Finding good people to follow on Twitter can be a real challenge these days. The spammy list just keeps getting longer. The spammers are finding more irritating techniques to clutter the stream. Here is a strategy to find “good” tweeters who are genuine people who are crafting tweets about subjects that matter to you.
People constantly ask me, “How do I find good people to follow?”
Twitter Discovery using Twitter Lists Click image to view full size, or download the from Slideshare.net.
If you spend time with Twitter you’re either gonna love it or leave it. A huge percentage (as high as 43% in a recent poll) of you will try Twitter and abandon or delete your account. Just as Twitter is trying to sell it’s IPO to the world, this terrible news is out. How many of Twitter’s reported users are really abandoned accounts? (I’m pretty sure I have created 50 or 60 Twitter accounts myself, so…)
If you get into Twitter there are a lot of things it can bring you. Happiness (at least in the form of laughter) is certainly one of those things. Wisdom? Perhaps. Marketing research? Absolutely. Love? Probably not. Let’s jump in and talk about what makes ME happy about Twitter. (Your mileage may vary.)
JFF: Just For Fun Unlike Facebook, Twitter encourages parody accounts. And some of the funniest jokers do really yuk it up on Twitter. And for cultural currency, most major celebrity events spawn joke Twitter accounts during the event. Take for example the recent unmasking of @NatSecWonk (now disabled). This account was used for real-time snarks from within the White House, while National Security Council staffer Jofi Joseph went out to use his phone and smoke a cigarette, approximately 17 times a day. WHAT? Yep, so the Tweets are happening, the decision is who/what/how to follow. Here are a few of my all-time must follows for a laugh:
@sockington (the most famous tweeting cat) who is currently worrying over his Halloween costume.
Search.Twitter.Com Getting some work done on Twitter requires tools. If you want to see how an ad is doing during a popular TV show, just watch the Twitter feed of that show (or episode’s) hashtag. Better than Nielson: It’s free and immediate. Need to know what people think about your brand (this primarily works for larger companies) you might want to search and tune-in to conversations around your brand and your competitor’s brands, just as an FYI. Want to see what’s happening in popular culture, see what’s trending on Twitter. There are plenty of tools that will let you see trending hashtags as well as follow them so you can listen or join in the conversation. Here are my top tweeting tools.
Tweetdeck (It’s gone downhill since being purchased by the mothership, but this is my go-to realtime Twitter tool.)
Hootsuite (The other big Twitter follow-engage tool. The real power starts when you begin paying.)
Tweetchat (Follow and join a Twitter-chat or Tweetchat using this simple site.)
Search.Twitter.Com (search for a term or hashtag and let Twitter unfold the magic for you)
What’s Trending on Twitter? But getting a handle on Twitter for your business or pleasure requires learning and listening to topics that interest you. AND, finding new topics that are trending or might be of interest to you. Here are my top tools for asking Twitter, “What’s the trend?”
Twitterfall (real-time cascade of twitter searches – roll your own)
Trendsmap (STUNNING: Geo-locate the hottest hashtag trends using a zoomable map.)
How Am I Doing On Twitter? Finally there are several great tools that will help you grow and clean your Twitter participation (as a business or individual). Here are my top Twitter Account Management tools.
Manageflitter (How can I see who’s following me back, and who to unfollow?)
A recent stat I read said that 50% of Americans use Facebook and only 7% use Twitter. And a few years back the Twitter drop off rate after 30 days was about 80%. And then there’s the stat that 10% of tweeters make up 80% of all tweets.
Okay, so answer this. Do you ever go back and clean your twitter followers list?
One of my favorite tools to manage Twitter is called, ManageFlitter (Twitter started suing all companies that used Twitter in the name). It’s important to clean out the scammers and deadbeats off your followers list, and even more so from the list of people you are following.
So running the tool recently I was amazed by the number of Twitter accounts that had gone over 5 – 7 months without a single tweet. A pretty good sign that the tweeter has moved on. And what’s the use of tweeting anyway? Especially if you are trying to make a quick buck in social media, Twitter might be a cornerstone of your initial strategy, but if the dividends are not quick in coming, the commitment might dry up.
You can see the fallen Twitter accounts with great names, even custom avatar logos that look quite professional. But if you don’t get it, “what is Twitter for?”, you might not see the value in carrying on a conversation with people who don’t really care about your product or brand.
