Friday, 28 January 2011

Tips for the Twitter-curious. 3: Building Your Twitter Network.

Hi again!

I hope you're just about ready to follow some people with me in a minute ... but for now, just stand still while I fawn over you for a moment.

Thank you all so much for playing along and for letting me know about it! I'm so happy at the response the first two lessons have received.

If you remain unconvinced ... do read on ... as, once I'm done sharing all I've learned about Following ... I'm going on to debunk the idea that writing tweets is the central reason to set up a Twitter account! Because it doesn't need to be! And I have two non-Tweeting yet signed-up-to-Twitter parents to use as evidence!

But back to the fawning over the active-curious amongst you ... I'm hopefully up-to-date in adding all those who've asked to be added to the Twitter-curious list both here in the sidebar >>> and on Twitter itself. If you can't see yourself there already, just remind me when you get chance, your participation is making all my many twittering hours all worth it! But here endeth the fawning.

Now lace up your boots and let's go follow someone ...

So you're all signed up to Twitter-ville, you've given yourself a new name and a new profile; you've taken the guided tour [in Lesson 2] and have begun to tentatively find your way around ... by now I'd say it's probably about time you met the neighbours!

Who are you going to follow?
Don't tell me you don't know anyone on Twitter. It's not true.

There've been approximately 200 million Twitter accounts opened ... and I simply don't believe you're that much of a loner!

Maybe you're just confused about how to populate your Twittersphere ... so let's see if this helps:

  • It ISN'T like Facebook.
  • You DO NOT have to know someone already before you can follow them on Twitter.
  • Someone DOES NOT have to 'accept' you before you can follow them!
  • No matter how big and famous the person is [unless their Tweets are protected] anyone can follow anyone! Or, as my Grandma would have put it ... ‘a cat can look at the Queen’!

So how do you Follow people? Well ...

That's all there is to it!

  • As soon as you begin Following someone, their tweets will begin appearing in the Timeline on your Home page. [See tour-guide in Lesson 2 if these terms are unfamiliar to you].

Before I joined Twitter, whenever I'd look at other people's profiles, I'd get confused with how the terms Following and Followers were applied. So, to clarify:

Suggestions on who to Follow:
Next week, across Wednesday 2nd + Friday 4th of February I'll be discussing the less obvious types of account which you really should consider Following.

But until then ... let's begin filling your virtual-neighbourhood with the reeeeaaalllly obvious:

Family and friends - follow the people you know in 'real' life:

  • Use Twitter as a free equivalent of text-messaging - to send a short message to someone you already know.
  • Fill in the blanks of what your people are getting up to in between meeting-up with them in the flesh!
  • Maintain informal, regular, wonderfully random, even reassuringly mundane contact with those who live beyond your geographical reach.
  • See what your kids who've moved away are planning for tea or find out the weather where your parents live!
  • [At some point everyone on Twitter - sooner or later - finds themself discussing food and the weather! So let's jsut accept that fact .. and move on ...].

Virtual acquaintances - follow people you are already familiar with from their other online personas:

  • If you read blogs in a reader browser - hop out of it for a while and go browse the actual blog page you subscribe to.
  • Scan the page for a 'Follow Me on Twitter' button and ... errrm ... then follow them on Twitter!
  • Same goes for any website you regularly visit and would be interested in hearing more from via Twitter.

People similar to you - follow people who move in the same circles as you:

  • 'New' Twitter has Who To Follow tab across the top of your page;
  • There's also a summary of suggestions on your Home page.
  • You can browse by interests or look through the suggestions it has already tailored for you.
  • It analyses who you follow, who's following you etc and comes up with suggestions for you. It's not always spot-on - but is at least worth a look.
  • Once you're following a few people, hop onto their Profile pages to see who follows them and who they follow - chances are that some of them will share your interests - so begin following them too!
  • Do a general search [in the box at the top-centre] for keywords related to your hobbies and interests to see who else talks about those things.

Pay attention on Fridays [that's today BTW!] - follow those who come personally recommended by others:

  • Every Friday on Twitter you'll see the term #ff popping up everywhere.
  • This means 'Follow Friday' and is a way to personally recommend someone you think your Followers should Follow too.
  • For example my #ff tweet for today could be: '#ff @kirstyneale because not only is she amazing, she's the reason I joined Twitter in the first place'. [All true!].
  • Get it? All you need is #ff in front of a @username and people know that you're highlighting someone to follow.
Now you've begun Following all these new people you're going to see your Timeline fill up with the sum total of all their tweeting pretty quickly. And this is what Twitter is good at, it's the nature of the beast:

  • It's ever-changing; constantly renewing; fast-paced; brain food for those who need constant stimulation [ie. me!];
  • It's life as it happens, it's thoughts as they occur, news as it comes in, frustrations as they boil over, TV as it's being watched en masse ... lunch as it's being eaten ...

