Thursday, October 1, 2009

How do you know who to follow on Twitter?

I was talking the other day to someone who was trying to get her head around Twitter. She asked me how you know who to follow on Twitter. Here are a few tips from my experience.

Twitter introduction
The first thing I would do is to find someone you know and trust on Twitter or a key person in their field, and have a look at the people they are following. It is highly likely that they will be following people who are enjoyable and worth following.

Another strategy is to ask a Twitter user to introduce you to their network. Hopefully, some people will follow you and you can start to build your Twitter network from there.

You can also start by looking at the many articles on the Internet about this topic such as this one: "Deciding who to follow" on Twitter by Wesley Fryer.

And there are many lists of top people to follow like these made up by Mashable. There's the top 100 100 health experts........ top 100 best Twitter feeds for nurses (I'm on that list...yey!) and so on. These lists are subjective to the author but they are a good place to start.

Follow Friday
Follow Friday is an activity whereby people make recommendations about who to follow every Friday. To find out more and see people's recommendations, either follow 'Follow Friday' or search Twitter for the Follow Friday tweets (#followfriday).

Meeting people in other environments
Another way I find people is through other online environments or platforms like Facebook or blogs. For example if I enjoy reading a blog, I will follow the blogger on Twitter. Keep an eye out for a 'follow me' sign that many bloggers have on the side of their blog, such as the one I have on the right of this post.

Finding people using search tools
There are a number of search tools you can use to find people on Twitter. It's becoming easier and easier to find people using Google, and of course Twitter has it's own 'find people' facility but I have found that to be temperamental at times. I prefer to use a Google custom Twitter search. Here's a list of 10 tools you can use to search for people on Twitter.

Following conversations
I often find people to follow through conversations on Twitter. It's like a ripple effect. You can follow conversations in real time using tools like Twitterfox or Tweetdeck. When people follow a thread, they usually add a hash tag (#) to their tweet. So if you are interested in following people who talk about knitting, put #knitting into a Twitter search engine or Google, and you'll find heaps of people who have the same interest as you.

I don't think I've done a very good job of explaining what a hash tag is, so if you're still unclear have a look at this explanation at Mashable.

Why people are tweeting
One thing to think about is why people are tweeting. If you want to build up a network of people who like to share information, then you shouldn't follow people who just use Twitter to market a product. If you want to connect with people who will talk to you, then you would be advised not to follow people who have huge followings and never have personal conversations on an individual level. I refuse to follow anyone who says they are a coach, mentor or inspirational speaker. The 'how to be a happy, kind person' tweets they are always posting make me want to put my fingers down my throat and be sick.

There are exceptions to the rule. I follow Stephen Fry (@stephenfry). He follows thousands and thousands of people so I know when I tweet him, he'll never reply to me. However, I continue to follow him because I love his humour and comments. A commercial account I follow is Air New Zealand grabaseat (@grabaseat) in the vain hope I'll pick up a cheap flight one day.

What people tweet about
If you're not sure whether to follow someone or not, have a look at their profile page and see what they talk about. Have a look to see if they respond to people and share information you will be interested in. I never follow people who are always other words, pass on other people's words/tweets. To me, this indicates a lack of originality and personal interaction.

People I do NOT follow on Twitter
I do not follow:
  • people with dodgy or ridiculous names like @fairypixiedust or @I'vegotbigbreasts (apologies if you have that particular Twitter name). Having said that, I have been caught out once or twice and realised that although a person had a silly and irrelevant name, they were a person worth following;
  • people who do not give any information about themselves in their profile - I need to know who a person is before I follow them;
  • people who have thousands of followers - I cannot see how they can usefully interact with that number of followers. The exception to the rule are people/companies who tweet valuable information that I am interested in such as Pete Cashmore aka @mashable;
  • people who have no followers, because they are most likely to marketers or spammers;
  • people who do not tweet - again, likely to be marketer or spammers;
  • people who ask me to follow them but lock their accounts - pl...eee...sss...eee! What is the point of asking me to follow you if you make it impossible for me to see who you are and what you talk about!
There's a few you have any other ideas or tips about finding people to follow on Twitter?

Image: Follow me on Twitter! badge szlea


Sue Waters said...

Well based on "people who have thousands of followers" you would never follow me because you "cannot see how they can usefully interact with that number of followers."

Reality is there are some people who follow a large number who are able to interact and follow this number to be inclusive (so not to offend).

While I would never want to lock my account I don't believe that we should judge people who do. Unfortunately I know quite a few educators who have been forced to lock their accounts because their management has been using their tweets against them. And these are people who weren't tweeting inappropriately.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for your comments, Sue and alternative opinions. I meant to say that it was you who got me into Twitter and introduced me to your network...for which I was very grateful.

As I have said in my post, these tips are based on my own experience and I have also said there are exceptions. The beauty about Twitter is that we can use it in different ways and have different needs met.

Sue Waters said...

Yes I knew they are tips based on your experience and each person uses differently.

But it is also important for us to reflect on our reasons for our decisions and occasionally challenge our beliefs.

Going back to my first example. If a new person followed the advice of not following someone who is following a large number of people they wouldn't follow someone like me or Vick Davis (coolcatteacher). That would be an absolutely crazy decision to make because both of us go out of our way to help others.

Similar regarding locked accounts. Provided they have a good descriptive bio there is nothing wrong with following a locked account. If it really is an issue once you've added them then just remove. I could list lots of excellent examples of people with locked accounts that are important for my learning.

Whereas I would never follow a celebrity, news service etc because I'm interested in conversations only.

Hervé said...


How did management used tweets against the educators you have mentioned? Was it an issue with the content or the use of the tool itself?
It would be nice to know the potential pitfall before getting involved.
What is a locked account?

Sue Waters said...

@Herve Management don't always appreciate that someone who is interacting effectively with their PLN will often twitter a lot and there will be a blend on social chatter mixed with serious learning.

So instead they and others who aren't into twitter will perceive it as not getting work done.

This is one of the main reasons why educators will lock their twitter account. When you lock a twitter account it is hidden from the public timeline so only people who you approve can see your tweets. It is still the same principle as an normal twitter account -- you still need to reflect on what you say and only say things that you might say in a very large crowded room.