How I Got 100,000 Twitter Followers in a Week (and No, I Didn’t Pay for Them)

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Caroline Moss


Caroline Moss

This post originally appeared in Business Insider.

By Caroline Moss



Last September, I had an idea. While riding the crosstown bus, a Dave Matthews Band song popped up on my shuffle. I was reminded of middle school, a time when I considered myself deep and obscure, often filling marble notebooks with sad entries about love lost which, not coincidentally, read like recaps of Dawson’s Creek episodes.

I searched my favorite social media platform, Twitter, for any account that may have been documenting what I was thinking about—throwbacks to AOL away messages and references to 8th grade dances and Delia’s cargo pants—and found nothing. BuzzFeed had just recently launched their vertical BuzzFeed Rewind to tirelessly help Millennials recall the days of yore, but no one was offering anything similar on Twitter.

So I created @YourAwayMessage, a Twitter account where I could tweet the types of “away messages” and things I would have said between 1998-2004 in middle and high school.


Caroline Moss

I thought I would possibly be able to strike a chord with people I went to high school with. I showed a few friends the first tweet and said, “If you think this is funny, can you retweet it? I just want to see if this works.”

This was my first tweet (it’s an homage to a tired Oasis lyric):

By the time I fell asleep, 1,000 people had started following @YourAwayMessage. All of them were strangers.

The Internet can be a negative place, and I feared people would think the account was dumb, or worse: that I was dumb. The odds of creating something on the Internet that people would want to share are slim. What if no one thought I was funny? My thin skin wasn’t ready for potential backlash.

The next morning, YAM had 10,000 followers. I had unwittingly tapped into a deep well of unfulfilled nostalgia for the Instant Messenger service and the glory years of pre-pubescent angst.


Caroline Moss

I watched as the account spread across mediums like BuzzFeedMashable, andNew York Magazine. After a very surreal week, it had grown to 100,000 followers and I started telling my friends and family that I was the one behind it.

I couldn’t believe how lucky I was. I felt like I had hit the jackpot and then got struck by lightning (if getting struck by lightning was a cool and enjoyable thing).

As I continued to tweet, people wanted to know what my grand plans for the future were in regards to the feed. The truth was I didn’t have any. I had always kept my expectations in check; I thought it would burn itself out in time. But people wanted immediate answers:  Do you want to write a book? Do you want to write a TV series based on the feed? Do you want to sell us the account for a dollar amount? I wasn’t sure. I decided I’d just let whatever happens, happen.

Before long, a literary agent reached out to me. The agent asked if I wanted to give “the book thing” a shot. “Look, you can’t quit your job,” she had told me, “but let’s see how it goes.” Ultimately, 15 publishing companies rejected our book proposal, but my agent didn’t give up on me. When I wanted to try my hand at freelance writing creatively, she helped make important introductions to people and places who may not have responded to my emails before.

Last October, a writer from The Daily Dot reached out to me. He was interested in writing a story about YAM. During the interview, we hit it off. He hired me and from there, I joined Business Insider. The person who hired me at Business Insider also followed YAM.

I hadn’t been a writer before my YAM experience. But thanks to the popularity of the account, I now had something unique to show the industry about myself. While I decided to take credit for YAM, some owners of popular Twitter accounts choose to stay anonymous. Recently I talked to my favorite Internet geniuses,Carey O’Donnell and Eli Yudin, who created @NotTildaSwinton, a parody that tweets 140-character diatribes in the fictional voice of Tilda Swinton, if Tilda lived in a log cabin in upstate New York.

O’Donnell and Yudin chose to keep their identities a secret for the majority of the time they wrote @NotTildaSwinton. “We both felt like it would be more fun to make it more about the character; whether that’s the actual Tilda, or a slightly deranged person living in the woods with decent WiFi,” O’Donnell explained. “I think some people were bummed when they found out it was two unemployed guys living with their parents,” he admitted, “but others thought it was great.”

