Vote for Pedro

One of the biggest challenges in finding people on Twitter is sifting through the people that suck at it. Let’s face it, a lot of people (or bots) suck at Twitter and make the overall Twitter-experience a painful one.

There are steps you can follow that will maximize what you get from the service regardless of whether you’re in it for business, for pleasure, or somewhere in between. It’s a challenge to create a Twitter stream that fits your needs, but it’s not impossible. Some opt for the “follow very few approach” to keep their stream as clean as possible; but there are so many things that can be missed by this strategy. If social media is about sharing and discovering, even a personal Twitter account that only wants real engagement from people they know can benefit from branching out a little bit into the darker corners of the Twitterverse.

Sometimes, you just have to know where to start.

What Do You Want Twitter To Do For You?

Goals

The beauty of Twitter is that it serves many purposes at once, or no purpose at all depending on your perspective. People have choices as to how they want Twitter to work for them, and that’s the key to the success of the company. What do you want it to be?

It doesn’t have to serve a single purpose. In fact, it’s best used as a tool that serves multiple purposes. Here are some of the popular uses, but there are new ones popping up every day. Knowing what Twitter is for you is the first step towards finding people to follow that don’t suck.

For Personal

  • News Source – Information on the Internet is spread more quickly on Twitter than any other form. As earthquakes happen, people are able to Tweet about it before the shaking stops. Pictures can be taken and shared (and reshared) worldwide during events. Journalists are turning 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 plenty of people who share with their loved ones on Twitter rather than/as well as on Facebook.
  • Meeting New People – One of the initial promises of a world wide web was the ability to meet new people and share in their lives. Distance is no longer a concern. Most barriers have been dropped. Twitter is an excellent 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 every minute. 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.

For Business

  • Marketing – While this is normally the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Twitter as a business tool, it’s not necessarily for everyone. There are other ways to use Twitter very effectively on a professional level that have nothing to do with marketing.
  • Broadcasting – Getting the news out about your organization is 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 out there.
  • Customer Relations – Many companies are able to use Twitter as a way to keep their current customers happy. While it is still indirectly a marketing component since it’s like a public CRM, those who want to succeed in this area must be willing to put marketing second and the customers first.
  • Search Engine Optimization – Despite having 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

Eyeball

If, despite every effort to encourage you to keep your following down, you still want to follow everyone and anyone, then skip this section altogether. Here, we will discuss attributes for vetting the people you follow by identifying particular traits that make them good for you and your goals. It takes time and effort, but it will be worth it.

It means that you’ll have to (gulp!) look at their Twitter streams.

For Personal

  • Conversational – This is the second easiest part of the equation. You can see the difference between a broadcaster and a conversationalist by looking for @replies. If they aren’t talking to other people, they’re probably not going to be talking to you, either.
  • Interesting – Are you looking for funny quips and links? Breaking news of general interest or in a particular niche? Fantastic and brilliant words of wisdom? If Twitter is going to entertain and/or inform you, the people you follow should be entertaining and/or informative. It sounds simple, but too often we hear about people thinking 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 never Tweet. Look at the number of Tweets they have in the upper-right corner of their profile. Then, check the dates and times on their stream. Twitter is a river of sorts – 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 easiest 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.

For Business

  • 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

Searching

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.

For Personal

  • 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.

For Business

  • 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.

Other Tools

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.

Written by JD Rucker
+JD Rucker is Editor at Soshable, a Social Media Marketing Blog. He is a Christian, a husband, a father, and founder of Dealer Authority. He drinks a lot of coffee, usually in the form of a 5-shot espresso over ice. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.