Who Should You Follow on Twitter?

There’s a lot of talk about how to find Twitter followers. Though, you may have noticed, the conversation is typically about how to get people to follow you to help increase your reach, build awareness and make new contacts. But what if you’re a small business owner just now entering the world of Twitter? Who should you be following right out of the gate to help you get involved quickly and make the most out of your time on Twitter?

1. Your Customers

Depending on your niche, many of your customers may already be on Twitter. By identifying these people early, you’ll be able to jump right into listening to what’s important to them and interacting with them on a regular basis. You can find current customers on Twitter by searching by their e-mail address (if you have it) or by asking them to share their Twitter handle with you during surveys, purchases and any in-store interaction.

Because we go to Twitter to talk to and interact with the brands we like, customers may be really excited to meet you on their favorite social network. To help you find prospective customers, you can use Twitter Advanced Search to find people talking about your business or important keywords near a certain location, or use any of the local Twitter search engines like LocalFollow and or Nearby Tweets.

2. Your Competitors

Finding your competitors on Twitter shouldn’t be too hard, assuming you already know who they are. You can take advantage of Twitter’s search function to scope them out by company name, owner/employee names and/or their e-mail addresses. You may also want to check out their websites (business and personal) to see if they’re promoting their Twitter accounts (or any other social media accounts) via their home page or company newsletter.

When it comes to following competitors, I’d recommend following them through a private Twitter List unless you have a friendly working relationship with them. By following them on the sly, you’ll be able to keep tabs on their marketing strategies, see how they’re interacting with consumers and even find holes in their Twitter strategy that you can capitalize on.

3. Local Media Outlets

As a small business owner, you always want to be on the lookout for ways to win media coverage and earn local buzz. And the first step of that process means getting on the radar of the folks who report on your neighborhood and/or industry so they remember your name when it comes time to write a story. To help track down these valuable contacts, there are a number of sites at your disposal:

  • Use a Twitter directory site like Twellow or Listorious and search for tags like “reporter,” “writer” or “media” to find people that cover your industry.
  • Use MuckRack to track down reporters who cover the ‘beat’ you’re in. If you live in Chicago, you can find reporters in the Metro Chicago beat to see what types of stories they cover, discover who may be most interested in your angle, or just follow the entire list.
  • Make a note of the local press you’ve already received, the places your competitors have received coverage, and the outlets you hope to appear in one day. Then track them down on Twitter by using their websites or Twitter Search.

4. Industry Trendsetters

I mentioned this a bit in my 5 Types of Influencers on the Web post, but your industry trendsetters are the early adopters and the voices in your industry that people listen to. By following them, you help yourself get on their radar. But more than that, they help you stay on top of what’s going on. You may learn some valuable tidbits, find content worthy of sharing with your network, and build complementary relationships with these people. To find them, take a look at whose content is getting the most retweets (RTs) in your network, who people seem to be listening to, and the names that most often take office hours on Twitter. These are your industry-specific trendsetters and the people you want to follow.

5. People Who Amuse You

It’s not all work. You also want to find people on Twitter who brighten up your day by sharing the best content, the best stories and the best tidbits about themselves. By finding these genuinely interesting people, whether or not they’re relevant to your work network, you’ll find human and spice-of-life type content that you can share with your network. For example, maybe it’s your favorite comedian on Twitter, maybe it’s FakeAPStyleBook or DrunkHulk. You want to be more than useful to your audience; you also want to help brighten their day.

When I help clients build up new Twitter accounts, above are five types of Twitter users that I help them find and immediately follow. Who else should small business owners be following on Twitter?

More in: 11 Comments ▼

Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

11 Reactions
  1. Thanks, Lisa.

    I haven’t read a post about where to find some good folks to follow on Twitter for a long time.

    Great to see you at Blogworld!

    The Franchise King

  2. And don’t forget to follow @LisaBarone (she’s just too shy to include that in the article).

  3. Mitch Joel and I recently had a lively debate on this topic on my blog {grow}. It really gets back to your strategy. Certainly the categories you mention above are legitimate, but if you only stick to those, you might be missing a world of business opportunity. I have met some of my best business partners and customers through Twitter and none of them would have made your list. This is the blog post I referenced: Bringing Down the Twitter Snobs http://bit.ly/aGhNRR

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post!

  4. Lisa, this is super helpful. I have grown tired of the “Increase your follower count” type posts. Although I believe it is good to have large follower/following counts, but it isn’t necessary to create an engaging conversation, stream.

  5. I would also try looking for those who influence your customers. The reason being who you are influenced may have no influence on your customers and this can lead to wrong decisions being made.

  6. Lisa, thanks for the article. Two years after it was published, it is still relevant!