Tipping Pitches: Technology: How to Improve Your Twitter Network


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Technology: How to Improve Your Twitter Network

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I read a great post today called Strategies for Gaining Influence on Twitter by Ian Stewart (no, not the Ian Stewart of the Colorado Rockies -- at least, I don't think so).

While I feel pretty comfortable with Twitter these days, it's always good to read what others are doing to enhance their experience. I admit I've hit a bit of a plateau lately in the value I am getting out of it.

I have two issues: 1) Lack of productive followers, and 2) lack of productive follow...ees.  It's, as I like to describe it, my Twitter Network which could be improved.

The first is a common problem. You can have 2,000,000 followers, but who knows how many of those people are spammers, inactive accounts, or people who couldn't care less about what you have to say.  The number isn't important.

Ultimately, you want people who will retweet your stuff. That's money. Not only does it mean that you aren't talking to yourself, but these people help spread your message and grow your audience.

Because of these people, you are having interactions.  Fostering relationships.  Many of you have experienced this, but Twitter is a very frustrating thing when you feel like you are talking to myself.

Hello?  Anyone out there?

The second is only a problem if your unproductive "followees" make up a large percentage of your feed. For me, I follow a lot of people who don't follow me back. This is fine for the most part. Most are high profile people who are great resources. I don't expect them to follow me back.

But it also means that most people whom I follow won't return the favor when I retweet them. And again, it's not required that they do. But if I want to grow my audience, I need to also follow people who care about what I have to say.

So that's the challenge. My network needs to include a healthy mixture of:

1) Powerful and influential people in my niche who may not ever interact with me but provide very useful information; and
2) Others in my niche who are like me and with whom I can engage and interact.

I want to find people who provide interesting information who may also be down for what I have to say. A productive relationship of sorts.

So that's why I found Stewart's entry interesting. It provided a way to do that -- quickly.

Stewart's Strategy
You can read it yourself, but it's pretty simple.  His strategy goes beyond the things I am going to mention, but found the following most interesting.

1) Decide who the most influential people are in your niche. It may be someone you're already following, or you can find them on a service like WeFollow.com.

2) Run a Twitter search to find the people who retweet that influential person. So, you'd search "RT @[influential person]". Why do you care about these people? Pretty simple. They are people who share an interest in your niche but also in a specific influential person you also follow. Just as importantly, they are willing to retweet, which is the type of follower you're looking for.

3) Follow 200 of these people per week. Now, I think this is a bit nuts. You may do this if you are wanting to grow fast or are only focused on more followers. Me, I don't like following more people than I can physically follow. Until now, I have tried to keep the number of people I follow under 150. Anyway, the thought here is that 25% of the people you follow will follow you back.

4) Every week, determine which of those 200 people you should continue to follow and adjust. In other words, they suggest you use something like FriendorFollow.com to determine who hasn't followed you back and unfollow them. Again, I'm not a fan of this. It says you only care about getting more followers and it was your only motivation for following them.

5) Repeat this process every week. Stewart claims it significantly improves your number of followers, but more importantly your productive followers.

My Adjusted Strategy

I'm not comfortable with following people for the sole purpose of getting them to follow back. You can't dispute that's the motivation if you are unfollowing these people if they don't follow you back. It's numbers padding. May be productive numbers padding, but still think it's dirty.

That doesn't mean I'll never unfollow you. But if I use a similar strategy, I'll unfollow you if you provide no perceived value to me. You don't have to follow me back (as is evident by the large number of people I follow who don't currently return the favor).

So this is what I'm going to start doing going forward on a weekly basis:

1) Run a Twitter search to find people who retweet influential people in my niche, as Stewart explains.

2) Follow some of those people, but not a designated number. My latest exercise brought me up to 200 people I'm following. I don't want to follow more than that. We'll see if I want to trim that back down again, but I don't want to be overwhelmed by the information flowing through.  But it's likely I won't be adding many people when I run this exercise going forward.

3) Make a weekly evaluation on whom I should unfollow, which can open more slots. If you @ me, I'm going to keep you. If you retweet me, I'm going to keep you. If you provide interesting information that I care about, I'm going to keep you. It's not as easy as basing it only on whether you are interacting with me. It helps, but if you at least provide me with good info, it makes me more interesting in the long run.

So that's it. Pretty simple. I started it today, and we'll see how it goes.

What are your strategies for improving your Twitter network? Always interested in hearing what others are doing.


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