One of the most common questions I get is “how do I get more twitter followers?” Or “I tweet and I tweet but I only have like 30 followers. What am I doing wrong?”
It is totally frustrating. I get it.
Most people seeking advice get too focused on the mechanics of tweeting:
- “What day should I post on?”
- “What time should I post?”
- “Two hashtags or three?”
- “Do I need to quote retweet or just retweet?”
The answer? None of that shit matters.
Without any good answers, I decided to work backwards.
Why not look at the most popular Twitter accounts in all of indie games and then see what tweets got them all the subscribers? Then if we see which individual tweets brought them so many followers, we can just tweet exactly what they tweeted and then become the world’s most popular twitter account! EASY! Instant followers!
In this week’s post I am going to go step-by-step through all my findings. But if you can’t wait, here is the tldr of how to grow a big larger Twitter following:
- Close Twitter right now
- Do something cool in the real world like write a blog post about how you solved a problem, release a game, get an award, or appear in a big show like E3
- At the bottom of whatever cool thing you do, have big, clear call to action that says “follow me on Twitter”
- That’s it.
In most cases, tweeting in and of itself doesn’t generate followers. Instead, you get followers from your activities outside of Twitter.
How I did this research
This post is based on the data collected from socialblade.com which scrapes Twitter to record how many followers every account has every day of the week. I paid $39 for 1 month of premium membership which allows me to see 40 months of past data.
The resulting data is a pretty clear timeline of big upwards swings and relatively stable periods. For instance, if I put my own, often neglected, Twitter account into Socialblade I get a bunch of little graphs like this.
The little spikes indicate when I got a bunch of people after relative quiet periods.
And here is another graph of my account that shows cumulative followers over time. Back in 2019 I had about 700 followers. Now I am sitting at about 2400.
What are my findings?
So after looking up a ton of Twitter accounts through social blade I found a bunch of similar trends and some ideas to increase your following. They basically break down into 6 separate techniques:
Techniques for building a big twitter following:
- Be funny on Twitter
- Create a very GIF-able game
- Create a game that Twitter loves
- Release an incredibly popular game
- Appear at big shows and events
- Support the indie community with a lot of Follow Friday or related content.
Other notes about the research
For every account I studied I have a section “The tweet associated with the most follows”
All I did was look for spikes in followers and then looked to see what that account tweeted during that time. Often that tweet was something like “My game is launching.” Their twitter following could have come from an external article that was linking to their Twitter account. Just understand that the tweet itself is just indicating what is happening at that time.
Technique 1: Be Funny on Twitter
Game dev twitter has a definite voice. It is this very specific vibe.
If you have the right voice your growth can be pretty steady with occasional spikes when your game launches. Here are some examples
CROWS CROWS CROWS (Twitter Link)
- Current Followers: 16K
- AVerage Growth = +17/Day
The tweet associated with the most follows:
Example Tweet with most engagements
Ya it is just a spinning sandwich gif. It was responsible for that little bump in December of 274 new followers.
As you can see there are dozens of little spikes that pertain to their hilarious tweets getting shared across twitter.
That one big monolithic spike in December? That is when they announced Stanley Parable: Ultra Delux.
If you are reading this looking for tips on how to get followers using the funny twitter approach, you just can’t. You are just kind of born with that sense of humor. I don’t think it can be taught.
It is really hard to be funny in the right way and trying to be can just come off wrong.
Technique 2: Have a beautiful / GIFable game game
Some games just have that unique lightning in a bottle where a single gif can just sell people on the game. For example look at this for SBug Game’s Spider platformer Webbed
Sbug Games (Twitter Link)
- Followers: 22K
- Growth Rate: +10/Day
There is nothing magic about how Riley Neville tweeted about his game. It isn’t some optimized hashtag. They used #gamedev and #indiedev. Those are the most boring hashtags in the world. What is amazing is watching his game in motion. He just found a really cool mechanic and the gif captured it well.
Look at the Follower Growth Curve, you can see when he posted those gif tweets that went viral. Each one of those spikes correspond to these tweets.
Example Tweet with most engagements
All of these tweets occurred during the late Summer as you can see by this follower gained graph.
Similar to having the right twitter humor, your game either has it or it doesn’t. Nothing I write here can make your game have it. There is no trick, you just have to have that magical “something” that makes a game go viral.
