How to become popular on Twitter

This is an article by Rich Leigh.
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Twitter is awash with PR students, with their happy-go-lucky ‘wow, I’m such a PR star’ profile pictures and acronym-laden tweets. OMFG, that’s probably part of the reason nobody but other people in their year on their course follows them. Unless they’re attractive, of course, in which case an extra 50 people may follow them based on that.

Now, I’m no guru (mostly because anybody that says they are: isn’t), but if building a profile on Twitter is what you’re after, I think I may be able to help.

Here are my top ten tips to become popular on Twitter, in no particular order:

  1. Have an opinion
  2. Follow the right people
  3. Manually RT
  4. Stay on message
  5. Don’t tweet inane crap
    a.Don’t tweet celebrities
  6. Use a reasonable profile picture
  7. Don’t hound for jobs
  8. Don’t forget about the journalists
  9. Don’t forget about the stats
  10. Give other people the opportunity to RT you

I’ll go through each.

1. If all you do is retweet others’ tweets, you may as well stop wasting your time. People want to follow YOU, not the person you’re most influenced by. If they wanted to keep reading their tweets, chances are, they’d follow them and cut you out. Which is probably what they’re doing.

2. The number – and the quality – of people you follow will affect how you use Twitter. Follow too many, and you’ll potentially miss out on some great stuff. Finding the right people – essentially, PR/media/digital/marketing types – can be tough, but there are a number of services online, such as, that can help narrow it down. Once you are following some of the more prominent users in your field, you’ll see from the people they follow, @ and retweet who you may be interested in following too. A great resource to find UK-based PRs to follow is here on UKMediaTweeple.

3. If you use Twitter’s automatic retweet feature, you’re missing a trick. People appreciate the effort you go to when you manually retweet – and it gives you the opportunity to add your voice to their tweet, to ensure you’re not just parroting them (as per point 1).

4. If there’s one point I’d make to people looking to build more of a presence on Twitter, it’s this: the vast majority of your tweets should be related to your beat. Unless you’re famous/an ex-reality TV show contestant, the only way you can hope to gain relevant followers is by tweeting about and to people within your chosen interest field/s. You don’t want to come across like the ‘social butterflies’ that you see at parties, trying to make themselves relevant in any and all scenarios. After a while, you realise that they’re just desperate for people to like them and will talk about anything and with anyone simply to look popular. I work in PR, and as such, keep my tweets media and marketing-related.

5a. He may be a Twitter phenomenon, but unless you know the Hollywood hellraiser don't tweet at him.

5. If you tweet about friends that your followers won’t know, or bang on about the latest oh-so-hilarious incident to happen in the amazingly fascinating life you lead, you’re annoying people. Keep that crap for Facebook, where people are your ‘friends’ because they apparently have an interest in what you get up to in your personal life. The general public really don’t care that Gemma just laughed so hard she snorted and shot vodka across the room.

5a.  Oh, and whilst I’m at it talking about it, unless you know them, don’t tweet celebrities. It makes you look desperate to be popular (see point 4). All you’re doing is massaging their fragile but massive egos, whilst making yourself look needy. Like geeks in American films do when they try to talk to the head cheerleader.

6. Profile pictures mean a lot in Twitter. If you’re using it with a view to increasing your public profile, potentially within the PR industry, why-oh-why do you think people want to see you in your best ‘I’m mad, me!!!’ pose? Keep it professional-ish, and professional-ish people will follow you back.

7. Don't be a desperado: Lucy may have got a date at the 28th time of asking, but Twitter is not the place for pleas of desperation .

7. Please don’t ask people to hire you over Twitter, in your bio, or on your blog that you plug on Twitter. Unless you’re doing it in a clever way, it’s sadder than Lucy on Take Me Out’s pulling efforts.

8. 8. Thousands of journalists are on Twitter. Using great resources like this on our 10 Yetis blog (top 100 journalists on Twitter), this on Fleet Street Blues and this by Ste Davies, you can find them, and just by following and engaging in a normal, non-threatening, non-stalkerish way, you could start building media contacts that could be invaluable when it comes to interview time

9. Stats aren’t the be-all and end-all, but they’re definitely important. If you tweet something and your followers clearly like it – having retweeted it, @-d you about it or favourite-d it – remember that and tweet similar things in the future. If you gain or lose a significant number of followers at any time, chances are, there’s a reason. Your following/follower ratio is also important, in my view. If you follow too many people compared to the amount that follow you back, you’ll look like a spam account. Twitter isn’t a race to followers, so be choosy about who you follow.

10. A retweet is like a Twitter backpat that your followers give you to thank you for finding something interesting/funny/unusual enough to post, whilst also wishing to share it with their followers. These followers could be your followers, and as such you want to do what you can to get your tweets retweeted. A tip I always give to people is to ensure that you’re leaving enough space for people to retweet manually and potentially give their opinion too; so when writing a tweet, be mindful of this. Leaving 20+ characters is normally just about enough for the ‘RT @<youraccountname>’ characters they’ll need to type out.

So, there you have it. This is by no means the definitive guide, but I’d like to think the tips could help people at any stage get the best out of Twitter – especially PR students. I hope it’s of use.

Rich Leigh – @GoodandBadPR
Account Director
10 Yetis PR Agency


  1. Jeannyfar Gelpcke says:

    Great (and very useful) feature! And the connection to “Welsh-Lucy” – on point! We can all relate to that example. Thank you for your guideline.


  2. Thanks for links to journalists to follow!

    I would add as well that (especially if you’re new to twitter) there’s no need to be shy. It took me a little while to get used to interacting on twitter, but I was pleasantly surprised to find a friendly and open community of PR people.

  3. Thanks for the tips- I love 1, 3, 8 and 10.

    However from my point of view when you say that following celebrities and tweeting to them is a bit desperate, you could say that following journalists and tweeting to them is a bit desperate too! If you compare tweeting to a journalist how much you loved their article with your opinion on it or tweet to a musician how much you can’t wait to go to their concert, how is this different? I am not expecting a tweet back, I’m just showing appreciation for someone’s work. The fact they are a ‘celebrity’ does not mean they should not be given feedback for their work because it looks like I’m sucking up to them. As much as it may feed their egos, if it is a good actor or musician and they deserve positive feedback then I will give it to them…they are on twitter to communicate with their fans after all and you can’t get that from Facebook.

    Other than that you make very valuable points and all of which I will definitely take on board especially putting my opinion forth and not just re-tweeting the automatic way.

  4. Hi Ines – Funny you should mention this topic because I recently had a discussion about it. My colleague was on your side of the debate, she saw no harm in participating in celebrity culture. I was a little more skeptic.

    It’s all about perception and I think that, especially as women in PR, we have to be attentive. By acting as a celebrity fan (on any social medium) people make certain assumptions about you. These assumptions are different than if you are seen interacting with journalists.

    If you want to go into celebrity PR – tweet away! But if you’re looking to enter other areas, I think moderation is important.

  5. I don’t see the harm in tweeting celebrities as long as it is not over obsessive, when i have in the past i have mostly got a reply but begging for jobs is one to far but many i know and stories i have been told have gained PR jobs and internships over twitter.

    In regards to following the right people i agree with as many who i follow now i do not read their tweets at all, i have also had many people wanting followers as though it was a competition as to how many people you can get to follow you here being the quantity and not the quality. In the PR industry i think that it is essential to have good content and not squabble.

    Kudos for the example of desperate Lucy.


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