Follow, Follow, Follow the Twitter Brick Road

If you’ve been around the Internet for very long – more than a day or so – you will have encountered the advice that social media is a great way to promote what you’re selling.  In our case, books we’ve written.  And among social media, Twitter is a favorite.  Some of the marketing gurus make a case for following anyone and everyone you can find so they will follow you back, and you will develop a huge “audience” very quickly.  They often make it out to be a simple matter of follow, follow, follow the tritter brick road to riches.


I don’t see that as being the case.  I advocate looking for and following people or accounts that have a common interest with you and are likely to be either interested in buying your book or likely to help you promote your book.  Thus, getting started with Twitter is like joining a club or writer’s guild.  For it to do you any good – other than simply serving the need to socialize – you will be looking for those who share your vision.

Once you get started, others will find you, especially if you’re doing a good job and building a following.  Many of those you ferret out on your own will not be worth following for several reasons.  Because there is a Follow Limit to keep in mind, you don’t want to blindly follow everyone.  Here are a few pointers on finding good Twitter folks to follow.

Separating the Chaff

In the old days (and I’m talking way-old days) farmers would gather their threshed grain on a smooth, hard area then use scoops or winnowing forks to toss the grain high into the air.  The breeze would catch the light weight bits of leaves and stalk and blow them away, the heavy kernels of grain would fall back to the winnowing floor.  The light weight, useless bits that blew away were called chaff.  When someone new follows you, take a moment and check them out: are they chaff or grain?  Be aware that some accounts are set up solely for the purpose of duping people into following them so they can broadcast spam and phising  messages.

Check their account stats. Are they following a large number of people, have only a few followers and only a handful of tweets posted?  If so this is a really new account and the owner is pounding the bricks pretty hard trying to get to see the Twizzard.  Treat it with caution: may be an earnest newbie, may be a Phisher.

Check their tweet stream. Are there only a few messages?  What are they saying – is it nothing but links, nothing but quotes, nothing but “I am offering *this* buy it here”?  Is there any conversation with others?  Are they promoting any others?  If you see what looks like conversation, click a empty spot inside the message and see what comes up on the right hand panel.  If there are other messages that led up to the one you saw (that’s called a ‘message thread’) it’s conversation.  If it just shows the same message again, it is not a reply to any message, it is all by itself.  This could mean that this person doesn’t know how to use the REPLY function in Twitter, or it could mean the user is trying to pull the wool over your eyes by making it LOOK live they talk to others.

Check their references. Does their profile list a blog, or web site or FaceBook page?  If not, they have no references and you will have to decide if they are real or not based on the information in front of you.  If they do, take a quick look.  If the blog is a freebie account with a single page that says very little about them, treat it with suspicion.  It could be they are a raw newbie, just getting started, or it could be they are a spammer trying (but not very hard) to look legitimate.  If it is a well established blog or web site of if the FB page has lots of interaction and followers, they probably are real.

Check their interests.  All of the above resources can be used to see what they tweet about and are interested in.  Use this information to decide if they are part of your “target audience”.

Types of Twitterers

There are different types of twitterers and they can be identified by what they tweet.  Learning how to categorize them can be facilitated by using a tool like Twitter Cleaner.  The following are my own terms and definitions.

Horn Tooters these are the professional promoters who spend the vast majority of their time yelling something to the effect of, “buy my product” “use my service” or “follow me because I’m great”.  Most of the time they do not interact with others and they do nothing to help anyone but themselves.  It’s all about them.  Pass ’em by: they’re no good to you – unless you happen to be in desperate of what they’re offering.

Pundits These are folks who espouse knowledge because they are knowledgeable, but also engage in conversation about topics in that field.  Their references back up their claims of knowledge.  These are great people to learn from and can be a great help to you – as long as they’re not ensconced in some ivory tower.

Droids are what I call those accounts who do nothing but re-tweet other people’s tweets and post links to articles other people have written. While some of what they post may be entertaining or useful, all too many times they are not real at all, but an automated account.  Even if it is being run by flesh and blood, they aren’t going to be much fun to talk to and aren’t very likely to help you.

Yammerers Then you’ve got those folks who talk all the time, mostly about nothing in particular, they are just really, really social folks and will talk to anyone about anything.  If you have the time and desire to be really conversant, having a few of these folks in your camp will prove beneficial, but try to find the ones who share interests with you.

Good Ol Joe (or Joline) Most of the rest are just regular folks who pop in and talk, share, crow, cry, and carry on in the normal every-day way that people do.  They are hard to quantify; especially if they have no specific interests.  Generally you do not want to exclude them, but you may not want to focus on them either in your recruitment efforts.