Viral GIFs are an elusive devil though. Riley Neville continues to tweet interesting gifs of his game but you can see from the graph that they just aren’t hitting as hard as his series of GIFs published back in the July – September timeframe.
If you have been tweeting and you just don’t see them being retweeted and you are not being followed, THAT IS OK. Your game can be successful and you can still build a following. Here are some more alternative techniques to grow your twitter following.
Technique 3: Have a game that Twitter just loves
Twitter really loves certain games. They aren’t necessarily the worlds most popular games, they are just games that seem to hit especially hard on Twitter. Games in this category are like Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator, and Boyfriend Dungeon.
I wanted to specifically look at Untitled Goose Game to see how Twitter responded to it.
Untitled Goose Game Studio House House (Twitter Link)
- Followers = 47K
- Growth Rate = 30/Day
Untitled goose game is a very GIF-able project. But as you can see their twitter growth is relatively flat punctuated by huge moments outside of twitter.
The first spike on August 27th, 2018 gained 3441 Followers. That was during Pax West where they made the announcement they were coming to Switch and Nintendo Posted their trailer which earned 817K views.
So again, following came from outside twitter. Here is the tweet mentioning that appearance before their first spike.
However the moment everyone talks about was when Chrissy Teigen Tweeted about the game on September 26th, 2019.
It is hard to parse how much of their increased twitter following is driven by that Teigen Tweet and how much was generated by the launch of the game on September 20th.
The Tegan Tweet actually came during the downward slope of the huge following increase and never boosted it higher.
(Teigen Tweet was Sep 26th)
ParaLives (Twitter Link)
- Followers: 108K
- Daily growth: 52
Paralives is a Sims-like game that has found a totally unserved market: Sims fans who are tired of EA’s stagnant development of The Sims. Paralives is growing like crazy. The Patreon alone earns more than $37K a month. If you check out the growth curve it is a slow and steady build.
However the original growth of the twitter account seems to have come from this influencer video on July 12th
The Paralives team discusses it on this blog post
After that video, The Paralives Twitter account went from 1000 followers to 12,000 followers in a single week. That has nothing to do with what they tweeted, it was just a sign that they are doing something Twitter users really want – a better Sims Game.
My hunch is there is just a huge overlap between fans of Twitter and fans of ParaLives. The twitter account posts lots of GIFs but they aren’t the type of meme-able gifs that you find in games like Webbed. Instead, they are just very practical gifs that show off features like how you can stretch furniture to your liking or add a curved wall.
I love looking at the replies because they are just people gushing at how much they love the features. Seriously, look at the replies.
Similar to GIFable games, Twitter either goes gaga for your game or not. Now if your game is not a Twitter darling you might be wondering “How am I going to market your game?”
Don’t Worry, Twitter is a very small niche in the video game marketing world. There is a definite style of game that Twitter users likes and it is actually quite different than the type of games Steam likes.
EXOR Studios (Twitter Link)
For example, this is the twitter account for EXOR Studios.
They have fewer than 6K followers. That pales in comparison to the other studios like Untitled Goose game with 47K followers or Crows Crows Crows at 16K followers.
However EXOR Studios is the creator of the game The Rift Breaker. Many people have written about Rift Breaker and it built up over 250,000 wishlists for their game. In my recap of the Winter Steam sale I found they earned 41096 wishlists in a single week.
That is a lot.
That is a whole lot.
They did that despite having only 6,000 Twitter followers.
If your game is not appealing to the Twitter crowd, that is ok. You can be a successful developer without Twitter. Just look at The Riftbreaker.
Technique 4: Release a game
This is the main cause of follower growth. It seems kind of obvious but if you want a lot of twitter followers, you should release a game. Or be part of a festival. Really do stuff that is amazing in the world outside twitter and people will follow you. Here are some examples:
Fall Guys (Twitter Link)
Followers 1.5 MILLION!!
The brilliantly funny Twitter account for Fall Guys is lauded as a perfect example of how to do Twitter. Some even attribute the Twitter account as the reason for Fall Guy’s Success. I always thought Fall Guys would be an example of funny-twitter but when I looked at the data, it seems to be a bit more complicated.
What is that lone mountain?
That is August 3rd -the official launch of Fall Guys. The game became an overnight hit! A big one! For a few months at the end of the Summer of 2020 everyone was talking about Fall Guys.
The interesting thing here though is that the number of followers of the Fall Guys Twitter account is, well, falling. Here is the daily subscriber count since it’s peak in August.
