"How did you get all those followers?" is pretty much the digital age's equivalent of "What is the meaning of life?" Like everything in 2014, we want it all, we want it now and we want it online. The digital age has bred a new generation of amazing and intelligent young people who, due to the nature of the digital era, are also incredibly impatient, have low boredom tolerances and a need for immediacy.

We love Twitter for rapid interaction, ease of use and because it's an online gateway to hordes of potential followers (and website visitors). Followers mean popularity, which in turn means trust, which then in turn could lead to customers and brand recognition. There are numerous ways to tap into this glowing hub of activity, watch Eric Kuhn's video for some insider tips.

As Twitter is such a fast flowing social network, doing simple things can often bring you great results very quickly. For example, running a competition is going to get you noticed faster than following someone in the hope they will follow you back because a competition gives Twitter users something that they want. Twitter may be fast and furious but by investing a little effort, it will reward you, eventually. This article will explain some of the ways you can quickly gain those much sought after Twitter followers.

Give it away, give it away, give it away now!

Perhaps the most obvious and probably quickest method of attracting new followers on Twitter is by running a competition. Giving away freebies to new followers will certainly attract people as everyone loves to get something for free and very soon you will see your follower count rise. Just remember, followers are great, but followers who actually want to interact with you are best, so to be really effective, your giveaway prize should be something that is relevant to the type of users you want in your follow list. Jeff Bullas has some great ideas for Twitter contests in his blog post.

The key is to ensure that your giveaway directly aids you in accessing the right kind of followers, not ones who just want a free iPad. Check out what Sitepoint did for advice on how to ensure your competition attracts the right people and can handle the influx of traffic. Rob Ousby´s article has good information on how to run a successful Twitter giveaway.

Talk the talk

Some people seem to have it all. You know the kind of people who can light up a room, the kind everyone wants to either be or be with. They're popular with their engaging personality and intelligent conversation and seem to always be doing something exciting or inspiring. The same applies online. The accounts who have got a good amount of decent followers are engaging with their flock. The top 20 brands on Twitter all ask questions, seek opinion, give advice and recommend things to their followers and guess what, they are rewarded.

People will read what you have to say if you have taken the time to write it in an engaging manner, in a style that appeals to them. This is particularly important if you're a business. Always tweet ¨on brand¨ so that your brand and tweet stay firmly in people's minds. Similarly, users are more encouraged to click your links and give you a retweet you if you have made them smile or stirred them in some way.

If you're speaking your followers' language, they will feel engaged with you and if your followers like what you have to say then they are more likely to stick around, mention you in their own tweets and encourage follows from other Twitter users. This blogger noticed that the days he interacted with Twitter users, were the days he seemed to gain the most new followers. @ replies are a great sign that you're being noticed so as you would in any normal conversation, respond to them and keep them tweeting with you!

Know when your audience is online

The, reason for this is simple; if they can see your tweets then, there is a bigger chance they will engage with you and quickly. This has now been made really nice and easy with handy tools like this analysis feature by Followerwonk. Analysing your Twitter usage enables you to see when your followers are most active, so that you can set about trying to tweet when they are. You can even schedule tweets if you're in a different timezone to your followers. Beware that you could miss out on actual interaction with your followers though if you don't have a human taking care of this. Being online when your target group is online also allows you to tweet about current affairs that may be relevant to you and them, rather than 8 hours later (a lifetime on Twitter) when the dust has settled.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

Data is incredibly important for making decisions. Having access to good analytics can make an enormous difference to how effective your social media campaign performs. Monitoring your performance is now incredibly easy. Lots of social media dashboards have arrived on the market in the last couple of years and they are rapidly becoming more advanced. Kristi Hines wrote an excellent article on how to create the ultimate social media dashboard. However, be warned. Just having the data alone won't be enough to drive your business forward - you need to have a very strong social media strategy.

So what now?

Please don't pay to get followers. If you can use the methods discussed in this article, you will gain followers quickly without expensive adverts and you´ll ensure that you gain genuine followers, not those who just want a freebie or those that are actually fake accounts.

The novelty of a competition has still not worn off so follow the advice and make clever giveaways to people who are going to appreciate you in the long run.

Be genuine in your tweets. If an existing follower likes what you have to say, they could retweet you and retweets are potentially priceless. Conversations are great and on Twitter, it's no different - chat away! Make them smile and like all the popular people, you'll soon have the following you deserve. Ultimately, the point is to remember that hard work will pay off.

Remember not to neglect other social networks though. Each social network has its advantages and disadvantages - some are great for SEO while others are fantastic for driving direct traffic. Generally, the same growth rules apply to most social networks.