So in my recent purge of followers, I deleted 500+ accounts that I was following who had either gone dark or were clearly spammers. And if you are looking to grow your LIVE Twitter followers, you will need to unfollow the deadbeats pretty quickly or you will rapidly reach the “you cannot follow any more people at this time” limit.
So what is your Twitter strategy? Who do you follow? And have your figured out how and why to tweet? It’s an ongoing conversation…
Three days ago I made an agressive promise on Facebook.
So, it didn’t actually shut me the heck up, but… I have started a process. A self-reflecting and self-regulating process for cleaning up my Facebook feed.
Last week I didn’t think much about it. My Facebook settings were all PRIVATE. Meaning FRIENDS ONLY. And I was meeting someone new over coffee when they said, “Oh I looked at your Facebook stuff.”
I laughed uncomfortably. “Um, what do you mean?”
“You’re pretty active on Facebook. I don’t have near that many friends.”
“What could you see?” I asked.
“You mean, all my posts and stuff?” I asked, now beginning to get angry. (not at her)
“Yeah, your friends, your posts, your pictures.”
Some time later, when I went to look at my Facebook page, this setting (by some update from Facebook, I’m sure) had moved BACK TO PUBLIC.
I flipped it back to FRIENDS ONLY. This was the one thing I was certain of, in my ability to limit my visibility so I could continue ranting and dropping f-bombs, forwarding unflattering jokes, etc. The things I did on Facebook before Saturday.
I clicked on the “More Settings” and immediately reselected “Limit the Audience for Old Posts.”
The quaint little warning icon from Facebook. OH MY, are you sure you want to cover your tracks?
And then I went back to business as usual. But I’ve been thinking about Facebook ever since. What do I get from Facebook?
Am I narcissistically driven? (don’t answer that, it was rhetorical)
Why are we not getting the online banter somewhere else, some where more personal and private? Like blog comments.
Why does everyone HATE Facebook and yet everyone uses it?
What about my sister’s kids who started following me at Christmas time? (15-year-olds)
And that CLIENT who asked to “friend” me BEFORE accepting the terms of our work agreement? I had pitched a significant amount of social media work. What about them?
And the future clients who are expecting me to lead them in the Facebook world?
Where was my PUBLIC persona on Facebook?
I am sick of the wondering and complaining about Facebook this and Facebook that. So Saturday, I made the declaration to end the f-bomb and snark-tastic behavior on Facebook. Now, I’m not quite ready to open the floodgates to PUBLIC just yet. And maybe I won’t.
But I’ve decided to allow the TURN ON FOLLOW feature on Facebook.
But the main thing I’m committed to is, upping my positive behavior and lowering my negative behavior on Facebook. I’ve got some PAGES where I can broadcast my political views and some PAGES where I participate in heated discussions. (no f-bombs anywhere, however, cold turkey stop)
It was Klout that finally brought the Facebook problem home to me.
52% of my social influence was happening on Facebook? GAK! I didn’t even really like Facebook. But I lacked a better platform for saying HI, saying YOU SUCK (which I don’t say any more) and giving LIKEs to causes, cat and dog funnies, and friend’s concerns/updates.
That was going to change.
No f-bombs. No snarks. 100% Positive. And soon 100% public. That’s how I used to use Facebook. As an open HOWDY WORLD page. And perhaps that’s what it needs to become again. I’ve got plenty of private places where I share. There’s no reason I should be flooding all of my friend’s feeds with all of my ideas and inspirations all day.
I’m partitioning off my Social Media Updates to several Facebook pages/groups: UBER.LA, and my musician updates to BUZZIE. And the other two groups, DIVORCE and POLITICS, are anonymous. And then, if things go as I think they will, I will read what PUBLIC means, and learn if my LIMIT PREVIOUS POSTS keeps those posts SHUT.
Or more likely, I will chose PUBLIC or FRIENDS as I post on Facebook in a POST-BY-POST decision process. Consciously deciding is this a PUBLIC idea or a PRIVATE one. And if it’s PRIVATE, I think I will redirect it to a different forum. Better yet, a non-Facebook forum.
Update 3-1-10: It appears I’m losing about 10 followers a day on average, as the tweeps catch up to the fact that they themselves have been unfollowed. (new chart at bottom of page)
I’ve done it again. Right here, just weeks before the announcement of the Texas Social Media Awards and the start of SXSW I’ve gone an unfollowed over 4k followees on Twitter. I am sure the affect on my followers will be quite dramatic as well. So here’s why I did it.
