Who to follow – and not to follow – on Twitter
During my introductory class on the basics of Twitter, almost every client asks me, “How do I get followers?” I try to explain that the question really should be, “Who should I follow on twitter?” While your followers ARE key to the success of your Twitter efforts, the difference between reaching out to follow those that are of interest to you and gathering followers just to increase your number of followers is important. On Twitter, as in most of life, quality is more important than quantity. Having thousands of followers, if they are only interested in broadcasting their SPAM, is really of no value to you. And it will give you the mistaken impression that Twitter is only full of SPAMMERs. If you focus on offering valuable information and search for those that are sharing information of interest to you, you will find the Twitterverse a useful and positive place to learn, grow your sphere of influence and find real business leads.
Keep in mind; even if you don’t have a fleet of followers, by tweeting, you are sending info out into the larger worldwide web. Searches, by you or by others, are of the entire live Twitter feed, not just of your tribe. If you are tweeting about travel and someone is searching on a keyword you use, they will find you, whether they are a follower of yours or not. And if they contact you, be sure to follow them – that will be a valuable connection!
[Tweet “Even if u don’t have a fleet of followers, by tweeting, u r sending info out into worldwide web”]
Start out by following people you already know (friends, co-workers, clients, customers and friends) and those you know of and respect. Think big – this is a platform where you can follow anyone with a public account. Follow experts in your industry. Search the Twitter stream for people using your keywords in their tweets. Keep an eye out as you read blog posts and check email signature footers for the Twitter icon (sometimes a single lowercase “t”, sometimes a small bird) or an @name. Check out their profiles and see if they are sharing helpful advice and suggestions. Keep in mind that everyone you follow need not be directly related to your business or field. Like networking in the real world, meeting people is not only about what they can do for you but also about what you can do for them. Or sometimes, follow people just for the fun of it – a follow-worthy post may make you think, offer insights you hadn’t considered or just make you smile.
Hashtags – words or phrases with the # sign in front of them – are another way to identify people who are tweeting about topics of interest to you. Clicking on a term with a hashtag symbol will automatically pull up all tweets with that word in them. This is a quick way to identify tweets of interest and you can then decide if you want to follow their authors. Note that a hashtag can have multiple words – or can be an abbreviation – but has no spaces nor punctuation.
As you search on your keywords and hashtags and visit various profiles, and follow the ones that are of interest. To continue with the travel theme, say you run a hotel in Paris, France. Your search keywords might be “trip”, “#travel”, “Paris” etc. As you look at the results, click on the conversations that are about your city (there will probably be all sorts of other results about Ms Hilton and possibly Paris, Texas among others). See where you can offer advice or assistance. Hopefully you publish an e-newsletter about your hotel with suggestions for local dining, advice for first time visitors, maybe the hours for visiting the Eiffel Tower. Introduce yourself and offer them a copy. If you see that they will be arriving later that week, let them know if it will be chillier than usual so they can pack an extra sweater. Offer them a coupon for a free drink in your hotel bar. Most likely they will respond positively. And while they may not stay in your hotel this trip, maybe they will stop by and see you, and if nothing else, they will probably follow you. Again, this is a valuable addition to your group.
You will, upon entering the Twitterverse, probably find a large number of people that will rush to follow you. Some may be real live people but many will be on auto pilot or will be bots; programs that troll Twitter looking for people to add to their lists. These automated services follow anyone they can find, for the express purpose of sending you SPAM of one kind or another. Tips and links to get rich quick seem most prevalent, followed closely by offers to help you find thousands of Twitter followers. I would highly suggest vetting these followers before you consider following them back. See what they tweet and determine if they offer anything of value. See if they have a profile picture and a bio. See if they have clothes on in their photo – and hey, depending on your goals, maybe that will help you decide that you DO want to follow them – but my point is this, do not necessarily auto-follow back. Especially people (or @names) that offer nothing but a repetitive stream of SPAM. As you follow these steps, your list of followers WILL grow, and you don’t want to dilute your tweet stream with their SPAM messages.
I have seen articles about how to determine who to follow with criteria indicating a large minimum number of followers and tweets. I tend to disagree. First, check to see the quality of the tweets – 1500 tweets on ‘how to grow your’… anything is probably not full of value. And just because someone has thousands of followers does not mean that those are actual people, it may just mean that they are part of a ring of auto-follows. While a tribe of followers numbering in the hundreds of thousands of real people (like Mari Smith or other active and hugely popular Twitter users) IS a sign of their genuine value, follower numbers alone are not necessarily a good benchmark. And I would venture to say that a real person, with just a few followers that has just joined Twitter may actually be a great connection! Their stream is sparse enough that your tweets will be seen and hopefully appreciated. They will have the time to respond and start conversations, to build connections and maybe even share your message via re-tweet!
Open and read through your Twitter feed regularly. Eventually, you will be able to check it less often but at first, it may be best to check in frequently (a few times a day). Pay attention to the people you are following, watch what they say and how. Learn the personalities of the various people and interact accordingly. Many people mix work and personal life on Twitter so don’t be afraid to let people know who you really are – you are not just a business profile, so let your personality shine thru. If someone is commenting on an extremely complicated recipe he is preparing and you like to cook, you may want to add a suggestion. Follow up the next day to see how it turned out!
By following these easy steps, you too can grow a large tribe of ‘true’ followers. Soon you will need to think about follower management tools – but that is a topic for another article. For now, enjoy and engage in the conversation!
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