To start building your network on Twitter, you follow people who are in your industry or have similar interests. You can find them through keyword searches, or by following suggestions from Twitter.
Many people won’t automatically follow you when you start following them on Twitter. In that case, your only option is to engage those people in conversations, and give them a reason to follow you.
Why you want to engage
Before approaching them, though, know why you want to engage with them. It’s always good to have a well-defined objective in mind. Otherwise, you may come off as behaving randomly. What you want to do is interact in a way that is meaningful, and in a way that lets you demonstrate your desire and ability to contribute something valuable; essentially, this is your social capital.
Resist the temptation to sell them something. Most people will not tolerate being spammed. If you’re reported as a spammer, your reputation can be damaged. Worse, you could find your Twitter privileges revoked.
What you’ll talk about
Remember the cocktail party metaphor. You’re entering a room of virtual strangers who are having conversations around you. Therefore, don’t worry about talking. Start by listening.
You can participate passively by offering up a comment or asking a question relevant to someone else’s remarks. In time you will connect through conversation and be able to offer your own views and insights. By then, those in the room will have likely gotten to know you and trust you. Because of that, they will hear you and may even listen to you.
How to find the right people
Using a program like ManageFlitter, pull up the list of those you’re following on Twitter, but who aren’t yet following you. By hovering your mouse over each name on the list, this program gives you a brief synopsis of the person; e.g., how often they tweet, and how many followers they have. You’ll see some have earned a popularity ranking.
These statistics may help you decide who you want to engage. You can also right-click on anyone on the list and open their timeline in another window. This gives you a view of their latest tweets, among which you may find an opportunity to engage. For example, you can click a link someone has posted and, if you find it interesting, you can retweet it. Or, you may want to click the “reply” button and add your own comment relevant to the link they shared.
You can also post an @mention (use the “@” symbol in front of the person’s Twitter name) and a comment as a way of reaching the person named in the @mention, even though they don’t follow you. The comment will, however, also appear in the newsfeeds of everyone else who follows you.
The approaches outlined here are a reminder that traditional marketing methods of broadcasting to the masses will not work on social networks. These social platforms are controlled by consumers who determine which marketers are allowed to participate. Marketers must prove their worth by contributing value and participating in conversations in order to attract customers.