I’m writing this piece for one reason: The next time someone asks me about how I use social media, I can simply direct them to this article.
My wonderful friends and followers online have made me the most followed Imam on social media in the West. Today, I have a weekly retweet reach of 120,000,000 on Twitter alone (SumAll). Through social media, I have influenced and set the framework for media networks around the world. In the last fortnight, I gained 45,000 new followers on Twitter alone. The speed at which my Twitter following is growing, I might reach my first million followers before Christmas.
So, how did I get here? And what are my methods?
My Story With Censorship
Many on social media remember that in 2016, I only had around 20,000 Twitter followers and less than 5,000 on Facebook. This mean’t that I didn’t have the reach that I wanted. Several events took place in 2016 and 2017 that required me to defend myself online. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my voice heard. In addition to a weak social media presence, I faced heavy censorship; for example, my Facebook page was unpublished eight times for no good reasons. I gave an entire speech about this in the European Parliament. Two Islamist governments have also tried getting me suspended from Twitter and Facebook, but have failed.
I realized that if I didn’t grow my online following, I wouldn’t be part of the conversation. Having a decent following online also makes irresponsible reporters think twice about twisting the truth, because they’d risk being exposed online.
One day in 2017, I saw a tweet that really bothered me, and believe me, I have very thick skin. The tweet had thousands of retweets, and nearly 20,000 likes. Nothing in the tweet was factual. My response to the tweet hardly attracted any attention. This was when I had had enough. I called a friend that worked in Channel 7, and asked them to find out where I can learn to use social media the proper and professional way.
Long story short, I ended up enrolling in a 10-week course. It cost thousands of dollars, but it sure did pay off. I applied everything I learned, and I still do this very day.
I cannot include 10-week’s worth of material in this article, but I will share the main points that acquired me over 630,000 followers in less than three years; most of them being loyal supporters.
I must also admit that I did receive some assistance from a popular singer. She followed me on Twitter in 2017 and told me that she liked my tweets against terrorists and extremists. In January of 2018, I met her and her manager who then showed me how he ran the singer’s Twitter account.
By now, I had realized that there’s another world to social media, one that I was about to experience.
1. I Have a Plan
Once you fire a tweet, you no longer control it, and it has the potential to attract a mixed audience. That’s exactly what I aim for: A mixed audience that comes from as many countries as possible, and from as many backgrounds and professions as possible. This means that I tweet not only about religion, but on a wide range of issues (especially if they’re trending).
2. Wording a Tweet
Wording a tweet is more important than tweeting it. If you’re trying to get a message across, then your sentences need to be crafted in a way that attracts the reader. This is how tweets ‘go viral.’
Here is one example (which I prepared/tweeted a few days ago in order to include into this article):
My good friend Hatem made a great tweet, and I retweeted it to my followers. Then I made a similar tweet, with less text and strong punchlines. Mine received more interactions despite both tweets being on my timeline at almost the same time.
Does spending 4 years in a refugee camp as a child enough reason to make a US House Rep side with an anti the US regime, use their narrative and their own coined terminology? pic.twitter.com/gNbnvQ0Dou
— Hatem El-Gamasy (@HatemGamasy) January 9, 2020
Same talking points.
Same positions. pic.twitter.com/dZ7cOPchAl
— Imam of Peace (@Imamofpeace) January 9, 2020
This was a basic experiment which I did to include in this article.
3. Prime Time
The time in which I fire a tweet is very important to me. I do all of my retweets during the day, and leave the afternoons and evenings for my personal tweets. I tweet my important tweets based on New York timing, and I aim for anywhere between 6:00 – 9:00 PM.
If there’s a tweet that I really want to ‘go viral’, then I tweet at a time when most important cities are wide and awake: 6:30 AM in London, is 10:15 PM in Los Angeles and approaching 5:15 PM in Sydney. This is an excellent time to tweet because the ages I target are awake at 6:30 AM (most check their social media first thing in the morning on the bus, train or during breakfast) and socialize after work and before they sleep, making 5:15 and 10:15 PM important times to tweet. The next day, I retweet the same tweet for those who live in New York and some parts of Canada, such as Toronto. That way I get maximum coverage for my tweet.
I generally avoid breaking stories on Fridays and Saturdays because most people are out during evenings, and are ready for work or college/uni by Sunday evening.
I follow many people on Twitter. While many people may think it’s to get other users to follow me back, that’s not really the case. Most of the people I follow are already my followers, and I offer to follow them:
Who wants a follow back? Who have I promised a follow and missed? Will my follow make a friend happy? Tag them. Spread harmony and PEACE!
— Imam of Peace (@Imamofpeace) November 23, 2019
The reason I do this is because:
1. It makes them happy,
2. It hides my contacts. Following only 100-200 people allows my haters and enemies to figure out who I am connecting with online, and possibly speaking to in private. They use this to try and spread false information. However, if I’m following 50,000 people, good luck figuring out who I am connecting with online.
I generally only retweet friends and those I consider to be part of my social media circle (There are some exceptions to this. For example, if I am covering conflict I will retweet what news outlets report. Also, some friends might not want me to retweet or tag them).
The reason behind keeping my retweets limited to a number of accounts is to keep my timeline clean, simple and consistent. Also, retweets support other accounts. Frequently retweeting someone else’s tweets gains them thousands of followers over a short period of time. I limit this support to my friends alone.
My followers trust me to provide them with decent content. I introduce my friends to my followers by retweeting them. That way we grow as an online community with a significant online reach when combined.
Facebook has a world of its own. Even though I have 286,000+ followers, I consider Twitter to be my main platform. A son of a great President (you can guess who) once said to me: “My father says that Twitter is more important than any platform. All big discussions start on Twitter, then move on to other apps (such as Facebook).”
And based on my experience, I found that to be accurate.
7. Media Manager
I don’t advise hiring a media manager. Learn to manage your social media by yourself. There’s nothing they can do that you can’t learn to do.