1. Life is too short to be trying to read everything. 2. Everyone is so stoked about BUZZ because they get to be selective about who they choose to include. (Duh, how’d we get so over-followed in the first place. 3. Discovery is the biggest rush with social media, so if I unfollow a ton of folks I get to rediscover them again! wOOt! 4. I believe who you follow is as important as who follows you. 5. Good Twitter tools are hard to find. 6. All the folks I unfollowed were probably auto-dm bots anyway. 7. I probably do not deserve the number of followers I have. (Well, that one’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, but…) 8. Take a bold action. None of this unfollowing by the 20-per-page, as Twitter.com (hell) would have it.
So what is going to happen from here? Oh my, all the people who are concerned about who’s following and who’s not following will start dropping me in huge waves. Thus my ranking, my status on the Twitterholic in Austin list is going to plummet like a rock. And I will drop back into the goop from whence I came.
Then something remarkable is going to happen. I am going to discover some new cool people to follow. Some of whom I have not followed in months. Some of whom I’ve never followed. And some of whom I’ve followed, unfollowed and followed again.
And that’s the fun of it.
Here’s a comparison of my followers vs. followees as reported by twittercounter.com.
All that said, I hope you stick around. I hope you tweet good stuff. And I hope we continue to enjoy the conversation.
But I will understand if you UFM. As a close friend said recently, “I tried to follow you, but you are insane. Half the time I have no idea what you are talking about. It just made me feel confused and dumb.”
I hope that’s not the affect my range of tweets has on you, but I do understand if it does. I do.
I hope you can find a lot of great reasons to follow me, and my rants on Twitter and about Twitter. Here’s my little collection called The Twitter Way.
And I’m also putting together a list of TwitterTools, the one’s I know and love. I call this the TwitterMatrix.
This massively coordinated unfollowing was powered by ManageTwitter.com. Bless them for developing a new tool to manage our accounts at more than 20 peeps per page, like Twitter.com. Now we can get some unfollowing done, by golly!
Here’s the newest chart as of 3-1-10. I have changed the scale to be only 1 month, to show more clearly the pattern as my followers begin to drop off, primarily because I have unfollowed, not because I am tweeting differently, or doing anything spammy. It’s just a fact, if you unfollow me I’m likely to unfollow you. If I’m paying attention, that is. And if I care.
Okay, I’m digging the Twitter “follower” and “friends” pages update. Except for one thing.
I can only tell if someone I follow is following me back if I click on the pull-down. I believe before, it was a simple icon that let me know if someone I was following was DM-able. And that is still the only clue, but today it hides underneath the pull-down instead of out in the open where I can see the status of an entire page of “friends.”
Here’s someone I follow who DOES NOT follow me back:
The only way I can see that Zooey is not following me back is the fact I cannot DM her. Oh well…
And here is someone who I follow to DOES follow me back:
And there’s the DM-ability on Todd’s pull-down indicating that he is following me back. [Thanks Todd!]
@stop, please put the are-they-following-me information back out on the page please.
According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.
Wow, 95% of blogs are abandoned. But that bears out with my experience of the format. [Aside: Twitter is not a blog, and microblogging is a really dumb term that does not describe tweeting at all.] Two of my three best tech friends, guys that I learned this stuff from, have blogs that would fall into the 95% abandonment rate. It’s not that they aren’t participating, in fact they are certainly much more active than they were 3 years ago, but their blogs are no longer a central rally point for their voices online.
TR has been one of my poetry as code guides since I met him back in 2004. He and my other coder buddy RB introduced me to the concept of WEB 2.o. This is back when it was a techy term and not the over-hyped buzzword of social media/facebook/twitter is has become. [Web 2.0 Aside: When writers and the media are starting to outline what Web 3.o is I want to laugh, but like it or not, that term will come to maturity over the next year. I won’t call it that, EVER, but a lot of folks will.]
So it’s not like TR has not been working the web. But his blog, the still point where I could consistently check in on his process and poetry has changed. TR is all over the place nowadays. So much so that I am asking him to refocus somewhere so that I don’t have to follow him everywhere just to keep apprised of his passions.
The most courageous thing TR has done recently is start broadcasting a weekly solo-open-mic show of his music on Ustream.tv. WOW! It’s cool. It will be interesting to see if he DOES keep it up “weekly, at least through the summer.” Having set up LIVE open mics I know about concert promotion fatigue. But so far so good. And TR and I might be doing some open mics together in LA this summer as I head there for a Buzzie show towards the end of July.
