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Like most things in life, with Twitter, you get out of it what you put into it. As a networking tool Twitter is just the cab that gets you to the party. Once there it's up to you to work out who to introduce yourself to, what kind of things your fellow guests might want to hear from you; whether it's best to spread yourself around the room like a social butterfly or if you should focus on 'deep and meaningful's' at the bar.
On the bonus side, nobody can tell that you haven't pressed your dress suit!
If you really want to rock the party, it pays to have a clear idea of why you are there in the first place. If it's primarily a customer growth objective or a credibility objective, this will effect your follow strategy.
Here's a few tried and tested, but imaginitive ways of finding people to follow...
1. Use a Directory
A number of directories exist just for people on Twitter. You can search for Twitter users by their interests or categories and/or geo-location. www.wefollow.com is one of the largest, and allows for both interest and location based searches. Other directories include www.twellow.com, www.justtweetit.com, www.twitterdirectory.com and www.geofollow.com .
Make sure you add yourself to these directories too; so that you can be found by people who are interested in your chosen categories and physical location.
2. Speaker 'Circuits'
If you want to follow and establish a presence with the leaders of your industry, it's a good idea to familiarise yourself with the 'speaker circuit'. Industry leaders and conference speakers tend to have a highly visible media presence and you will find many on Twitter. Check your industry conference and exhibition websites for a list of speakers. Most websites will feature a detailed speaker profile with Twitter ID included. If not, take your list of names and do a "Find People" search on Twitter.
3. Competitor Websites
Following your competitors is always a great idea. If your industry is super cut-throat, be warned that they may not follow you back, or may even block you from seeing their Tweets. This is a bit extreme and most competitors will have nothing to hide from you, and many may welcome a bit of banter and exchange with an industry peer.If any of your competitors are on Twitter, most will have a link to their profile on their website.
Once you have identified a good person or competitor to follow, check who is following them and use the profile information in the followers list to see who could also be of interest to you. In most cases with a well managed Twitter account, you will find followers of a like-mind.
5. Keyword Searching/Hashtags (#)
Use the Twitter search functionality to search for keywords or hashtags that are relevent to your brand and your product. A hashtag is slightly different to a keyword in that adding a hashtag to a Tweet, collates all Tweets that use the hashtag, regardless of content. As an example #LAC is the hashtag for the London Affiliate Conference next week. I may well see Tweets like this...
"Where is everyone staying then? #LAC"
"Going to the closing party?" #LAC
So a hashtag, when used correctly, can help you identify people that are involved or interested in something, even if their Tweet content does not specifically call this out.
Search results for keywords will show Tweets from Twitter users that have referenced the keyword in their Tweet. In many cases this may be because they have a specific interest in your product. It may be a good idea to directly introduce yourself to them by sending a Tweet (@mention) solely to them. Be aware that someone you follow will be quite likely to click your profile to assess if it is worth following you, so please don't do this!
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Tip: If you use a third party application such as Tweetdeck you can create a column for your keyword search or hashtag and all public tweets containing your keyword or hashtag will appear in this column in realtime.
6. Other Social Media
Many other social media sites allow users to add their Twitter ID to their existing profile. If you already have an established community elsewhere, such as your Linkedin network, then check the profiles of your contacts and those that are also on Twitter will be easy to find!
Of course, the standard way to find people on Twitter is to use the "Find People" search within Twitter, however this is a little long-winded and relies on you knowing who you are looking for by name.
We hope these resources and tips give you a bit more of boost to your follow strategy, so that you can easily find people to learn from, connect with, market to and create a relationship with. Do you have any questions about Twitter in general that you would like to see answered in this blog? And do let me know if you have any cool ideas for identifying people to follow!