September 28, 2016 · Tips & Insights

Don’t Ask, Earn: Building a Valuable Twitter Following For Your Film Campaign



We’ve all seen the hashtags: #followback. #F4F. and my favorite –– #TeamFollowBack. Back when I started using Twitter as my primary social network, I probably would’ve been an advocate of this. I mean, why not? It’s an easy way to get followers. But as we grow, we come to realize that a following of 10,000 is pretty meaningless if only 150 of those people are actually engaging with the content you Tweet out to them.

This is especially true in my line of work, since filmmakers looking to crowdfund their next indie film believe that they need a large following to share their Indiegogo campaigns with. As I’ve written many times before, interactions are where it’s at these days.

If you’re getting ready to start a crowdfunding campaign, you’ve already got lots to do: Getting your Indiegogo page set up before the launch, and then fulfilling your perks upon its conclusion. And let’s not forget about the intense audience-building that happens during the campaign.

The unfortunate thing is there are too many people who get insulted if you don’t follow them back. Again, I’m all for the followback, but it should be held at a much higher esteem than it is today. A person should work to earn the followback. Those who proudly promote their membership in #TeamFollowBack seem to miss a very practical reason behind this:

Quality trumps quantity.

When someone follows me on Twitter, I have to assume it’s because I chirped out something they saw value in, which captured her or his attention and drove out a response to either retweet, or otherwise interact with me further. Because they figure I may have like-minded things to Tweet, they click the “follow” button. Whatever the reason, I genuinely appreciate it, but I don’t automatically follow back. If they’re in my field, I’ll send a thank-you Tweet to them, and that might create a new conversation, but still I don’t immediately follow the person. I take my time to see what this person’s all about to see if they’ve earned it.

Ultimately, the folks who followed me for the wrong reason (to get a followback, for instance) will unfollow me, and that’s fine. But the ones who constantly receive value from my Tweets about crowdfunding, indie film, and comics, will stay around for the long haul, and the more they interact, the more they’re on my radar as someone who’s making the effort to build a serious professional or personal relationship with me.

Certain other factors apply, though, and these should be taken into consideration before you decide to follow someone back. Or before she or he decides to follow you back. Here are three things to start considering:

An awesome bio. Make sure your bio says something about who you are and is more than just a link to your blog, project, or Facebook page.

A mixtape of Tweets. Tweeting should not just be about you. People tend to follow others because they’re offering insight that might better their lives in some way. Tweet about your day and about your projects, but also Tweet out links to articles you’ve enjoyed and add a little commentary to it. Just watched a cool video on YouTube? Tweet it out and tell us what you liked about it. You might just have planted the seeds to a conversation.

The five and dime treatment. When I look at my new followers’ profiles (and I always do), I read their bios and their last three Tweets. I seldom click “Go to full profile” unless one of those three intrigues me enough to take that next step. I usually I know by those Tweets whether or not I’ll get value out of following his or her Tweets, so always make your last three count, especially overnight. (You never know who might follow you at 3AM local time.)

Now, at the same token, here’s a couple reasons you really shouldn’t follow everyone who follows you:

High quantity typically yields low quality. You’ll want to keep a certain level of quality and associate with only those Tweeps whose Tweets you’ll actually look forward to reading, replying to on occasion, and retweeting regularly. If you look over a new follower’s feed and find Tweets that you just aren’t interested in, you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow back. It’s that simple. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wasting time scrolling past dozens of Tweets from dozens of followers you really aren’t interested just to get to the ones you are interested in. (#FollowFriday, anyone?)

Too many followers limit your engagement. What gets me stoked about a new follower isn’t how many followers they have, but visiting his or her feed and seeing their interactions with others. Engagement is all that matters, and the more followers a person has, the more difficult it becomes to keep the bulk of those followers genuinely engaged. I have a following of nearly 7,000 and counting, yet I purposely keep the number of folks I follow comfortably between 450 and 550; I learned firsthand that if I exceed that 550 followers, I spend less time interacting with my followers meaningfully and more time scrolling past their Tweets.

Now, there is an alternative, though not a popular one with the casual Twitter, but more so with those using Twitter to build their own personal cultures: Lists. Adding people who occasionally Tweet out something of value to a relevant list is a great way to “follow” them without following them because that follow is on your terms, not theirs. I have various lists set up for professional endeavors (like crowdfunding), my passions (comics and filmmaking, and others for local things happening around where I live and one list that lumps my other interests together, from pork pie hats to red wine. And once every few days I can check in with those members of my list and see what they’ve been Tweeting.
A following is important to have on Twitter, it’s true, but you need to earn that following’s trust, and they have to earn yours, too. The way to do it? Tweet interesting, relevant content to your followers so they’ll retweet it to their following, who may just start following you next. Think of this as a prerequisite for crowdfunding 101; for without a solid following behind you before you launch your campaign, who do you expect will be the ones to support your film project?

Learn more about how you get ready for your film crowdfunding campaign with our latest Film Handbook.