrelated accounts following me; but for the most part, you’ll find a lot of readers, writers, and bloggers (like me). The question is: why follow who follows me? Well, think of it this way—whoever is following me will likely follow you. It isn’t a hard and fast rule, but that’s what I go by when I’m figuring out who to follow next. I choose a random writer or author, go to their followers list, and start following people that seem interesting.
- Hashtags. The right hashtags can uncover a plethora of people you should follow. As a writer, you’ll want to check out hashtags such as: #amwriting, #writetips, #writingcommunity, #writinglife, and #pitchwars. I start with the “top” tweets under these hashtags and follow people from there.
- Twitter’s “Who To Follow.” When you log into the Twitter app, go to the magnifying glass and then click the person icon. You’ll see a list of people whom Twitter suggests you follow. For users of the web application, from the main Twitter feed, you’ll see suggestions on the right side of your screen. These suggestions are a list of people Twitter thinks you may like to follow based on tweets you’ve liked and other people you follow.
(Finding “Who to follow” on the Twitter website.)
(Finding “Who to follow” on the Twitter app.)
2) Unfollow five people.
You may be wondering why you should unfollow someone. I unfollow people for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because their content changed to something I don’t want to read (i.e., politics); sometimes they are retweet obsessive; sometimes they like tweets I find offensive (yes, people see what tweets you like, so keep that in mind when engaging with content); sometimes it’s because I realize this account I’m following doesn’t engage with anyone on Twitter at all; and sometimes I unfollow someone for the cold, hard fact that they don’t follow me back.
However, avoid unfollowing people just to build a strong following (read more about why here). It is tempting to make Twitter a numbers game, but unfollowing accounts promptly after they follow you back is a terrible way to build a community on Twitter. In addition, keep in mind that sometimes people don’t follow back until you engage with them. If you really like a person, and want her to follow you back, reply to something she’s tweeted. Unfortunately, at some point, you will have to start unfollowing people whether you want to or not, due to certain limits on Twitter (read more about that here).
When it comes to unfollowing people, I use the analytics tool Twitonomy to help me understand my followers and people I’m following. I like this tool because it doesn’t overload you with ads on upgrading your account, and it’s an easy tool to learn more about whom you are following (and who is following you). Here are a few tips to keep in mind when using this tool:
- Unfollow inactive users. The great thing about Twitonomy is that it allows you to see who the inactive Twitter users are. It’s an important aspect for me because I’ve been on Twitter a while, so I like to see who suddenly has become inactive. It keeps my account cleaned up and leaves room for me to follow new and active users. So when you log into Twitonomy, go under your “following,” then sort by last tweet. With that, you can see the inactive users and people who haven’t tweeted in over a year. Doing this cleans up your account very easily, and you will be surprised how many people are inactive or haven’t tweeted in a long time.
(The last tweet is dated on the last column. Click to Enlarge.)
- Don’t unfollow too many people at once. If you are shocked by seeing how many inactive users you are still following, keep in mind as you unfollow that Twitter has certain limits to how many people you can unfollow. You don’t want to be flagged as spam, so I usually go with the “unfollow five users” rule (or ten or twenty, if you really want to clean things up and have the time).
- When in doubt, put someone on a Twitter list. If for some reason you want to unfollow certain accounts, but you are wavering on losing out on that content for some reason, put them on a Twitter list. For example, I like reading scanners that report out police news blurbs since these can be a little unusual, weird, or hilarious and inspire some great ideas for stories. However, I don’t really want to follow all these accounts, so I created a list. Unsure of how Twitter lists work? Check out this guide for details.
3) Tweet (or engage with others) five times.
One of the last things I do is tweet five times a day (or at the bare minimum, engage with at least five other Twitter users). Tweeting and having content for people to interact with are essential to success on this social media platform. Most importantly, you shouldn’t exclusively advertise yourself on Twitter. Promoting your new book may be tempting, but overdoing it can lead to people unfollowing you. So if you are trying to avoid tweeting about yourself, what can you tweet about?
- Share articles others will want to read. Did the latest article on WOW! Women on Writing spark your interest and you want others to know about it? Share it! Sharing content you enjoyed or learned something from (even if you didn’t write it) is an excellent way of getting people to engage with you and start a conversation.
- Retweet (and add a comment). Did someone ask the writing community a question and you want to share your thoughts? Retweet with a comment, and you’ll have the chance to share a fresh outlook on the thought or get a response from your own writing community.
- Schedule out promotional content (within reason). Okay, so if you are just itching to talk about your newest book or your latest blog post, send out that tweet. However, do so within reason. I follow the personal maximum of twice a day for promotional tweets.
- Don’t forget the hashtags. Hashtags are an essential part of getting your tweets read. In fact, whether it’s conversational or promotional, I recommend including a hashtag in every tweet. For writers, consider adding in #amwriting or #writingcommunity. There are even day specific hashtags, such as #FridayFeeling. For more thoughts on hashtags, check out this huge list of hashtags that you can use.
- Engage with others to get them to follow you back. Like I said previously, many times, people will not follow you back because they don’t really pay attention to their followers unless someone engages with them. So if you want someone to follow you back, reply to something he or she has tweeted and start a conversation.
By now, you are probably thinking to yourself that this is anything but a lazy guide. Trust me, though, while there are a lot of aspects to keep in mind when following people, unfollowing people, and what (and even when) to tweet, it is one of the easiest social media platforms to become involved in (at least, in my opinion). In fact, the biggest reason I have stuck with Twitter is because the writing community is huge and active. My 5-5-5 rule is a simple rule I invented for myself to stay engaged with Twitter, even when I am not in the mood, or I’m too busy otherwise. Doing this once a day is simple and improves my odds at having an engaged Twitter account with a decent following that supports my content. With all of this said, happy tweeting!
Nicole Pyles is a writer, blogger, and bookworm living in Oregon. Her articles have been featured with The Write Practice, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and Perfect Bar. Follow Nicole on her writing journey by following her on Twitter at Being the Writer and on her blog, The World of My Imagination.