It has a slight downward slope. If you drill into the numbers I found they lost 8000 followers just last week.
Since October 2020, The Fall Guys twitter account has lost over 103,608 followers (that’s more than all the other accounts I profiled in this blog have gained). According to this Socialblade table, Fall Guys will have 0 followers by October 13th 2024 if this trend continues. Side note, this isn’t really going to happen but it does indicate a weird trend.
What is happening here? Did the team behind the account suddenly lose their mojo? Are they bad at twitter all of a sudden? No! The Twitter account is still funny, it’s just that the follower count mirrors the popularity of the game. This chart comes from the Fall Guys SteamDB and shows the number of simultaneous players.
As you can see, fewer people are playing Fall Guys so fewer people are following the Twitter account.
The Glory Society (Twitter Link)
The Glory Society is the twitter account for the new studio by the A Night in the Woods creators. This account is interesting because they have tweeted exactly 47 times and their last tweet was in June 2020.
Look at this chart. You see that spike? That was their last tweet and it was a twitter thread attached to a gif of a bird on a gravestone.
Check their mentions, it is just people asking about news for their game.
Almost 12,000 followers because of 1 Twitter thread?
You can’t do this unless you release the wildly popular and culturally significant game A Night In The Woods. So, if you want to earn 12K followers with about 5 tweets, your first step is to release a game that is as good as Night in the Woods.
Basically your popularity of your twitter account is tied to the popularity of your game, not the other way around. So just start releasing games and you will get more Followers.
Technique 5: Market your game outside of Twitter
Even if this is your first release and you haven’t released your first game, you can grow a twitter following, you just have to put in the effort outside of twitter.
What The Golf (Twitter Link)
- Followers: 23.6K
I originally thought What The Golf was building its follower count using the Gif Twitter because this is one of the greatest video game gifs in history:
But when I dug into the numbers I found their growth was largely because of outside forces.
Example Tweet with most engagements
You see those spikes? Those increases actually tie to major gaming shows. The first spike in September 2018 pertain to What The Golf’s great showing at #EGXBerlin2018. Read this article about it
You will notice that there was a long lull in growth. From Dec 28th 2018- August 20, 2020 they gained only about 400 followers. They were definitely tweeting during that period. They were tweeting really good stuff too like this gif:
But it only earned 15 retweets. Weird right?
For some reason there was just a big slump in their follower growth during the middle development period of the game.
They broke that slump not by changing their GIF game, but by What The Golf coming out on Steam on October 22nd and possibly a free expansion on other platforms.
There is this tweet is associated with the spike in August 2020.
Finji (Twitter Link)
- Daily Average = +7
- Followers = 22K
I love playing Finji games but I really love how hard they work. During my research no other studio or publisher Hustles as much as Finji. They build their following by pure marketing muscle. This is textbook example of external growth to drive up a twitter following.
For instance look at this chart.
You see that tallest spike in March 2020? They got 400 Followers that week because they gave away 5 Steam keys for Night In The Woods when people followed and RTweeted this tweet:
Finji is also great at getting into big Industry Shows. That Second highest spike back in June 2018? That is most likely tied to E3.
There is no tweet that they had that caused that, it is just their external promotion.
Technique 6: Small Scale Hustle within Gamedev Twitter
If you are just starting out and don’t have the types of games that attract the twitter following, you can do a lot to be a part of the indie game scene and drive up a following.
AdventureMtn (Twitter Link)
Count = 2411 Followers
I am not a good tweeter. But, my weekly follower rate increased in direct proportion to the frequency of my blog posts.
See those spikes in June 2019, April 2020? Those are GDC Talks.
However my biggest spikes actually came from doing Twitter threads of my Blog Posts. This thread based on my analysis of what genres sell the best earned me 165 followers.
Indie devs love to hear how much money games earn.
Angel Star Studios (Twitter Link)
Another way to get more followers is the old fashioned Follow Friday. Back in the early days of Twitter you saw everyone doing Follow Friday. But somewhere along the line, it just because a bit uncool. It just stopped becoming a thing. Well during my research I found Angel Star Studio which is a spunky little game company that publishes unassuming games and managed to build a respectable twitter following of 3500.
They did it largely through Follow Friday.
It still works! And they use it a lot!
Last Friday they sent out no less than 7 tweets with a combined 83 mentions of other game developers.