And sometimes ... it's all too much for two eyes to keep track of. Which is why you need to use the Lists function.


Adding people to Lists allows you to catalogue all of the accounts you Follow into whatever order makes sense to you. In fact - you don't even have to Follow someone to add them to a List!

  • Divide people into different categories and make a list for each category.
  • Click on the Lists tab > Create a List > Give the list a name.

I have several lists [see the image above] including things like: 'Arts-Crafts-Photography'; 'TV-Film-Theatre'; 'Books-Media-Comedy' into which I add the appropriate Tweeters as soon as I begin Following them [or have them drawn to my attention. I also have one for close friends and family. Then ...

  • ... whenever I don't want to scroll down and down through hundreds of tweets in my entire Timeline having to skim the page for the faces of specific set of people I want to catch up on ...
  • I simply click on the List I filed them under, which brings up a filtered Timeline showing only the tweets by those in that list!

And ...

  • if you see a List made by someone else which contains lots of accounts which you too would like to Follow ...
  • you can actually Follow that List! Rather than add all the people yourself!

I've noticed that there's a few people following my Twitter-curious list already... so I guess this isn't news to everyone!

OK then, now you're following people you share interests with, and they're all safely tucked away in Lists for easy access, it's round about here that Twitter can start to get exciting ...

Think of it as the kind of Fan Club you could only have dreamt about as a kid!

Did you join fan clubs when you were young, so you could show your support for a band you liked and so you'd be the first to hear about their latest tour dates?

I did ... and it always seemed to involve me having to persuade an adult to go and get me a postal order to pay a signing-up fee and request newsletters with tour dates on etc etc. It's all quite prehistoric compared to the access we - not just kids - now have to the people we admire and to their latest news.

Remember my Twitter philosophy from Lesson 1 about 'if it's important, they'll ring me back'? It's like that! If they have a new film / book / tour / album / TV show ... anything ... they come and tell you about it! You're the first to know [well, you and 5 million other people who Follow them... but still ...] that's one more way way in which being on Twitter saves you the time you'd spend looking into these things!

Plus, you have such ease of access to anyone on Twitter. All it takes is an @mention and - if they're not so big that they don't check their own tweets ... they'll see your message when checking their @mentions page. Now, whether they choose to respond to this or not is up to them ... but it's the nearest you're ever going to get to phoning up / bumping into your heroes - be it actors, musicians, writers, artists and so on ... and you just never know ... people have been know to get a reply!

A Twittering success:

When my other blog - The Copy + Paste Project - reached it's 1st birthday last year my co-blogger Kirsty Neale and I hosted a two day blog party filled with some amazing special guest bloggers.

ALL of the guests I invited accepted my offer and ALL of them were people I follow on Twitter. It led to a really exciting few weeks spent planning and scheduling posts by people I admired and couldn't believe had accepted to blog for us!

However ... this leads me to address a point raised in a comment from Patti / @MissouriBend. Here's some of what Patti said:

"One of the issues I have is that the advice I was given at the beginning [...] I followed all kinds of people whose tweets I didn't really care about, just hoping they'd follow me back...what for, I'm not sure...except to build a following!"

And I'm really glad Patti raised this as it gives me chance to state something I believe, which I hope has been implicit in my previous posts but which I'll just come out and say ...

  • there are no shortcuts to building interesting, fulfilling relationships even on super-speedy Twitter!

I think the advice given to Patti when she first began Tweeting missed out some huge, key elements necessary to build a useful, worthwhile network:

  • People need a reason to engage with you;
  • You can't only sell yourself to people. You have to buy-in to others too.

I'm afraid Twitter is not the quick fix to anything. No matter what marketing advice you might have read! Like anything in life I'm afraid you'll only get out of it what you put in ... [and all those other frustratingly true cliches!].

All those amazing people who accepted my offer to guest-blog?

