You know what the biggest challenge is for brand-new Twitter users? It’s not finding things to say – anyone who has wandered into a room and said to themselves aloud “Now what am I doing here?” knows it’s easy to blather on about stuff. No, the real challenge lies in finding people who want to listen to you, and whom you find interesting in return.
Twitter’s “recommended” list… isn’t
The problem is, that from Twitter’s website, you’re not given much more than the “Recommended Twitterers” list of about 20 people, mainly big celebrities. And frankly, big celebrities are very low on my list of people I want to interact with on Twitter. Ashton Kutcher’s social calendar just doesn’t intersect with mine all that often. I’d far sooner find people who actually share my interests, or my geography, or even who are at a similar stage of life, and I’ll bet that you feel the same way, too.
So here are my suggestions for tuning your Twitter radar, and finding some actual signals amongst the noise:
What’s your purpose on Twitter?
First, ask yourself why you want to use Twitter. If it’s so you can follow Oprah’s doings between shows and magazines, then by all means, follow @oprah. But if you have a local business and you want to engage your customers and other local people, you’ll need a different strategy than following Twitter’s recommended list. You may need a different strategy again if you want to discuss issues with people further afield.
It’s not what you know – it’s who you know
So start with what you know. Or who you know. Twitter makes this easy by offering to go through your contact list – provided you can supply it on Gmail, AOL or Yahoo. Not on any of these? Then I suggest you get an account with Gmail and import your contacts just so Twitter can search it. You may never use Gmail again – though in my opinion, it’s a much better email interface than anything else on the market, and you might just be converted – as I was. But I digress. If you find people you already know on Twitter, you probably have things in common with them already.
Friends of friends are good, too
Next, take a look at who your new-found Twitter contacts are following. Chances are, it’s more people with interests you share. Twitter has just made this research much easier by giving the location and the latest tweets on both “follower” and “following” lists. Where you find things in common, add them to your list.
Third, do a Twitter search of key words that are important to you. You’ll find people who are talking about those subjects. This is great if you are a designer looking for other people in your field, or a realtor, or a social media fanatic.
Call in the reinforcements
Fourth, use an application like TwitterLocal or Twellow to find people in your geographic area. Twellow lists the most active/prominent Twitterers first, while TwitterLocal feeds you a geographically defined Twitter stream in real time. Both these functions are pretty useful!
Finally, start talking about the things that make your heart beat faster. If it’s window coverings, tell people about the best way to manage all this hot summer sunshine. If it’s a conference you are planning for this fall, talk about who is planning to be there. People will search for these things (hey, you are rarely alone in your interests!) and they will find you. Then follow them back. It’s the Twitter way.
When will you have enough people? When you have a Twitter party taking place on your computer, and it feels like you need to call the fire marshall. More on managing the crowd in another post!
* OK armchair grammarians, I know that correct English usage would be “whom” do you follow, but really… does anyone speak like that any more?