Brian Burns

Brian Burns



Over the last month I grew @ai__pub from 0 to 10.4k followers on Twitter. Huge surprise for me - but I was also very deliberate & principled about growing the account. Some friends have asked, so: my opinionated thoughts on how Twitter works and how to grow an account. 1/22

1) Twitter typology. All large accounts provide some "service" to their followers, in *at least* one of these buckets: a) Make you smarter b) Make you money c) Provide entertainment d) Provide parasocial relationship 2/22

All large accounts do at least one of these, *in a niche*. Some examples from accounts I follow: - @ai__pub does a) and soon b) for technical AI - @TheRealEstateG6 does a), b) in real estate + entrepreneurship - @SamoBurja does a) in geopolitics and history ... 3/22

- @callicrates_ does d) as a "young masculine role model" in entrepreneurship + self-reliance - @molson_hart does d) as "weird contrarian businessman" and also a) in Amazon + logistics + geopolitics - @valor_zhang and @nosilverv (both friends of mine) do d)... 4/22

- ... with niche, hard-to-define-in-a-tweet personalities - @tszzl does d) and a) as "high-iq ML/AI schizo & startups-silicon-valley cultural commentator" - @SpeedReadDan does a) and c) in personal appearance, dating, and physiognomy 5/22

2) Maximally niche Even if you have a personal, "parasocial relationship" account, the more niche and well-defined, the better. Best example of this is "Strip Mall Guy" @realEstateTrent. 0 to 100k followers in a year, literally only tweets about strip malls. 6/22

3) Above-and-beyond content. At the start I read "how to grow on twitter" guides. They emphasized: - commenting frequently on large accounts to get views, - tweeting frequently, and - scammy hacks like making your pfp yellow, and being "the X guy" 🤮 These don't work! 7/22

I was able to get to 10k by only tweeting 2-3x/week. But these tweets were *very high value*, long-form threads that took several hours to research and write. This thread, e.g., took me a full day to research and put together, but lifted AI Pub from 100 to 3k followers. 8/22

In my experience these "top 1% content", high-investment tweet threads get outsized returns in engagement and followers. Another example of a thread that took several hours to research and put together, but got ~2k followers: 9/22

4) Platform-native Lots of people on Twitter will put together a killer blog post or youtube video, and then just post the link to Twitter saying, "hey check this out!" or at best a one-tweet summary. Twitter users typically don't leave the app, so even if the content... 10/22

is great, it doesn't get viewed. If you make content elsewhere, you have to *repurpose it* to make it Twitter-native. E.g., if you make a YouTube video, write a 10-tweet thread with photos, walking through the video. Then link to the video at the end. Same w/ essays. 11/22

5) "Product lines" This is not universal for all Twitter accounts, but it's worked for me. Some Twitter accounts' tweets are all of the same type, or come in one of 2-3 types. E.g. @twominutepapers makes 5-min YouTube videos on AI papers. That's it. 12/22

Think about their tweets like shoes, rolling off a conveyor belt at a shoe factory. The thing to figure out is not how to make a good custom one-off-shoe, over and over again, but rather how to build a good shoemaking machine - a good "product line". 13/22

So, instead of thinking about and experimenting with one-off tweets that you think will do well, experiment with "product lines" of tweets. This is the insight I had after two weeks on Twitter that took me from zero to very rapid growth. 14/22

Kinda crazy but I made a spreadsheet of all of the big AI accounts on Twitter and YouTube, and wrote down what I thought their "product line"/"value-add" was. Then I brainstormed what valuable "product lines" I could offer. The two I decided to try for AI Pub, namely: 15/22

1) Long-form, conceptual explainer threads of technical AI concepts + papers 2) Weekly "Best of AI Twitter" roundup thread (see below eg) Were instant hits. (Btw, "product line" advice is not universal! Some accounts are better off without it + more variety/personality.) 16/22

6) Formatting For long threads, the first sentence or two - your "lead" - will determine if people read it. Optimize ruthlessly, spend lots of time crafting it. Spaced out, short sentences are easier to read on Twitter. Include photos + gifs whenever possible. 17/22

Consider your "profile conversion rate" - what % of people who visit your profile click the "follow" button? You can optimize conversion rate by having a decent profile photo + banner, and be clear about your authority and "service"/"value-add" in your bio. 18/22

Don't go overboard with the formatting stuff. In the limit, optimizing for adding gifs + photos, short sentences, optimizing your lead, etc will degenerate your content into low-IQ clickbait. But keep it in mind! It helps on the margin. 19/22

7) Iterate Last and most importantly, iterate. Just try lots of stuff and see what sticks. Twitter is the optimal social platform for this since each Tweet/thread doesn't take much time to put together - unlike, e.g., writing an essay or making a polished YouTube video. 20/22

So you can run lots of experiments. AI Pub started out as "Computer Vision Oasis" with a stupid monkey profile pic, it was anon and I referred to myself as "Computer Vision Monkey", I wrote a blog nobody read and thought I would sell courses on advanced computer vision. 21/22

Since starting the account in late July I've done ~ one major pivot/iteration each week - and am still doing so! Now mostly with the AI Pub Talent Community / recruiting service. Will do more iterations on content in the coming month. Anyways that's all! Keep at it. :) 22/22

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