How many Twitter users are out there? Since one celebrity alone has 1.5 million followers (and I’m not one of them), I’d say it’s a safe bet that there are at least 10 million. Out of all these people, how do you find who to follow on Twitter? Obviously you will want to follow any close friends who tweet, but what about beyond that?
An important thought-barrier to overcome is the idea that following someone on Twitter means listening to them tell you about their day. As you will see below, in addition to normal people, there are services, organizations, robots and jokesters occupying Twitterspace.
For anyone who is just getting started, here are my recommendations for who to follow on Twitter:
Who to follow on Twitter: Twitter Services
Twitter itself is an important one to follow. When things are really slow, or you can’t update your profile image, you will ask yourself, “Is my connection bad? Is it something I’m doing wrong? Or is it Twitter?” The official Twitter tweets explain what is slow or broken—and when these problems are fixed.
Sooner or later, you’ll be followed by a spammer. The thing to do with spammers is block them (so they’re not included in your followers list) and report them to Spam Watch. The best way to report them is to send a direct message to Spam Watch because direct messages are private, so you will avoid attracting further attention to the spammer. But you can only send direct messages to people who are following you. So how do you get Spam Watch to follow you? It’s easy: just follow them, and they will automatically follow you back. Then you’re ready to report any spammers.
Update: That’s the way we used to handle spam. Now Twitter provides a simple “report for spam” action. But it’s still useful to follow @spam for their warnings of fraudulent activity.
Unlike the above two, Mr. Tweet is not supplied by Twitter, but is one of many third-party services. Mr. Tweet is actually designed to help you with the question of who to follow on Twitter! Simply follow Mr. Tweet and it will start its machinery and send you a link to the recommendations it selected for you.
Are there other Twitter-related services that are helpful to follow? I’m looking for anything that is triggered by following it, not by logging in to a website.
Who to follow on Twitter: News
Catch important news headlines from CNN Breaking News.
(What’s curious about this is that until very recently, CNN was not directly involved with this account! Somebody else apparently wanted to read breaking news on his phone, so he took their news feed and created a Twitter account for it. This hints at the power of Twitter.)
I follow this San Jose A.M. radio news station 1590 KLIV for traffic alerts and local news updates (often delivered with wry humor, no mean feat in 140 characters). Obviously this won’t be of much help unless you live around San Jose, but I offer it as an example. Check with your local radio news station to see if they are posting news to Twitter.
One of the great things about Twitter is its immediacy. Is CNN Breaking News too slow for you? Try BNO News, which posts breaking news headlines while other news agencies are busy doing research and writing. This makes it pretty raw, and I have seen an occasional retraction, but unless there are people tweeting directly from a specific event, you’ll see it here first.
In addition to world and local news, you can get topic-specific news from niche magazines such as Macworld. What news do you follow on Twitter?
Who to follow on Twitter: Jokesters
Darth Vader needs little introduction. It turns out the Sith Lord is actually quite funny; who knew?
No, this is not the real Chuck Norris. This is the Chuck Norris who once shot a German plane down with his finger, by yelling, “Bang!”
…Got any other good ones you like?
Who to follow on Twitter: Thought-leaders
Whatever your fields of interest, there are people you look up to. Call them influencers, call them thought-leaders; some of them are bound to be on Twitter. Because this is so dependent on the field, I won’t call them out with pretty pictures, but let me give you some examples:
When you follow a leader in your field, you can discover other good finds by noticing:
- who they follow (check their lists)
- who they talk to (click the @-links they use)
- who they retweet (anything with “RT” or “via”)
You’ll soon find other thought-leaders of varying degrees of influence, including many you’ve never heard of but find interesting.
OK, now it’s your turn: what are your recommendations for who to follow on Twitter? This is especially for people who are just getting started on Twitter, or are looking to expand beyond their immediate circle of friends. And don’t be limited by my categories; are there particular celebrities you enjoy? Share who you like and why in the comments below.
Twitter Practical How-to’s series:
- Twitter Symbols: What Do @, d, RT, # Mean?
- Use a Twitter Client
- What to Tweet (and What Not To)
- Who to Follow on Twitter
- I’m Being Followed on Twitter!
More Twitter resources:
- Why Twitter? series
- Before You Sign Up for Twitter series, including How to Choose Good Twitter Names