Let’s face it, lots of people (or bots) make the overall Twitter-experience a painful one.
There are things you can do that will ensure that you get what you are looking for from the service regardless of whether you’re in it for business, pleasure, or somewhere in between. It’s not easy to create a Twitter stream that fits your needs, but it’s not impossible. Some choose the “follow very few approach” to keep their stream clean; but there are many things that can be missed by this strategy. If social media is about sharing, even a personal Twitter account that only wants real engagement from people they know can benefit from branching out into the darker corners of the Twitterverse.
Sometimes, you just have to know where to start.
What Do You Want Twitter To Do?
The beauty of Twitter is that it serves many purposes at once, or no purpose at all depending on you. You have choices as to how you want Twitter to work, and that’s the key to the success of the Twitter. What do you want it to be?
It doesn’t need to serve a single purpose. Actually, it’s best used as a tool that serves multiple purposes. Here’s some of the popular uses, but there are new ones popping up all the time. Knowing what Twitter is for you is the first step towards finding people to follow that aren’t douchebags.
- News Source – Information on the Web is spread more quickly on Twitter than any other medium. When earthquakes happen, people can Tweet about it before the shaking stops. Pictures can be taken and shared (and reshared) worldwide during events. Journalists have turned to Twitter to get the breaking of the breaking in news.
- Communication with Friends and Family – While Facebook has built a stronghold in this arena, there are still many people who share with their loved ones on Twitter rather than or as well as on Facebook.
- Meeting New People – One of the initial promises of the web is the ability to meet new people and share in their lives. Distance is no longer a factor. Barriers have been dropped. Twitter is an tremendous source for exploring humanity.
- Entertainment – Twitter’s 140-character limit allows it to be a hub for people who are funny, profound, and knowledgeable. Some of the best LOL moments happen on Twitter streams. It’s not for everyone, but many have found Twitter to be the best casual entertainment distraction.
- Microblogging – Yes, there are still millions who use the tool for its original purpose. Microblogging on a personal level can be therapeutic, offers a quick venue for thoughts, and keeps a permanent record of personal events for future reference.
- Marketing – This is normally the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Twitter as a business tool, but it’s not necessarily for everyone. There are other ways to use Twitter on a professional level.
- Broadcasting – Getting the news out about your organization can be challenging with all of the noise on the Internet. Half of the tech headlines, for example, have to do with Apple, Facebook, Google, or Microsoft, leaving the other half to be split by the thousands of other tech companies.
- Customer Relations – Many companies are able to use Twitter to keep their current customers happy. It is still indirectly a marketing component, like a public CRM and those who want to succeed in this area must be willing to put marketing second and the customers first.
- Search Engine Optimization – Though it utilizes nofollow links that prevent it from being a link-building tool, Twitter has been acknowledged by both Google and Bing as a component of both their search results as well as their search-ranking algorithms.
Again, there are dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of other uses for Twitter as a personal or business tool. These cover the basics. Selecting what your goals are is the first step towards finding the right people to follow.
Attributes that Don’t Suck
If, in spite of my effort to encourage you to keep your following low, you still want to follow everyone and their mother, then skip this section altogether. Here, we will consider the attributes for vetting the folks you follow by determining particular traits that make them good for you and your goals. It takes time and effort, but its worth it.
It means that you’ll have to (gulp!) look at their Twitter streams!
- Conversational – This is the 2nd easiest part of the formula. You can easily identify the difference between a broadcaster and a conversationalist by looking for @replies. If they’re not talking to other people, they’re probably not going to be engaging to you, either.
- Interesting – Are you looking for funny quips and links? Breaking news? General interest in a particular niche? Fantastic words of wisdom? If Twitter is going to entertain and/or educate you, the people you follow should be entertaining and/or educational. It sounds easy, but too frequently we hear about people believing their Twitter stream is boring. The power to change that is in your hands.
