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How I gained thousands of followers during the biggest story of 2020

August 25, 2020 11:00

Austin Kellerman is Director of Digital Content for Nexstar. This post originally appeared on his blog and is reposted here with permission.

When talking to newsrooms and journalists about social media, I often urge them to try to find their voice in major stories. Think about the angles no one is talking about and create that content for your timeline. That’s exactly what happened to me during the coronavirus crisis — only I kind of stumbled on it. The result ended up being roughly 8,000 new followers in March and April. How did it happen? Let’s break it down.

Be Consistent

I started regularly tweeting out COVID-19 stats while contributing to Nexstar Media Group’s national content efforts as the virus became the dominant story in the United States. I was regularly looking for fresh content and watching the Johns Hopkins case tracker. As I spotted interesting things, I’d tweet them out. Eventually, I saved a handful of go-to tweets inside my Buffer account so I could recycle them daily (or multiple times a day) with the latest information.

At first, the tweets didn’t build much engagement, but I decided to be consistent to see where things went.

Keep an Eye on What’s Working

I noticed my most successful tweets centered around stats and stories related to COVID-19 recoveries. That ended up being the “angle no one is talking about” that I outlined above.


While keeping track of and posting recovery stats, I continued to be consistent reporting daily COVID-19 stats via Johns Hopkins — eventually adding custom graphics created through an app called Canva. Like the tweets on Buffer, I had templates saved where I could plug in information as needed.

 

One morning, one of my tweets on the latest stats was picked up by Twitter’s COVID-19 moment showcased at the top of every timeline. This is where things started to pick up…


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Build on Success

Seeing the big engagement numbers, it was clear I needed to continue to produce similar post in hopes they’d get picked up again by Twitter’s COVID moment. As I reproduced the numbers at different times of the day, I’d track when they were more likely to get featured. The first tweets were picked up on a Saturday and Sunday at 5 a.m. — so weekend mornings became a priority.

At one point, Twitter picked up a post about recoveries. As you’ll see below, that drove quite a bit of engagement — and hundreds of new followers.

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A few of my saved tweets on the Buffer app.
Always Think ‘What’s Next?’

I’d keep an eye on the mentions so I could see what information people were looking for. Outside of political banter, people were asking for mortality rates and making comparisons between the US numbers and those of European countries.

I built some tweets that showcased that information and saved the templates in Buffer. Eventually, those tweets were picked up by Twitter moments and became part of my daily routine.

Recruit New Followers

You can also go out and find new followers. How? If I’m tweeting about COVID-19 content, I need to find people interested in that. I’d search new followers of prominent journalists covering coronavirus or COVID-centered Twitter accounts like @COVID19Tracking. If you follow someone, there’s a decent chance they will follow you back. If you follow someone looking for content that you’re delivering on a daily basis, that likelihood increases.

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As May came to an end, the appetite for COVID-19 content began to drop due to burnout and a number of other factors. And though I continue to post trends and major pandemic stories, I’ve also experienced a steady drop in followers as I transitioned to posting other content. When things were said and done, I lost about 600 followers in the process.

The bottom line? If you can find your voice in a big story, capture emotion and generate some engagements, the follows will come
 



 



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