Why following the right people on Twitter can be more important than who’s following you

Last month, I held a workshop for The Palm Beach Post called “Finding People to Follow on Twitter.”

The idea behind the class was that, often, who you follow on Twitter can be more important than who’s following you.

MattJhsn / Flickr

MattJhsn / Flickr

A lot of people, journalists included, find that the most useful thing about Twitter is that it helps them stay up to date in their industry or particular area of interest.

They use it more as a news reader or an RSS feed, and less as a platform to promote their own content.

Post health writer Stacey Singer touched on this when I featured her for an earlier blog post about Twitter following. She tweets links to her stories, but she also uses Twitter to keep track of health news, which she says tends to hit the microblogging service “about 24 hours before you see it on the news sites.”

During the recent workshop at The Post, we looked at websites that help journalists find good Twitter accounts to follow. We also talked about hashtags, using Twitter searches, and creating and managing lists to help narrow down your Twitter stream to only what you need to see at any given time.

I’ll include a list of those resources at the end of this blog post. But first, here are snapshots of three of the people who attended the workshop and how Twitter is helping them with their jobs.

Melissa Patterson

Melissa Patterson (@mpattersonPBP), a homepage producer who also oversees The Post’s mobile efforts and shepherded through our iPhone app, uses Twitter “to get relevant news about new media – particularly mobile – before it becomes mainstream.” Examples of accounts she follows are @OnlyMobileNews, the Twitter feed of a news aggregator, and @vhirsch, who blogs about the mobile telecommunications industry.

Melissa says that she recently “discovered a meetup group through a tweep called Mobile Monday Miami that’s been so helpful and enlightening for the mobile aspect of my job, and Twitter helps me stay connected to it. I wouldn’t have known that a meeting had been rescheduled except that another tweep answered my question on Twitter about it.”

Michelle Licudine

Michelle Licudine (@mlicudine), The Post’s digital audience director, found accounts such as @Omniture and @comScore during the class, which she chose to follow for news about online marketing.

Michelle also created a Twitter list, Web Marketing Resources, where she can see all the updates from her preferred accounts in one place (and be able to filter out unrelated stuff when she needs to). The list “has become a web marketing news feed for me and I don’t t have to subscribe to more email newsletters to get the info, which I like. I check this at least twice a day,” she says.

She ticks off a handful of other ways Twitter has helped her on the job:

I discovered the #measure hashtag, which web metrics and analytics folks use. I tweeted a question with the hashtag and got a reply within an hour.

I discovered InternetMarketingClub.org, a network of online marketing people. So I have a new place to bounce ideas off others.

I’ve also updated my LinkedIn account to show a feed of my tweets, so people in my professional network know what I’m working on and can offer me tips and advice.

Jane Smith

Jane Smith (@pbpjane), a copy editor who also contributes to The Post’s Step by Step fitness blog and is always interested in keeping her web skills up to date, uses Twitter to follow trends in the web world, journalism and local fitness scene. @Lorax_Sneetch and @Neil714, for instance, are members of Palm Beach Road Runners she follows.

Jane’s Twitter lists include Journalism and Fitness, again to filter her Twitter stream when needed.

She even used Twitter to find a phone number to update a nightclub’s TGIF listing in our paper when the online yellow pages proved unreliable.

And now, for that promised list of resources from the workshop.

Here are a few sites that can help you find people to follow:

Lists: Listorious
Lists: TLists
WeFollow directory

Here’s general reading about Twitter:

Beginner’s guide to Twitter
Journalists’ Guide to Twitter
Twitter Best Practices (CMGd)
Ultimate Guide to Twitter Hashtags

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