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Build Your Twitter Network

It seems that everyone in the mainstream media is talking about Twitter, including NPR, CNN, local newspapers and local tv stations. This is causing lots of people to sign up for the microblogging service. There are over 4 million Twitter users worldwide, and some estimates put growth as high as 5 million users by the end of the year. According to Complete.com, nearly one quarter of all Twitter visitors to the site are heavy users (determined by a very light usage of 6+ visits/month), and another 25% are light users (2-5 visits/month).

But I really want to focus on the majority of users who have only visited one time. These are the people who join, but don’t know why they’re joining. Someone told them to “Follow Me” on Twitter. They sign up, find and follow the person they went there for, and stop. What’s next? This post and some links will answer that question. There is not really any one place they can go to learn about what to do. If you are new to Twitter, first read this post called How to Twitter: The Basics and come back here. That post addresses the mechanics of what to do. I will talk about the why and the how.

The real value in Twitter is in your network. This is especially true if you are using Twitter for business marketing. Your network can provide answers to your questions. They can recommend articles and blogs that have caught their attention. They can forward, or retweet, your messages. They can even tell you what they are having for lunch.

So where does this network come from? You must build it, and you must do so intentionally based on your industry and interests. The basic idea of Twitter following is that when you follow someone, they get an email letting them know. Many people will automatically follow you when you follow them, but not everyone. As Twitter gets more crowded and more commercialized, this behavior is becoming less common. Instead of hoping people follow you, there is a more deliberate approach to building your network.

1. After creating a username that relates to your name, brand, blog, or company, create a full and accurate profile

A complete profile tells a potential follower that you a person, not a spammer. Start by using your real name. Add your city and state for your location. While it is cool to update this field from your iphone or website that tracks your location, this could prevent someone from following you if they don’t know where you are. The web field should link to your blog or company web site. And finally add a bio that tells people who you are and what interests you. There is a tendency to be cute or sarcastic in these fields, but if you are using Twitter as a business intelligence tool to build a network of like-minded professionals, keep the cheekiness to a minimum. The more information you provide in these fields, the more likely you will connect to others in your industry.

2. Grow with balance

As you start to build your network, you want to try to keep your followers to those you following in balance. Twitter is a social engagement tool and you want to think about conversations, rather than broadcasts. Go to Twitter Search and put in a keyword that relates to your business, industry, or personal interest. Scan down the list and find someone tweeting about something you are interested in, or have knowledge about. Click on their username and reply (with the @) to them. This is the conversational part. Now when you follow this person, they will more likely follow you back. If you do this slowly and deliberately, not only will you grow your network of people you listen to (or follow), but also with people who listen to you. This will create a more relevant update stream to others as they decide to follow you back.

3. Find friends, neighbors, and colleagues on Twitter

One of the best uses of Twitter is to build a community in a local area. This is a good way to expand your business network offline. If you know anyone on Twitter, make sure you follow them. You probably are not the first one on your block to be on Twitter. One tool to find local users is TwitterLocal. You can also use the advanced search options within Twitter Search to search by locale as well. As you delve more into Twitter, you will learn that many tools are available that interact with Twitter. Twitter provides open access to “the Twitter stream,” which allows people to develop tools to interact with tweets and users. Watch the tweets of people you follow for talk of new tools to try. Here is one list of tools from Twitips.com, a new site that provides a wealth of information for Twitter users of all experience levels. Make sure to read the comments, where users add many other favorite tools.

4. Follow the High Volume Tweeters

Some of the leading Twitter users follow, and engage with thousands of other users. Ever wondered how they do it. Here’s Chris Brogan’s post how he follows so many folks on Twitter. And here’s a post from Guy Kawasaki on how to increase your followers on Twitter, which I take with a grain of salt. Guy has lots of good ideas and helpful links in the post, so I definitely want to include it here. If the goal is to build your network of engaged conversationalists, many techniques in his post will help.

Leave comments below if you have additional ideas about a thoughtful approach to building your Twitter network.

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By the way, are you following me @dgtlpapercuts? It wouldn’t hurt if you engage with me too.

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