The value of social media (especially Twitter) is debated a lot these days. Some businesses swear by it while others say it's a waste of time. The truth is, Twitter can be a powerful free advertising platform and it can be a complete waste of your company's time and resources. The difference is in how you use it.

To get the most out of Twitter (or any social media network) you need to understand three things:

1. There must be a reason for your social media efforts.

The most common reason companies use social media is for traffic - or to get visitors to their website. You might also use it to create name recognition in your industry, handle customer support issues, or generate leads. But, don't jump into tweeting without knowing why you're doing it. You won’t see any results.

2. Social media is relationship based.

People connect with - and buy from - companies they know, like, trust. Social media is a great opportunity to connect with your customers and let them know you're a real person who cares about them.

But, if you treat social media like a platform to peddle your products and services, people won't feel connected to you. They'll be less likely to visit your site or buy what you're selling.

3. You must provide value to your followers.

If your main Twitter goal is to increase your company's revenue, that's okay. But, if all you do is talk about what you're selling, you'll come across as a spammer. Resist the urge to promote your product or service in every update and instead work on providing value to your followers.

The three things above might make Twitter seem like a time-consuming amount of work, but...

Here's how you can quickly grow your Twitter followers in less than 15 minutes per day:

1. Set up a Twitter account if you haven't already.

Time investment: 5 minutes (one time)

Hopefully you know that in order to have Twitter followers, you have to have a Twitter account. If you don't have an account, please go here and follow the steps to setting up your account.

2. Optimize your Twitter account.

Time investment: 10 minutes (one time)

To get the most out of Twitter be sure to fill out your profile completely. If your account lacks a bio, image, website URL, or keywords, you should take care of that as soon as possible. Here are some tips:

Bio: Use your keywords where you can so people who search for your service will find you. For example, WPValet wants to rank for the keywords "WordPress management" so they included that in their bio: WordPress management, support, and peace of mind.

Image: If you are tweeting as a company, it's okay to use a company logo, but people are going to connect with you more if you use a picture of your face.

URL: Make sure to add your company website URL so people can visit your website from Twitter without searching.

I recommend creating a special page on your website just for Twitter users. Give away something of value (like a PDF, report, or infographic) on that page and then encourage them to share it with their followers. Immediately adding value to your followers' lives will position you to be shared and followed by others.

3. Tweet something relevant to your audience.

Time investment: 2 minutes (per day)

Tweeting every day might seem like a lot of work, but it can be made faster and simpler with tools like Hootsuite. With Hootsuite, you can log in, create a week's worth of Tweets, and schedule them to post to Twitter once per day. This should take less than 10 minutes per week if you batch it like this. If you're having a hard time coming up with content to Tweet about, here are some ideas:

  • Talk about a conference, webinar, or event you just attended and share something you learned. (Be sure to mention the speaker and you might get a retweet from them.)
  • Share a link to one of your favorite tools that your audience might also enjoy.
  • Link to an article you recently read and enjoyed - if it's something your audience would find valuable.

4. Set up an auto direct message to welcome new followers.

Time investment: 5 minutes (one time)

Using, you can create a recipe that will tell Twitter to send all your new followers a direct message. The trick here is to make your auto direct message seem like you personally wrote it to each new follower.

Here are some ideas:

  • Ask a question so your new followers will start a conversation with you. If you were WPValet, you might ask, "What do you find most difficult about managing your WordPress site?" This message isn't screaming "I have something to sell," but it could open the conversation to talk about the service WPValet offers.
  • Offer to do them a favor. I recently changed my auto direct message to say, "Let's make a deal… If you retweet me, I'll retweet you." People love this and often write back to say they accept my "deal." Plus, I receive daily retweets from this strategy.
  • Give something away. If you created a special page just for your Twitter followers, use your auto direct message to tell them about it. To make it seem less like a marketing tactic, say something like, "Created just for my Twitter followers." Or "No opt-in required."

5. Follow back new followers.

Time investment: 1-2 minutes (per day)

As new followers come in, follow them back. You can automate this process with, but I like to manually follow each new follower so I can keep track of Step 6…

6. Retweet your new followers.

Time investment: 5 minutes (per day)

I consider this step to be the one main thing that is causing new people to follow me left and right. Once a day I log in to Twitter and follow all my new followers. Then, if they have any tweets that I think will add value to my followers, I retweet them. (The majority of my followers have a lot of stuff worth retweeting.)

7. Say "Thank you" for retweets and mentions.

Time investment: 5 minutes (per day)

If someone has mentioned me or retweeted something I tweeted, I thank them two ways. First, I reply and say, "Thank you!" Then, I retweet something they tweeted. If you take notice of the people who retweet you, they will continue to do so and your influence will spread.

8. Create a list.

Time investment: 5 minutes (one time)

Twitter is a great place to network with influential people and get them to notice you. But, once you have thousands of Twitter followers, it will be difficult to read their tweets and keep up with them. One way to fix this is to create a Twitter list. (When you're logged into Twitter, go to your profile. Then, click on "Lists" on the left hand side. Then, click on "Create list" on the right.)

I prefer to call my list "Power Network" and I make it a private list. Privacy isn't required, but if you have a public list, people you add to the list can see the name of the list and others can see who's on it.

8. Add people to your "Power Network" list.

Time investment: 5 minutes (per week)

You probably already have a list of people you would like to network with. If so, add those people to your new list. Then, do a search on Twitter to find more people in your industry to add to your list. Look for people who are influential in your industry and have thousands of followers. Also, check to see how many people they are following back. If they aren't following many, they're not likely to follow you.

9. Retweet your "Power Network."

Time investment: 2 minutes (per day)

Try to engage with someone in your "Power Network" at least once per day. (Remember, you can schedule these posts with Hootsuite.) Here are some ideas for engaging with them:

  • Retweet something they tweeted.
  • Respond to their questions.
  • Visit their website or blog and share their posts.
  • Promote their product or service, if you use it and find value in it.

By following this strategy, I've had quite a few influential people in my industry mention me and retweet my stuff in return. If the people on your list have a lot of followers, this can be a great way to get exposure to those followers.

Using the tips above, you can easily grow a Twitter following without spending much time. Just remember to provide value to your followers and you'll do just fine. A good mix is sharing valuable content in 80-90 percent of your posts. The remaining 10-20 percent can be used to promote your products or services.

When you provide value to your followers people will naturally share what you shared. Plus, they'll want more where that came from and they'll probably visit your website to see what you have to offer. Sharing valuable content will also position you as an expert in your niche. People who learn valuable things from you are more likely to buy your products and services and refer you to others.

So how about you? What tips do you have for quickly growing an army of loyal fans on Twitter?

Christina Gillick is a direct-response copywriter who specializes in web copy, emails and autoresponders. (She's also an entrepreneur and marketing consultant.) Her clients range from small businesses to big companies like American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) and Nightingale-Conant. If you need a copywriter, marketing consultant, or a million dollar idea, please get in touch. You can follow her on Twitter here: @ChrisGillick