  • I'd tweeted them all prior to asking;
  • I'd replied to general tweets they'd written; moreover ...
  • I'd replied out of genuine interest in joining in their conversation!
  • I shared things I thought they'd be interested in;
  • I was interested in what they were saying long before I ever wanted a favour!
  • Oh and ... I didn't ask them via Twittter .. I emailed them and put my case using more than 140 characters!

I'm afraid I don't have the secret to making Twitter boost anyone's sales. It doesn't seem to work for my etsy shop ... not in any obvious/profitable way!

All I can say is that spending a portion of time each week building a network of genuine connections ... rather than just boosting numbers can't possibly hurt your business / career plans. And those people in a position to help you - i.e: future customers or influential tweeters - are much more likely to help you if you're a real, interesting, funny, considerate person with something to contribbute to their experience of Twitter and the world beyond. Just try to be someone they'll be happy to see in their Timeline every now and again ...

OK, while I carefully climb down from my soapbox ... I'll move on to that bit of mythbusting I've been promising ...

Busting the big myth of Twitter

Are you ready? OK ... put your fingers in your ears as I'm going to shout ...


Instead you can:

  • set up an account;
  • take all of the information from today's lesson;
  • choose people to Follow;
  • arrange them in Lists;
  • keep up-to-date by reading all the latest information from your favourite comedians, shops, sports teams, politicians... daughters ... and so on;

And then...

  • turn off Twitter and go about your day! The End.

I'm pretty sure this is already how many people use it.

It's what my parents do.

Dad may not want to tell the Twitterverse anything about himself ... but he does like reading-up on the latest signings to the football team he supports, and following links from Stephen Fry's tweets ... or reading his daughter's political views when she's been tweeting after a glass of wine ... ;-)

So ... if the thought of having to write tweets has put you off so far ... how are my wannabe-lawyer arguments doing now?

Have I whittled away your last reserve yet?

If not ... I've got 6 more lessons to go so hold your fire for now and give me your verdict two weeks from today! OK?

I've packed an awful lot into this lesson. So there's a lot for you to go be brave about getting on with over the weekend:

  • If you haven't signed up to Twitter - sign up to Twitter [I'm attempting the direct approach!]


  1. Start following some people!
  2. Use the #ff method to recommend someone you think people should folllow too - but only on Friday!
  3. Look at the List function.
  4. Make a List.
  5. Add people to your list. [Click on their Profile > Click on the List icon > check the tick box nest to the appropriate list].
  6. Write an @mention tweet in genuine response to someone else's tweet.
  7. Join in a conversation and ... don't give up!!!!!!!

Twitter-relationships are most definitely eased along by its fast nature and the instant access you have to people ... but they still take time.

Ultimately you've got just as much chance of having a ball over there as I did two years ago, when I'd just begun and only knew @kirstyneale!

I'll be around if you want to say 'hi', or to confirm to you that you are indeed tweeting properly!

Class will reconvene on Monday morning with a lesson on a very modern language: Twitterspeak!

Have fun!



  1. If I knew how to draw one of the smiley face icons with blushing cheeks, I'd be doing it right now. Maybe like this?

    . o
    — )
    . o

    You're way too lovely and my #ffavourite Tweeter, too.

    Thanks for another great class, especially as I've never quite got to grips with the whole lists thing. Do we earn extra points for doing Homework over the weekend?


  2. Thank you so much for taking the time to give us new Tweeters such great information!
    Twwe on,

  3. cool..i am learning so i need to make lists!!! on my to-do list!!!


  4. I always wondered what lists were about & how they worked. Thank you for unravelling the mysteries of Twitter

  5. Can you add me to your list?
    @mspics - Marcie Scudder.
    I'm brand new to this...hanging on every word you write..trying to figure this whole thing out.

  6. Julie, huge thanks for sharing your knowledge in such a detailed and caring way. I have felt a little confronted but have taken small and gentle steps to get my homework done.

    Thank you, thank you. I'm sure once I get to know twitter I shall love it.

  7. I'm just starting to navigate my way through the world of Twitter and feel so fortunate to have stumbled over your blog. Great info here!


  8. Some days I feel like I am in twitter kindergarten. Thank you for this ...especially for the section on Lists. My timeline was starting me make me crazy trying to keep up.

  9. Here I am still catching up and just went 'oooooooooh' to see my avatar in one of your piccies. All smug now.

  10. Well I managed my first tweet and I even interacted with someone. Thanks for the tips. I might fit in one more lesson tonight and will then tackle the rest when I find some more spare time :-) This has been on my to-do sit for the past year and I am finally doing it!


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