Getting Started on Twitter: Decide Who to Follow with a Bucket Strategy

Posted By on October 3, 2012

Divide your following into buckets.

Getting started on Twitter will go more quickly if you pick tweeps who fall into buckets of business builders, career builders and reputation builders.

When getting started on Twitter, there is a very human temptation to obsess about that Big Fat Zero in your “follower” column. Instead, we recommend using our bucket strategy to decide on a following that can help you grow your reputation and your business.

Start out by dividing your Twitter following into “self-help” buckets.

If you’re interested in photography, look up your favorite photographers, or follow the Magnum pros or seek out fabulous photo aggregation sites on Twitter and put this group into a bucket. If writing or literature is your passion, cozy cat mystery people or the Poetry Foundation and its insight into the poetry of Ovid becomes another group. The point is: the people you decide to put in your buckets should be there to feed you with insight and news about topics you like.

Create another bucket of industry or business contacts.

Stock business contacts in another bucket.

Rather than grubbing for followers, put industry contacts and newsmakers in your buckets.

Twitter isn’t just for fun; it’s a great resource for keeping up with trends in your industry; it’s a place to learn who’s been hired or fired; it’s a timely source of insight for when to jump if you see an opening or an opportunity. Follow those people who provide a pulse on your business community, your colleagues, and your competition. Over time, this group will become a hub of important career or sales-building.

Make only a small bucket of friends you want to keep up with.

Facebook is the social medium of choice for keeping up with friends. I think of Twitter as a better forum for business, mostly because it’s so public. I only follow a few folks in my social circle on Twitter based on whether they “tweet sweet” and make me laugh. You may decide to fill your bucket differently. Just remember: it’s hard to drop real friends from your stream (for some reason, people take it personally!).

Make a bucket for the ten Influentials you really want to know.

Think about your industry and your career path. There are important people on Twitter who aren’t celebrities exactly—but who are leaders in the spheres you operate in.

Twitter gives you unprecedented access to influential people in any industry. Pick your “top ten” and start cultivating a connection by listening to the conversation.


Figure out ten or so movers and shakers in your industry or interest area who could help your business reputation: who are the people who appear at the important conferences? Who speaks out on key issues? Who gets quoted on TV or in the industry publications you read? Who’s on a board you might like to join? Ask yourself: whose recommendation or testimonial would mean the most to your career?

Now do nothing except listen and RT your Influentials’ tweets.

If you want to “know” someone on Twitter, the fastest way to a tweeter’s heart is the share button. Your task with your bucket of Influentials is to spend three to six months listening in to their conversations (this will take less time with people who are players in local or regional niches; you should plan on a much longer time with Influentials with a national following). When one of your Top Tens says something you like or agree with, hit the RT button and share it with your followers. Do this regularly enough, and a Red Letter Day will come when one of your Influentials will send you an @reply saying, “Thx for the RT.” Whoo-hoo. This is the start of a Twitter relationship.

After three to six months, you can RT your Influentials’ comments with a comment of your own.

There’s an etiquette to Twitter that is a lot like a party conversation. If Mrs. National Spokesperson stood in the middle of a group of gin drinkers at a cocktail party, you would naturally hang out on the fringes and listen in on the conversation. You would not elbow your way in the face of Mrs. Spokesperson and try to buy her a Manhattan in return for a testimonial on your website.

So too, in Twitter: etiquette requires that you listen to the conversation for some time before you try to engage with the rock stars of your profession. I guarantee that if over time you share Mrs. Spokesperson’s comments, she will begin to notice you. When that happens, you can add your own salient comments or a new line of thinking to your RT. You’ll see that your reputation for thoughtful discourse is growing by the number of followers you gain.

Once you establish a Twitter relationship of shares and thoughtful comments, you can do exactly what you would ordinarily do in the real world. If Mrs. Spokesperson will be speaking at a conference in town, you buy a ticket. You listen to her speech and go up to her when it ends and introduce yourself as one of her ‘tweeps. You tell her your name and remind her that you’ve been reading her tweets with pleasure for the past year. Voilà. Mrs. Spokesperson puts your face to your name. You’re connected. Where you go from there is up to you.

After 3-6 months, watch the relationship bloom

The wait will be worth it if you listen, RT and then connect to your community.

Got recommendations for other “Getting Started on Twitter” buckets? It’s worth a Word Czar hat.

I’d love to hear any other strategies you’ve used for identifying people to follow. Seems like Twitter is a garden that we should control, rather than the other way round. So weigh in. We’ve bought a supply of popular Word Czar hats to reward the winning comment.

More Twitter insights here.

Twitter How-To: Curate Better-Quality Tweeps
Grow Your Twitter Following with Great Writing about…an Office Vasectomy?
Twitter 101: Why Twitter isn’t TMI

Cynthia Hartwig