But O’Donnell and Yudin were also able to accelerate writing careers thanks to their popular Twitter account. The pair now freelances for publications like PaperMag, MTV, SomeECards, and they even wrote a piece in Harper’s Bazaarreviewing the Paris Couture show in the voice of NotTilda.

A question O’Donnell, Yudin, and I get asked frequently is, “How did you do it?” How do you create a large Twitter following quickly, from nothing? One of the things I like most about having YAM is getting emails from people who have started parody or novelty Twitter accounts or Tumblr feeds, wanting my advice on how to make it go viral. Some of them are really good—remember Feminist Taylor Swift?

I tell the truth—a lot of it is plain luck. There’s no doubt in my mind that eventually, some version of @YourAwayMessage would have been created by someone else if I hadn’t started it. As simple as it sounds, the takeaway is to not second guess your ideas or yourself.

Things go viral on their own, with tiny bumps in the beginning. If people think something is good, they will share it. If someone has already done something similar, it’s likely your idea won’t go too far. But don’t talk yourself out of trying something.

Novelty Twitter accounts have a very short shelf life. The next new thing is always, and will always be, one click away. But it ends up being a fantastic calling card for more opportunity once the feed can no longer sustain itself.

“It’s like you’re a chef, and you happen to make something, let’s just say pancakes for fun, that everyone really likes,” Yudin explains. “And that’s great, and you’re happy, because people are happy. And now that people are coming to your restaurant for the pancakes, they’re willing to try your waffles, or your quiche. And hopefully, if you’re lucky, they like those too.”

English: A Twitter tweet

English: A Twitter tweet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

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I'am college graduate and father of three daughters; Jasmine Sherry 17, Rean 16, and Dana 14. Most of my employment years i spent in the restaurant management field. I worked for financial institutions as well at the same time in marketing and finance. My favorite job of all times is working for Taste Freeze as a fry and milk shake attendant. It was the atmosphere that i dig the best. People around me effect everything in my life, not the position. By the way i was 17 years of age then. Here and there i was involved in local politics, like the high school shut down because of a protest or a rally, and in college i got in trouble for bringing beer to the football game. I was a student Government and suppose to behave like a student Senator. I was in the spot lite as i excused myself, it was a brush and let go. I like student clubs, group, well we get to raise hell together after something like a project or a meeting. AISEC was my favorite. The international Association of Students In Business and Economics, it sound different in french. I went to grad School because my sisters drove me to it, one with a Master and the other beyond Grad School, and my employer paid for it, i ended up with an MBA in Marketing Management. I went on to work for both the public and the private Sector as a Marketing Coordinator representing the JTPA to everyone in seven Southeast Los Angeles County Cities. Press releases, and cities meeting were the top priorities of my work load agenda. We were funded by the State through the Federal act of Job Training Partnership Act, therefore we had to cater to the local politicians such as assemblymen, congressmen, and senators too, like what her name, Diane Feinstein and Miss Boxer. Funny I learn how to be real young, i mean very young, well extremely young as all those who like to post their high school photo for the public to recognize them, as local public officials told me to do so because that's how most people knew them. i like water sports, or hobbies like fishing, sailing, snorkeling, and just plain sit on a sandy beach, read, and dip in that water when i feel like it. Listen to music and enjoy people watching as well. It is amazing how much you can learn from watching others. That's what we were brought up doing anyway. Now i spent most of my times developing websites , writing, scouting for high quality contents and show time images, as i post on my digital publications. I consider myself lucky because i had great parents who devoted their time to raise me and looked after me to have education. i hope to continue making a difference in others for as much as i can, and as little as they comprehend and retain from any of my publications contents. I feel it is part of our life journey to contribute positive anything to everything around us.

One thought on “How I Got 100,000 Twitter Followers in a Week (and No, I Didn’t Pay for Them)”

  1. Pingback: How I Got 100,000 Twitter Followers in a Week (and No, I Didn’t Pay for Them) | News U.S. Journal

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