As a social network, Twitter is downright weird. Social networks are sites we visit to talk to our friends and family and meet new people, right? Right. Can you do that on Twitter? Sure. But that's not really Twitter's focus. On Twitter, you don't have friends -- you have followers. In turn, you follow other people. Some people do use Twitter to communicate with their friends -- they follow a small number of people and often have private profiles only viewable by the people they choose to follow.
The rest of Twitter is wide open. You can follow any Twitter user to see posts about their lives, catch up-to-the-minute news from business accounts like CNN or Google, or follow accounts that use Twitter as an outlet for comedy. There are millions of Twitter accounts out there, but no definitive "right" way to use Twitter. Want to fawn over celebrities? Have at it. Want to send messages to your favorite authors? If they're on Twitter, you can. Post interesting, frequent tweets, and you may soon develop a following. But you don't have to do that -- you can use Twitter to follow other accounts without ever posting a single tweet.
That brings us to our topic: Who should you follow? It's not an easy question to answer since who you follow depends so much on what you like (and what you're like). Start by adding your friends, then seek out a few of your favorite media personalities. Twitter profiles are easy to find with a Google or Twitter.com search. Once you're following a decent number of people, just spend some time watching your Twitter feed. Pay attention to others' tweeting habits. Do some people seem to tweet too often and clog up your feed? Or is your Twitter feed updated too infrequently for your liking? This should help you weed out people who tweet too frequently or let you know you should be following more people.
If you decide to follow more people, that brings us back to the problem at hand: How do you know who to follow? Instead of taking shots in the dark, we'll turn to some resources that will help you match up your interests with the best accounts on Twitter.
Choosing Who to Follow
When you first sign up for Twitter, the site will give you some recommendations on who to follow. This is a sure-fire way to find some celebrities and follow a few of Twitter's creators, but there's a good chance you won't care about any of them. Once you begin following a few people, though, the "who to follow" link on Twitter's top navigation bar will look at your current following list and deliver some useful suggestions. Once you've checked those out, it's time to browse. The Who to Follow page includes a tab called "browse interests" that lists popular Twitter accounts by category.
"Browse interests" includes categories like entertainment, books, fashion, funny, music and sports. Spend a few minutes searching, and you should see quite a few names you recognize. And it's always OK to take a chance on someone you don't recognize. He or she could turn out to be interesting, too! To find some of the most popular Twitter users not featured in Twitter's "browse interests" section, WeFollow is a great resource. The concept is similar: The site allows you to browse through categories like celebrity, music, tech, blogger and comedy to find the accounts with the most followers. Obviously, most doesn't always equal best, but browsing is an easy way to find a ton of interesting accounts.
Whether you decide to follow a small number of people or hundreds, there are a few tools that can help you keep track of all the posts flowing in from the accounts you're following. Twitter's built-in lists feature allows you to organize those accounts into multiple groups. You can make the groups publicly visible to everyone, or use them as private organizational tools that only you can see. Twitter clients like TweetDeck offer a similar functionality: In TweetDeck, you can create multiple groups and give each group its own column. With these tools, you can always have an all-encompassing feed with every post and categorized feeds of "can't miss" tweeters or groups for friends, celebrities, etc. There's no right way to follow people on Twitter -- whether you want to use it for a single purpose and only follow celebrities, or if you prefer to create a varied feed of acquaintances and comedians and online personalities, it's all about what you like.
- HootSuite.com. "HootSuite - Social Media Dashboard." (July 25, 2011) http://hootsuite.com/
- Seesmic.com. "Seesmic - All of your social media services in one place." (July 25, 2011) http://seesmic.com
- WeFollow.com. "Twitter Directory and Search, Find Twitter Followers." (July 26, 2011) http://wefollow.com/