Twitter Traction – How to Ask and Who to Ask

Tommy Walker


Big Taboo about Asking on Social Media

So apparently there’s this big taboo about asking for things on social media.

On one side, there’s a camp that says you should never ask for anything EVER.

You should provide high quality content, engage in the community, tweet, share links, comment (you know the deal). and you should always so amazing that if you’re patient, people to come to you.

Then on the other side, you’ve got the camp that says, “why wait?” they use autofollow tools, DM everyone without regard, send mass emails to bought lists… There’s a name for these people – But I’m guessing the editor probably won’t let me use it ;-P

The Middle Ground

I’ve recently discovered a middle ground that was surprisingly simple, and returned results that were pretty shocking to me.

Just ask via private message.

I know right? Who would have thought?

For years, I’ve operated with this fear that if I sent any kind of request through a Twitter DM or Facebook message, I would be instantly labeled a spammer and my online career would crumble in seconds.

But it turns out, with a little finesse & a personal tone, you can use private forms of social media and people will take action.

Twitter Traction – How to Ask and Who to Ask

In this article, I’ll show you an example of how I’ve used private messages en masse that resulted in one of the most commented articles on my blog. Granted, you can’t spend comments, but those comments lead to guest post opportunities, mentions on other blogs and was the topic of conversation on a podcast. And more positive exposure never hurts, right?

The Caveat

You do have to provide value in your work. The person you’re asking should actually be getting something out of it. If it’s not advice, a good chuckle will do.

Whatever you do, do not waste people’s time. Send only that which you’re proud of and are willing to read 20 times in a row yourself. And be selective about who you ask and how frequently.

It also helps if your work already gets some traction on it’s own. It doesn’t have to be crazy, but it’s nice if people you don’t know are finding you without you having to push.

On to the rules.

Presentation — How to Ask

The presentation of your private message is all that that you have to signal to the receiver that you’re sending something useful. Get this wrong, you look spammer. Get it right, and you’re acting as a filter sharing something that’s worth their time. It’s a fine line, but I’ll show you what’s worked for me.

Step 1 – Appear legit. It’s very simple, add the person’s name. Crazy I know. But when you think about it, that’s something a lot of Auto DM programs DON’T do, so taking the extra step really counts. Plus, when you see your own name it’s an instant hook to your attention.

Step 2 – Find some unique angle that will pique their interest. For example, Let’s say I wanted to drive conversation to an article I wrote about online manipulation .

This particular angle is controversy.

You might also use empathy,



Really, you could use any number of angles, just make sure it’s compelling.

You may have noticed that most of these use questions and all of them have a customized link.

When I combine all the elements; the first name, the interesting angle, the question and the link; I’m trying to invoke the need to respond and click the link. The custom link just adds a little extra emphasis to the work the lines.

The first time I tested this, I DMed 34 people and 27 of them responded in the comments.

Now, like I said comments don’t add to my bottom line.

But they did lead to a guest post, a mention on a podcast and someone dedicated a whole blog post to talking about the tactic ().

All of this earns impressions of my brand, and brings links back to my site, improving my overall trust factor.

Comments may not do anything for my bottom line immediately, but when playing the long game, all of these things matter.

Segmentation – Who to Ask

So, one of the major reasons why any of this personal asking stuff works is because you’re being selective about who to ask in the first place.

First, they have to be active on the platform. Seems simple enough, but looking at every single profile to determine activity is time consuming, and will most likely be the first thing anyone using this tactic will overlook – I know I did. But, spending the time now saves you from wasting time sending to people who aren’t active.

Second, they have to have some level of familiarity with you.

You might think, “well they’re connected to me, so doesn’t that qualify?” And I have to ask how many people are you connected to on social media with no idea who they are or what they’re about. This is pretty much true for most social media platforms; except Twitter.

On Twitter, you can bend the rules a little. Here’s how.

First- Go to and click on the “compare users” tab

Second-Type in your twitter handle, and the handle of another author who covers a similar subject matter, or writes similarly to the article you’re trying to promote.

Then check out the “followers of both” link.


All you want to do is find people who wouldn’t be made too uncomfortable if you were to send them a Dm.

Even though Liz and I have some pretty influential people following both of us, I know I don’t have a relationship with them the same way she does, and wouldn’t want to risk making a fool of myself with really influential people.

However, if I sorted the influence list to show more “normal” people, I could find active twitter users that followed both of us who might also be more accessible


It’s important to make sure they’re active, but it’s critical that you check out their feed to qualify whether or not you should send them a DM. If they only tweet about macrame and you’re promoting an article about boating, it’s not a good fit.

