Making the Most of Twitter - Followed or follower?
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The first thing to realize is that it's virtually pointless to simply sign up and start tweeting merrily away. Your tweets will simply vanish without a trace into the oblivion of the thousands of others that hit the site every second. The trick is to acquire some followers before you start tweeting. Followers are people who have actively chosen to listen for the things you say, and until you get some, the only way anyone will ever see your tweets is by clicking the Everyone button. So the real question is, how do you go about getting yourself followed?
Many beginners make the mistake of shouting louder and louder and trying to be ever more impressive in an attempt to attract attention to themselves. Brilliant wits and geniuses may be able to gather some followers with such an approach, but in general this type of behavior is doomed to be ignored. If it's even noticed in the first place, that is, as most twitterers are far too busy listening to the people they follow to track the random mutterings of total strangers.
A far more effective - and more sociable - method of attracting followers is to stop talking for a while, and take some time instead to locate and follow some interesting people. This is the equivalent of setting a two-way radio to receive rather than transmit, and is likely to result in an immediate improvement in the experience.
Having said that, although it can be curious and oddly entertaining for a short while, there's little value in following strangers picked at random from Twitter's six million or so registered accounts. There is an art to finding people whose posts you're likely to want to read, and one of the best ways to accomplish this is through the built-in Search feature. Bizarrely, this vital function doesn't even merit a link on the Twitter home page, but trying to find tweets of interest without it is like trying to pick out at random the vainest celebrity in the crowd on Oscars night.
There's no great mystery about the way Twitter search works. Let's say you want to know what people are saying about a game. Just type Wii Fit into the search box at search.twitter.com and a list of every tweet that uses the term is returned to your browser, with the most recent at the top. Now you can browse through the tweets, and when one catches your eye you can reply directly to the poster using the form @username.
You don't have to reply, but you can, and if it seems right you can choose to follow the poster. Conversation is usually a good approach as it leads inevitably to you getting followers for yourself and, as most users discover, this process quickly develops a momentum of its own. Like golf majors, the first follower is the hardest to get.
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