RB is one of my closest confidants in terms of what works and does not work on the web. He has helped me recode the theme on this blog, between the hours of 2 – 4 am, cause that’s the only time we’ve got that we aren’t doing other projects or “work.” He is who I reach out to when I have a “uh, oh, I think I broke something” question.
And RB’s blog is currently returned to “coming soon” status. The proverbial online kiss of death. Almost as good as “under construction.” And it is not because RB is not writing and thinking about the web. He is. He tweets like a madman. But his time has become much more critical when allocating his tasks.
Here’s what he responded when I floated the potential of some shared work:
My other projects are sucking up my time pretty heavily so I want to make sure if we connect that I’m giving you the 100% that I need to give and you deserve…
So do you have time to blog? If I were “full-time” somewhere would I blog as much as I do? If I had fewer readers would I care as much as I do? Do have an ulterior motive?
And the real question is, IF YOU DON’T HAVE TIME TO BLOG, what are you doing with that time? I would argue that A BLOG IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A RESUME in today’s job market. If you don’t have an opinion about what’s going on around you, perhaps you don’t have a perspective at all. And that’s not good. People are hired for their perspectives as well as their track records.
And in the new social media order, WRITING IS THE COMMODITY. COMMUNICATION IS THE JOB!
Update: 7-11-09: I got this message in an email today.
Wow. Let me see, how do I take this? I could S-L-O-W my tweets to make this person happier. I could take offense at the “love but…” dichotomy. I could use his email to demonstrate my point about following and not following/not keeping up. I could do nothing.
So I actually used a combo of approaches. I wrote this person back and gave them a small piece of my mind. “I am trying to build up some momentum, land some business. I am doing everything I can to make that happen.” And then I aggressively said, “UFM if you need to.”
Essentially, what ever works for you is good for you. My follower count continues to go up, despite my refusal use a tweep-building app or tweet-building scheme. And in all honesty, I am dedicated to providing value in each and every tweet. Now, if I am tweeting while you are sleeping… well, is that part of YOUR TIMELINE or MINE?
Back in the early days of mySpace there was a great Bill Maher interview with a uber-super-mySpacer about his 20k+ “friends.”
[I paraphrase] “Those are not ‘friends.’ I can hardly keep track of my immediate family. How can you tell me, are you interested and connected to over 20k people? I mean, even in your entire lifetime that would be pretty unlikely.”
“Sure I can,” said the friend-rich geekster. “See, watch this.” He clicked a few things on the screen of his laptop. “See, right there, I just connected with all of my friends.”
“That was just spam, or sending them email.”
“No, I was wishing them a happy Thursday night.”
“But you don’t know any of these people. You don’t know a thing about them.”
“Sure I do.” He proceeded to click on the laptop again. “See, here are all my friends who are into Nirvana. And here with my filtering, I can see who’s birthdays are coming up so I can send them a birthday card.”
Maher was apoplectic. The geeky one was unperturbed. It just did not matter what Maher leveled at him, he was happy with his network of acquaintances and nothing was going to discourage him from the validity of those connections how ever frail they might appear to Maher.
So here we are with Twitter building up some unreal statistics and some false expectations about networking and connectivity. And their valuation rivaling many small countries. And I am feeling a bit like Maher, even looking at my own Twitter Stats of this moment. Following 2,797 “friends” and being followed by 3,152 “followers.” Even the word followers is a bit creepy don’t you think?
So how do I track these folks? What strategy have I devised for “friending” or “following” others? [I’d actually like to hear your strategies for just this issue.] Guy Kawasaki if you are listening, how do you make ANY sense of the 45k+ people you “follow?” I know you follow me. And you’ve even responded to an @guykawasaki tweet from me. But what do you do with the other TENS OF THOUSANDS of people you are following? Imagining an average of 2 tweets per person (weighting the Scobles and the Kawasakis of the world) that would make around 90k tweets A DAY! Ridiculous!
But I am here to share my strategy with you. And hopefully learn some more tricks and tips via comments or people tweeting back at me.
Following Others I click on interesting names, interesting images and interesting pods of people. For example I just “friended” 5 programmers and RoR fanatics from Cardiff. And in telling my Susan about it, I heard myself say, “You know Cardiff, where they film Torchwood! Awesome!” Kinda trivial the connection behind my following them. But my interest and ability to reach out over the pond and peer in on a group of Ruby developers in the UK. Kinda cool.
