Businesses that are successfully using social media know that social media communication is a two way street.
On the one hand we know that using Twitter well means carefully creating messages and broadcasting them into the twittersphere.
But powerful Twitter users also know success depends on listening and engaging with your business community, and that the listening process starts with following the right accounts when using Twitter.
My grandmother liked to remind me that we are all born with two ears and one mouth… and to use them in that proportion. More than 50 years later this is still great advice to remember as we navigate our way around social media.
So this is a good time for you to review who you are following on Twitter, and crafting that following list to reflect well on your business, and to keep you connected in the right kinds of circles.
Who should a business follow on Twitter?
The accounts you choose to follow on Twitter are a subtle but powerful indicator of your positioning in your business sector.
In much the same way we judge our counterparts by who they know and the circles they travel in, you want to hone your profile to convey the reputational messages that are aligned with your brand. Are you following the key players, the most important people in your sector?
And also keep in mind the process of following is a two way street. It enables you to keep abreast of their latest news and views. And the accounts you choose to follow are made aware that you are following them.
Is it appropriate for your business account to be following pop stars on Twitter? Probably not, unless you work in the entertainment sector or they are in some way associated with your brand.
There are some good places to start as you begin to refine and develop the accounts you choose to follow on Twitter:
1. Industry leaders
You are connected with them on LinkedIn. You meet them at exhibitions. You hear them speak at conferences. They write for the trade press. You look at their websites. They are your competitors or in your supply chain.
Do the right thing, and start to follow them on Twitter.
2. Journalists and the trade press
Journalists love Twitter. They are looking for latest news and trends. Following them on Twitter means you’re able to keep an eye on their interests and latest activity, and also services to give a nudge their way to keep you on their radar.
A great way to identify journalists, and indeed any of these target categories, is to use Twitter Lists.
In this example, I’ve started with a journalist I know (Hello, Gemma!) Next to the number of followers and number of tweets, you’ll see an option for Lists.
A Twitter List is a curated selection of people who are useful on Twitter, created to try and make some sense of the chaos. Gemma has been included on quite a few lists, all of which have the common theme of journalists working in Nottingham.
Low and behold, I have an instant set of recommendations of relevant journalists I might want to start following:
3. Clients and customers
People do business with other people, and following your clients on Twitter and engaging with their content is a simple and effective way to keep the relationship open and to let them know you are interested in their business.
If you’re worried about your competitors finding out who your clients are because you follow them, then throw them off the scent but also following accounts that you wish were your clients.
4. Other influential Twitter accounts
This is the catch all category that quite simply is anybody who could ever be useful to you.
That usefulness can be measured in many ways, and a good way to start is to identify how influential the users are who follow your account.
There are a number of ways you can assess how influential social media users are, and we have written a guide to measuring social influence that you can find here.
For example, the Followerwonk service provides us with a useful Social Authority score that you can use to determine whether it is worth following and engaging with a particular account.
In this example we are researching twitter accounts related to car leasing and we can assess just how influential they are:
Why shouldn’t my business follow everyone who follows us?
One option on Twitter is to simply follow back ever account that follows your business, however this is seen as a spam technique particularly if you are using automated bots to automatically follow back.
But if you think strategically about who you are following on Twitter, who you want to interact with, who you want to listen to, then it is clear that your choice of who to follow is a business decision, not a numbers game.