Like other social media tools, acquiring and retaining Twitter followers requires a strategy  and ongoing effort. When you start a garden you need to first plan your patch and then sow your seeds to eventually produce plants and produce. The same goes for growing your Twitter presence. You need to plan, evaluate your goals, and plant your seeds of effort. Once your garden of Twitter followers germinates and grows, remember not to neglect it.

Here’s How:

Establishing Your Goals

Forget everything you’ve heard about the “You follow me and I’ll follow you approach” —  that’s for novices. Instead, think about your purpose and what you hope to accomplish. Or more simply — “Why I am tweeting?” This will vary from person to person and the type of blog you write. Are you tweeting to meet others, connect with consumer brands, represent a particular product or company, educate, entertain, build awareness about an issue, and/or succeed at tweeting about other things?

Identifying Your Audiences

Next you’ll want to think specifically about the categories of Twitter followers you are trying to attract. If you are a mommy blogger, it’s a good idea to focus first on following people you know directly and then expand to those who you admire, such as other moms who blog – including your competitors as well as those you aspire to emulate. Don’t forget to follow and read other blogs and media such as TechCrunch to learn more about how to tweet like a pro. At the same time, seek out and follow others you think will be interested in your area of focus and might benefit from your tweets. If you choose wisely, chances are that these people you follow will follow you back because they share common interests and life circumstances.

If you are looking to build relationship with brands follow companies you are sincerely interested in. A good rule of thumb is only follow others that tweet about things you are interested in, don’t just follow people in the hopes that they’ll follow you back.

Promoting Your Online Presence

At the same time you are increasing those you follow and those who follow you, start tweeting at least three times per day. You want to show that you are active on Twitter and interact with your existing followers. Avoid sending out excessive messages on Twitter that can irritate your loyal and growing audience to the point of unfollowing you.

As far as tweet content, you should tweet about things relevant to your own activities and blogposts, including links to product reviews, giveaways, and other stories that might interest your following. Remember that self-promotion should be kept to a minimum since those who are most successful on Twitter are good at inspiring two-way communication. So, ask questions about things that are interesting or controversial that will stimulate chatter and use # hash tags so these tweets are searchable. Part of your tweet mix should also include retweets of others that are focused and inline with your goals and the audiences you target.

Nurture, water, and cultivate it regularly and you will likely reap an unending bounty of Twitter followers.

I encourage you to comment with your own advice and experiences on best practices for building a Twitter following that flourishes throughout every season all year round.