You’ve sent your first tweets, creating interesting and engaging content for your potential followers. The other side to Twitter, of course, is the stream of information brought to you by the people you follow. And if you follow people, chances are they will take a look at your profile and decide to follow you in return (which is why setting up a profile with some engaging tweets first was important!).
One of the key features of Twitter is that unlike other platforms such as Facebook or LinkedIn, following is not necessarily reciprocal – the people you follow may not be the people who follow you (although they may be). There is no obligation to follow someone just because they follow you. Some people have a more-or-less even match of followers and following; others follow lots of people but don’t tweet much themselves and therefore don’t have many followers; and some tweeters, usually very well-known people or institutions, may have a large number of followers as they tweet a lot but don’t actually follow as many people, using Twitter more as a broadcast medium to get their message out there (this isn’t recommended by Mark).
As an individual professional, you’re probably going to get the most benefit in the first instance for the first option, having roughly the same number of followers and following. Twitter works best as a dialogue, and this won’t happen if you’re doing all the talking, or have no one to talk to! This is true even for those tweeting in an official capacity on behalf of their department or research group, although they may have more followers than people they follow, it’s still useful to follow some people, services or institutions so you have other useful information to pass on as well as just promoting your own interests. And following people will give you a sense of how it’s done when you send your own tweets.
How many people you follow is up to you, although perhaps 200 is a good number to aim for (not all today!), to ensure a useful stream of content. Think about what sort of information you want access to, and what sorts of tweeters are likely to offer it (see the list below for some suggestions). It is an organic process and will take time to build up, and don’t forget that you can always unfollow people if the content they tweet is not useful to you! The ‘follow’ button will simply turn to ‘unfollow’, giving you this option. There are ways to find out if you’ve been unfollowed, but there is no automatic alert and generally people don’t bother to check!
To follow someone, simply click on their profile (their name or picture) and click the ‘Follow’ button below their details:
So how do you find people to follow? When you first sign up to Twitter, it will suggest people for you to follow, or invite you to search for names or keywords, but this can be a bit hit and miss. Some people give up at this point, thinking it’s all pop stars and people tweeting about their breakfast!
At this point, it might be useful to know who else is participating in the programme, so check the list I made for you, so you can find and follow each other!
1. People with similar interests. You can find them by using the Twitter search function. Try using keywords with hashtags as well.
2. Professional Bodies For updates about events, news, important issues, professional bodies and publications can be useful. Try for example, @jsource (news and commentary about Canadian journalism), @caj (the Canadian Association of Journalists), @CPRSNational (the Canadian Public Relations Society) and @IABCLondon (the London Ontario chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators.)
3. Professional Media You may want to follow the media that is of interest to you. Following individual journalists too might be a way to hear about interesting stories or even raise your own profile in the press. Many journals also have their own Twitter accounts which they may use to interact with potential contributors or interviewees.
5. Thought Leaders & Experts This might seem obvious, but some thought leaders are definitely worth your time. For example, when it comes to thinking about social media metrics, I’m interested in what Guy Kawasaki has to say. Here is a list that might get you started: Thought Leaders. You may also want to check out this giant list of lists for other ideas.
Twitter is partly about the information you tweet, but also about the information you gain from the people you follow. Spend some time reading your twitter feed to see what comes up!
How to grow your Twitter feed
Twitter will suggest people for you to follow based on who you’re currently following. This can be a bit random at first, as you’re not following many people so there’s nothing for its algorithm to work on. There are other ways to add people to your Twitter feed:
Snowball – look at the profile of the people you’re following – who do they follow, and who else is following them? You can see who’s following you, or anyone else, by going to your or their profile, and clicking on ‘followers’.
Seach – use the search function for people you know. This works for people and organizations.
Retweets – people you follow will retweet things they think might be of interest. Keep an eye out for interesting retweets from accounts you don’t yet follow, and add them. We’ll cover retweeting in future Days.
Hashtags – Joining a discussion around a hashtag is a good way to find more people interested in that topic or event. We’ll also cover hashtags in future Days.
#FF or #FollowFriday – this is a convention on Twitter that on Fridays you can tweet the names of people you think are worth following to others. Watch out for these, or tweet your followers and ask them for recommendations!
Follows You will be notified when new people follow you – look at their profile to see if they are someone you want to follow back. If you suspect one of your new followers is spam, you can ‘block’ them using the three dots icon next to the ‘Follow” button, and selecting ‘block’. It’s as well to do this, especially as people may be looking through your followers for ideas of who to follow, and if lots of your followers are spam, it doesn’t look good!
So, go find some people to follow, and in spare moments through the day, watch the feed of tweets and information they’re sending.
Bonus Link: 31 Twitter TipsDay Four