 Finding Followers

Finding people to follow is really pretty simple, it just takes a little detective work in some cases.

Love Fests You’ve seen them; those tweets that are composed almost entirely of Twitter user names. here is an example:

celticseas celtic
#FF @chukkie58 @arecsandora @gina_penn @alexandrafolz @theresehaberman @allandouglasdgn @msbproductionzz @melcom1 @ffhelper
2 hours ago

Some days Your timeline is just filled with them.  Apparently this started as #FollowFriday (#FF) and has since been opened up to be any and every day of the week for some.  Click on any of the user names and that user’s profile comes up in the right panel of your screen.  This gives you access to most of the information discussed above.

Follow the Followers When you find someone who is especially well suited, go to their profile.  Beneath their name are four numbers and titles.  Following and Followers will, when clicked, produce a list of the tweeple who make up that number.  Use those lists to shop for more well-suited followees.

Twitter Recommends Twitter does have a follow recommendation function built into it.   If you use the “View full profile” thingie to put the profile and timeline in the left hand panel and click the [Follow] button there, two or three recommendations will pop up that Twitter thinks are suited.  If you display the user profile in the right hand panel, a Similar To block shows up that will also make recommendations.   The big “however” for this is that these recommendations are based on the follow lists for your account – if your list is pretty scant at the moment, the algorithm has little data to work with and the recommendations will be all over the map.  As you build your group of groupies, these will be more on-target.

When looking at these recommendations, a small ‘Follow’ will show up in the upper right corner of each block IF you do not follow them.  If you follow them already, it won’t be there.  This is not 100% reliable, though, as it does sometimes tell me I’m not following someone I know I am.

Go Fish.  You can, of course, just troll the timeline and see what turns up.  Most of what you see there will be tweets posted by the people you already follow.  But, if other users are mentioned in the tweet their user name will be there, for you to investigate.  You can also go to the timeline of the people you follow and troll in a new steam; this will expose you to many people you have not encountered before.

The-a, the-a, that’s all folks!

Time to wrap this one up.  I hope you’ve picked up a new trick or two.  If you have one I missed, please share it in the comments below.  And remember; its’ about quality, not quantity.  thanks for reading!

Other articles in this series:
For Twitter Newbies: Nuts & Bolts
Juicing Up Your Twitter Power
Jedi Mind Twits: #Hashtags
Jedi Mind Twits: Messaging
Jedi Mind Twits: Follow Limit

19 thoughts on “Follow, Follow, Follow the Twitter Brick Road”

  1. I like your thoughts on how to get followers and who to follow. Most twitter users don’t really pay much attention about the people who are following them and people who they want to follow But in internet marketing, it is really important to link yourself to those people who can help you boost up your market.

  2. I’ll have to do a little better job of getting onto twitter and conversing with others so I’m not just a droid. I do get on there, and I have times when I’m sharing things I’m finding interesting. Now, I just need to work some on the “interaction” aspect to create a little balance.

    Thanks for sharing!

    1. I wish I knew enough to write this when I started on Twitter, Damyanti! I fumbled and stumbled along for the longest time. It wasn’t until June of this year that I got serious about twitter. Since then I have learned much and my following has gone from 500 or so to over 3000; all of them writers, authors, agents, publishers, cover artists, book designers, etc. I’d easily have twice that many if I had followed back all the people who followed me but had none of my interests. When I don’t follow back, they drop me. And that’s fine – it’s only fair. I’ve put up a whole series of posts about twitter beginning with the Nuts & Bolts post, all aimed at those who have not yet mastered (or barely understand) Twitter in order to help get them up to speed without the intellectual bruises we collected in the process.

  3. I never had much luck with the Twitter recommendations, but maybe that’s because when I started I was following the wrong people to begin with.

    This is great advice, and stuff I would’ve loved to have been aware of when I started Twitter.

    Well done, Allan!

    1. Thanks, Andy. The nice thing about Twitter is that you *can* modify your target audience – it takes a little time but can be done. Of course, figuring out who your target audience is can be the tricky part!

  4. Excellent!. In fact the Best of the best I have seen on this subject.
    Now that I have done it all wrong when I started several years back, I really value the quality people over just links with nobody home kind of people to follow.

    Twitter is now doing a very nice job of recommending people I might want to follow.
    thanks for sharing. I do hope your article goes viral for all social media to to absorb s the principles will cross to apply very well.
    I hope you don mind if I PIN this on my board From the Best Blog Examples.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Malika. I would be honored to be pinned by you… urm… well… you know what I mean.

      An awful lot of folks dive into Twitter with the idea that it’s all about racking up a big number. But for it to work, it has to go deeper than that. Go deep, Malika, go deep! 🙂

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