I asked the studio head how they manage to find 83 people every week to mention? Their answer:
- Use twitter search to narrow by “gamedev” and search for #FF or #FollowFriday. Mention anyone who looks nice.
- Note down everyone throughout the week that has given them help or shared something cool.
- They always double checks every account they message to make sure they are positive people.
- They only mention people who they genuinely respect.
I know a lot of people think FF is kinda cheesy and old fashioned but if you are trying to build up a twitter following, bring it back!
If you are genuine about it like Angel Star Studio is, you are essentially introducing indies to each other. That is sweet. We need more of that.
The best way to get followers is to give back to the indie scene. Provide information about what you did and what the effect was. Even if you are just starting out, every bit of data helps. What promotions worked? What didn’t? What tools did you use? What did you like about them? Were they worth the money? Also, introduce indies to one another using #FF / #Followfriday
Give to the community and they will follow you back.
Summary: So How do you get a lot of Twitter Followers?
After all this research, the biggest thing you can do to increase your Twitter following is … release a game!
It never failed, almost every single twitter account I profiled, the biggest boost to their follower count came when they released a game or got it into some big promotion.
Sound like a chicken and the egg problem to you?
You might be thinking “If I don’t have a lot of followers, then I can’t promote my game! And if I can’t promote my game then I don’t sell a lot of copies, which means I won’t get lots of Twitter followers!”
Here is the thing. Twitter does not significantly contribute to the sale of your game. Most of your wishlists and sales actually come from external promotions such as streamers, Reddit, Festivals like E3, PAX, the press.
Twitter is the result of good marketing, not the cause of it.
Followers correlate with good sales, they don’t necessarily cause it.
I know it seems heretical to say, but Twitter isn’t as important to your game’s success as you might think. We can all relax.
Final Advice: How to get your first 1000 followers
Here is my recommendation, if you are a small indie who has never released a game and you have a very small following, set a goal to get 1000 followers.
Most of the power of Twitter is about networking with other game devs and business partners. If you have a low follower count, it looks like you are an amateur or hobbyist. Rightly or wrongly it seems that once you have more than 1000 followers you are taken more seriously.
So let’s fix this. Let’s assume that you don’t have…
- That very specific Twitter sense of humor.
- You don’t have an existing game that is super popular.
- Your game isn’t set up to make funny GIFS.
- You are just starting out so you have like 10 followers.
Your first 1000 followers will be fellow game developers, not actual fans. Here is what you should do:
- Document your gamedev experience. Did you solve a weird bug in Unity? Find some useful brushes in Photoshop or some Bender technique? Whatever you did, there will be a more established developer who has that problem too. Write a blog post about what you did and publish it on gamasutra and medium. At the top and bottom of the post add your twitter handle.
- Write about how many wishlists you earned when you did a reddit post, live stream, cross promotion whatever. I don’t care how new to gamedev you are, if you managed to do some promotional activity that drove more than 100 wishlist to your game, I would be interested in hearing about it and I know a lot bigger game devs would too. Share your knowledge and people will follow.
- Add your twitter handle to your Steam page.
- Publish a demo on Steam and on the main menu have a big button that says follow me on Twitter.
- Participate in contests like this one from Finji: https://twitter.com/DrLavaYT/status/1242477140735475716
- Do the Follow Friday technique mentioned above.
- Organize or help out with indie initiatives like #pitchyagame or #Loveindies week
- Go to your bio and remove “Aspiring Game Designer” or “Student Game Designer.” Just say “Game Designer.” You are a game designer and don’t make yourself look unserious by saying “aspiring.”
Yes it is a slog, but you are new. The first 1000 followers are the hardest. However, once you reach that magical (yet totally arbitrary) 1000 follower count, you can pull back on the promotion of your twitter account.
The problem with twitter is that the click-through rates are abysmal compared to things like Discord and email marketing. The algorithm is specifically geared to suppress outside links to places like your Steam page, you are building a following on a platform owned by a questionable corporation, many of the users are toxic and it is full of drama that in any other context you wouldn’t care about and it is also extremely addicting.
Oh also, not many people use Twitter. Look at this study (Twitter is #17 on that list)
So if Twitter is so bad why does everyone use it?
Twitter is really good at networking within the industry.
Twitter can expose your game to publishers and investors, you can reach people faster, and foster friendships with other developers.
I am going to write more of what twitter is good at next week because this piece is going on too long. If you want to be notified when my next piece comes out, don’t follow me on Twitter, join my mailing list here.