Ahmed El Sayyad, a Hopkins freshman from Gaithersburg, Md., accumulated a prodigious 73,500 followers over the last four years to his Twitter page. Despite an impressive fan base, his tweets are commonplace; he gains his followers through neither gut-splitting wit nor tearjerking inspiration. He is neither a celebrity in the United States nor in his native country of Egypt. He is no different than any other Hopkins freshman, bombarding his Twitter page with image after image of his newly purchased Hopkins gear.
El Sayyad uses three strategies to obtain and maintain followers.
“The three hints I always give people who ask me how I got my followers are that I really like public speaking, I like marketing, and I establish connections,” he said.
El Sayyad seldom used his Twitter at the beginning of his sophomore year of high school.
"I didn't even think Twitter was cool...I rarely used it," he says.
Towards the end of his sophomore year of high school, he began a career in online advertising.
“My friend from home was running a forum [islamicboard.com] and he was telling me how he had maybe 2000 members on that forum.
Because it was so active he actually got $500 per month in advertising space [for each] ad sold...I was like ‘wow, he's literally making money from nothing’...and he wanted me to join him... it's how I found out that social media could give you lots of money for very little effort.”
On this website, El Sayyad advertised his Twitter, sending his number of followers skyrocketing. The count increased exponentially once he established connections with his new consumers.
Accumulating Twitter followers was never his intention but was a side effect of his business.
"When I reached maybe 50,000 followers, I started getting a huge influx [of followers]...solely because I had so many followers. I was actually getting directmessages from people asking me ‘Why do you have so many followers?’ I'd never met them in my life! They'd follow me...It was like a snowball effect."
El Sayyad is wary about divulging all the connections that led to his overwhelming success.
“[My friends] have a competition back home to see who finds out the secret first, and I promised that if anyone actually found it, I would [admit it] to them.”
Maintaining the promise he made to his friends, he is very careful when it come to revealing the sources of his connections, though he speaks openly, albeit somewhat vaguely, about his marketing strategies.
Though El Sayyad’s connections may remain a mystery and his “code” relatively uncracked to the general population, he does reveal a connection with Apple Incorporated. This connection is made obvious every time he pulls out his iPhone.
“I have the iOS6 [operating system] already.. it's going to be on the new iPhone; it's not available in stores yet...it's a perk I got from having a few connections with the Twitter thing.”
El Sayyad also equates a small percentage of his fan base to his career as a local motivational speaker.
Aside from his career as a Twitter tycoon, El Sayyad is just another student. His hobbies include basketball, debate, and hanging out in his dorm in McCoy. Above all, he loves to explore technology.
"I modified [my iPhone] slightly. I changed it so the apple on the back lights up."
While El Sayyad entered Hopkins as a BME, he quickly switched to Public Health studies, a seemingly staunch contrast from his technology talents.
"Originally I was a BME...and it fits with my whole technology thing... but because I want to focus on my pre-med requisites, I didn't want to overchallenge myself...[Public Health] a really open field and I feel like I can also do other things with it, like business and marketing"