- Goldilocks – Some people dominate others’ Twitter streams. Remember, the general view on Twitter and most tools is chronological, so if you follow accounts that are Tweeting 100 times a day, chances are they are going to make you miss others’. Conversely, in most cases (other than celebrities or companies posting occasional news) we don’t want to follow people who don’t Tweet. Look at how many Tweets they have in the upper-right corner of their profile. Check the dates and times on their stream. Twitter is like a river – the more water someone contributes, the less water you’ll see from others you follow.
- Profile Pic – You can tell a lot about what kind of Twitter user someone is by their profile pic, which makes this the simplest component in the equation. Are they using the 1995 spam-technique of using a screenshot of a Victoria Secrets model? Is it a picture of a brand or logo? Do they have an avatar at all? Depending on your goals, use the profile picture to do the initial vetting, but don’t be fooled. Every now and then, that picture that looks like a Victoria Secrets model is actually their real picture.
- Retweets – Look for “RT” or “Via” in their Tweets. From a business perspective, we want to get as many people retweeting our messages as possible. In particular, finding people who are demonstrating an interest in your niche is a bonus.
- No Trolling – Do not open yourself up to abuse by following someone who obviously hates the world. If they are attacking other people or businesses in their public Twitter stream, they’re probably not the right accounts to follow.
- Klout – As more tools integrate Klout into their displays, it becomes easier to identify “influencers” who can have a more dramatic effect on your brand. It can take time to vet everyone individually, but knowing who to aggressively engage with can save more time and energy in the long run.
- Followers – Most put this up at the top. It shouldn’t be. We’ve demonstrated in the past that larger accounts are not necessarily more important – not even close in many cases. Still, it’s a good indicator if you do the math properly. Someone who is following 2000 people and are being followed by 800 will not only not be able to follow you back, but are likely not even real. Then again, someone with 5000 followers who is following 44 of them back will also not follow you without reason.
It’s important to use your follows wisely. Following too many people can make you look less important. Be frugal and follow only those who can add value to your stream as well as your business.
Where to Find the Right People
There are dozens of quality tools that help you find people by interest, location, niche, or any number of criteria…
…and still, we recommend Twitter Advanced Search, Twitter Lists, and Twitter Recommendations.
Don’t worry. We’ll document a nice list of tools that we’ve used below. As good as all of them are, most users will get more benefit out of using the native functionality.
- Advanced Search – The native search functionality is fine, but advanced search allows you to find people you know, people who are close to you, or people Tweeting about particular subjects of interest. It can also help you identify other people in a niche. For example, if you want to find funny links, you may do a search for Tweets that contain the word “hilarious” and have links in them.
- Twitter Lists – By plugging into the collective mind of Twitter, you can look for people through lists that others have created and vetted. For example, if you are wanting to learn more about Twitter and the way to succeed at it, you may want to find and follow people on a Twitter Rockstar list.
- Twitter Recommendations – It’s like playing “7 Degrees of Separation.” If you like one of CNN’s accounts, it will recommend other accounts similar to CNN. No action on your part – just follow CNN and Twitter will start recommending more.
- Advanced Search – This is your greatest tool, particularly if you’re a local, niche, or both types of business. Find people Tweeting in your geographical area quickly and easily. It’s the same with niche – pick keywords that match. You will find people to not only consider following, but in many cases you’ll be able to engage in a conversation with them immediately.
- Twitter Lists – This is pretty easy. If you have a business in Oklahoma City, find lists of people or businesses in the area such as this one. If you sell services to car dealers, find a bunch of them through lists as well. Other people have already done the work. You can benefit from them.
- Twitter Recommendations – Using recommendations is particularly effective in finding people similar to the ones you’re currently following. If you roll with a tight list, the recommendations should be spot on.
This article wouldn’t be complete without a nice list of tools that you can use to find the right people.
Once you have a nice following, it’s time to use Timely, Flowtown’s awesome Twitter tool designed to make Twitter for business as easy and effective as possible.