Believe it or not, Twitter has been around now for almost a decade, and people are still working out the best way to use it. Bands (and other companies) have spent countless hours and dollars trying to raise their Twitter profile, but here are a few things you can do for free to help yourself out. And remember – the number of followers you have is perhaps less important than you think.

1: Picking a Username

It seems straightforward, but you’d be surprised how many bands don’t simply use their own band name (or something close to it) as their username, choosing instead to do something clever-clever. But fans who see you at a gig and then want to look you up aren’t interested in ‘clever’ usernames. They want to find you, and they’ll give up if they don’t. Keep it simple.

2: Writing your bio

It might only be small, but there’s still a lot of room in your Twitter bio to fit in plenty of basic information about you (location, genre, new releases etc.). Plus your bio info is what comes up if somebody searches for you on Twitter or on Google. So, much like above, keep it simple, quick, concise and recognisable. We want the people searching for you to be able to find you with the minimum of fuss.

3: Choose your pictures

There are two things you need to bear in mind when choosing your profile and background picture. First, your profile picture is what comes up on people’s screens when you tweet into their timeline, but it will only be small so it should be instantly recognisable without being overly detailed or complex. Second, if you’re lucky enough to have A&R and press people looking into you, it pays to look professional. So make sure the image sizes are right, there’s no pixellation of your cover picture and your ‘image’ is consistent across your Twitter and your other online profiles/pages.

4: Be aware of who you follow

It’s easy to pick up Twitter followers by simply following everyone you can get your hands on and hoping they follow you back. This may lead you to (perhaps) a larger number of followers, but those followers are token numbers and not at all interested in what you have to say – not to mention the fact that you might fall foul of Twitter’s spamming rules. You want quality, not quantity – take your time to find other bands similar to yourself, relevant bloggers, writers etc. You will get more respect by keeping things relevant than by following anyone with an account. Used right, Twitter is a slow burn, not a quick fix.

If you do this part right, Twitter will then start doing the work for you, recommending relevant people for you to check out as you go along. They’re quite helpful if you let them be.

5: Follow back – when appropriate

It’s great if people find you and follow you and you haven’t followed them first, but resist the urge to follow them straight back. If they’re relevant, go for it, but if not you’ll end up confusing Twitter’s recommendations. And if you’re worried that you’ll lose them as a follower if you don’t follow them back, don’t worry about it – if they’re only following you because they want a return, they’re not the kind of person who’ll be engaged with your music anyway.

6: Take care with your content

I’m sure you would hate to think that crowds at shows might think of you as boring, so think of your Twitter followers the same way. Avoid the mundane, and also make sure you don’t overload people with your own content – if people want to buy your album, they’ll click on the link one of the first ten times you post it. Instead, think about sharing other people’s content to make your timeline interesting. Post links, Retweet, and be interesting. Twitter is a stage as well.

7: Get interactive

It’s easy to think of Twitter as a broadcast medium, but it’s more than that. You can interact with others, Retweet them, mention them and send them responses to their tweets. Build a rapport with your followers and maybe pique the interest of those you’re following. Get involved.

8: Tweet regularly, stay visible, and take the time to make it work

This is perhaps the most important thing of all. Like I said above – used right, Twitter is a slow burn, not a quick fix. There are all sorts of services out there that promise thousands of followers, but all they will deliver is empty numbers who aren’t interested in your music. But, if you keep things interesting, tweet regularly, get your name out there and take your time, your Twitter feed will slowly grow into a powerful tool with which to reach out to your audience.