If it’s somebody you don’t tweet with much, acknowledge that in your dm …

Hey Caylie. I know we don’t talk much but [Insert Hook Here]

This adds an extra level of human to what would otherwise be a fairly robotic process.

And, If you’re wondering how you could get some “in common” followers, here is a great article to get you started with followerwonk(but check followerwonk first, most people I tell about this technique are pleasantly surprised.)

A Word Of Warning

Obviously this CAN backfire if you go overboard with it.

I would not recommend DMing all of your followers for every single piece of content you put your name on.

I would also give a people a healthy period of time in between when you ask for something.

I would ALSO make sure you go out of your way to do something even NICER for them, without being asked.

And I would be sure to thank them privately for when they do contribute.

The reason this method works, and what separates it from being total spam, is that it provides a filter for useful content in an otherwise flooded environment.

If you get selfish and forget that it’s about filtering good content to the right people – well, I’ll let you imagine what happens next.

So, I’m curious, have you ever tried direct asking before? If so what happened? If you haven’t, what’s the stupidest DM you’ve ever gotten that was clearly sent out by a robot. I’m certain we can get some pretty hilarious stories out of this one.

Oh, and if you know anyone who could benefit from this article,(or want to totally light it on fire) test this method out and let’s see how it works 😉

Author’s Bio:

Tommy Walker is the host of “Inside The Mind” a show that fuses online marketing strategy with internet generation humor. Currently, he is conducting a crowdfunding experiment for Season 2, which proposes to do no less than flip the world of online marketing on it’s head. You can find him @Tommyismyname

Thank you for adding to the conversation!


  1. says

    Nice post!

    What would you advise in this situation: November is National Adoption Month and I have written a short series of posts about adoption that I would like to offer as guest posts to a general parenting blog. They are targeted toward non-adoptive parents to share the experiences of adoptive moms (like myself) with other moms, how we may need to use some different parenting methods, but ultimately how our families are the same. I titled the series ‘Different Paths, Same Journey’.

    I wrote it first because I didn’t want to find a blog then promise to write something that may not turn out exactly as I had planned.

    The first blog I contacted about it, where it would fit in perfectly, and I know one of the owners, I have not heard anything back from yet. So I don’t know if they are just not interested or haven’t read my email yet. Should I try asking again? I don’t want to bug them.

    I asked other people, who seem well connected if they by chance know of a parenting blog that would be interested, so far everyone I’ve contacted either doesn’t know anyone or hasn’t responded.

    I even contacted some people I didn’t know at all. No answer.

    I looked all over Huffington Post’s parenting section – didn’t see one mention of National Adoption month yet. Didn’t see anything on Babble either – those are two great sites that would give me great exposure, as well as reach a lot of people for them to learn more about adoption. Any advice for trying to approach people from big sites like that?

    I’m not even expecting to get paid, I just want to share the posts. And not to brag, but I put a lot of thought and work into them and they turned out pretty good. I don’t know why I am having such a difficult time finding a site that would want them. All I can think of is that my social skills must be really screwed up, its really bringing down my self-confidence.

  2. says

    I’d try contacting the first people again. Silence is hard, no doubt, but if you’ve done your research and you think it would be a good fit, I’d reach out again.

    Bloggers are busy folks, so sometimes the inbox just gets too crowded too quick.

    I actually did a video on something very similar a few months back that might be really useful for you

    Also this one has some great ideas for scouting out some new post opps

    The main thing that’s important is to not give up. What you’re talking about is very important to a ton of people, so it’s up to you to make sure that the message gets out there.

    It’s tough to break sometimes, but all it takes is a sweat equity, and massive amounts of perseverance.

  3. says

    This was a really helpful post especially the point of striking the balance between never asking and targeted and appropriate requests. I find when somebody who does high quality work alerts me to something that I will enjoy or find useful that I am grateful. Yet, often I am reluctant to make requests myself. This post is a good reminder of how, when and why to do so.

  4. says

    Hi Tommy,
    Thanks so much for including a link to my post and what a surprise to find my name down further! :-) I really enjoyed finding out more about the different messages you used to appeal to followers.
    Thanks for sharing!

  5. says

    Great article here Tommy! Thanks for posting this Liz!

    I have not tried direct contact via Twitter for content promotion. But I do like the idea of adding a human element to this increasingly-automated world.

    There’s so much emphasis placed on quick-fix solutions, but the long game can’t be overlooked.

    I look forward to making this a part of our strategy.

    Thanks again.

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