And depending on what mood I’m in I will either click on the potential followee and see if their bio or tweets are of interest to me. If they are multi-level marketers, real estate mavens or foodies, I usually don’t follow. [Uh, I’m not following you. Can you repeat what you just said?”] And other times, like this morning, when I find an interesting person [@Danacea Bio: Marketeer and PR for @forbiddenplanet (dotcom!); Writer, Warrior, Fitness Nut, Geek, Gamer, Art Toy Freak, Mum and Lemur!] and I’ve had a sufficient amount of coffee, well, I just start following. She’s in London, I’m in Texas. She’s an artist and lots of her friends are artists in the UK. While I am not connected to them, I am interested in art, the UK, Cardiff (because of Torchwood) and why someone would put “Art Toy Freak” in their bio. I don’t even know what that is, BUT… I like it. And I like that I don’t know what it is. It’s the old Code is Poetry idea. Those three words facinate me, just for a second. And I like the background of her twitter page. And boom I’m off following about 30 of her friends for various and random reasons.
Filtering My “Friends” I have two modes of Twittering. Tweetdeck and non-Tweetdeck. And I am surprised most often by the non-Tweetdeck moments, but let me come back to that.
So here is my “twitter control deck” using tweetdeck.
Column 1: “close” Column 2: “social media pro” Column 3: “all tweets” Column 4: “@replies to me” Column 5: “direct messages to me” Column 6: “search for jmacofearth” (off screen)
So my priority when I open Tweetdeck to actually DO Twitter is left to right in order of priority. My close Tweeps, folks I’m on a first name basis and could call on the phone if I had a question are first in “close.” Next are the Tweeps I need to keep track of, the “pros” like @GuyKawasaki and @EvansDave, not Scoble. 😉 Then everybody with “all tweets.”
Then in order, “@ replies, DMs and anyone who has put jmacofearth in their tweet (in case I don’t follow someone who @s me.)
Prioritizing Twitter with Tweetdeck So as people become more interesting to me, after all this is MY FILTER, I move them from RIGHT to LEFT towards “close.”
My Non-Tweetdeck Discovery Process So I’ve added all these people, and I have nearly, and will soon have, over a 1000 “friends” that I am following. But mostly I pay attention to the “close” and “pro” groups. But when I open Twitter in FireFox it all merges back into one column without filtering or prioritization. And it looks something like this.
And it is here in this mode, the Twitter.com/browser mode, that people like @Danacea come up. Ping! And i read a few posts of kinda-random yet followed people and a shiny object grabs my .85 second attention span. And if I’m in a “following mood” I click on their profile to see who they are and where they live and how they describe themselves.
But when I’m in a git-r-dun mode, I move along with my business and close the browser after I’ve accomplished my task, not noticing the wild and brightly colored avatars or the seductive tweeter names. But that’s when I’m focused.
A while back I went through a pairing down of my random follows. This was before I started using Tweetdeck. And now, with my tweets filtered by category, I have found myself recently wanting more ACTION. I sat there last night, just wanting some good creativity injections, or smart tweets, or inspiring witticisms and … blink … blink … Nada! Waiting…
Eh? Waiting for twitter action? Man, I had done a judo move on myself and eliminated some of the random fun that is twitter. Twitter on wine. Twitter late at night. Twitter for a thrill. Twitter cause I’m lonely.
So this afternoon I did my tweet mining process to connect with some more random, and more intelligent and more “thrilling” tweeters.
And with Tweetdeck I’m hoping I won’t be back in the layoff mode for a bit.
So here’s how I do it.
Find someone who’s smart. Today I chose David Armano. And I started looking at who he follows, and… holy cow 2k plus! Okay, but is he really listening to them?
Anyway, I go down a few pages of the tweets he claims to be perky for and see if any of them look interesting. Now here’s the funny part… What makes me click on a “follow” button.
1. I’ve heard of the person, place or thing and they seem interesting. 3. It is an interesting icon or image (male or female, animal or avatar) 4. It is an event or show or something that has “social media, womm, pr, media, advertising” or some other business of social media type term in it. 5. Random. Just a neato name, an odd name, an offensive name, a thrilling name.
And now I’ve got to go to the “deck” and shuffle my filters and put the cats and dogs in their column, the pros in their column and the “close” friends in their column.