Posted by: judyweightman | January 3, 2013

Twitter How-To Part II: Who should you follow?

You’ll probably want to get the feel of the Twitterverse before you start tweeting yourself, so the best way to begin is to find people you want to follow. The good news is, more and more people are on Twitter — you’ll soon start noticing “follow us on Twitter” notices everywhere! — and the bad news is, more and more people are on Twitter, making it hard to find sort out which people (and organizations) you want to follow.

Start by finding a few accounts of interest to you, then Twitter will suggest additional people to follow. Some obvious categories to start with:

  • Local feeds
    • News and events: In Philly, start with @NewsworksWHYY and @phillydotcom for news and @uwishunew and @visitphilly for events and activities.
    • Updates and alerts: @SEPTA covers the entire transit system; they also have individual accounts for each regional rail line. @PhillyStreets covers street closings, reminders when there’s a holiday that pushes trash pickup back a day, etc.
    • Politics and government: @PhiladelphiaGov, @Michael_Nutter
    • Entertainment venues, museums, and arts groups
    • Sports teams and athletes
    • Your favorite shops and restaurants
  • News: Your local news feeds will probably also cover breaking national and international news, but you can also follow your favorite news sources, including TV networks; newspapers, magazines, journals, and blogs; and reporters and commentators.
  • Politics: Both major political parties have Twitter presences, as do most political candidates at every level of government. There are also somewhere between a bajillion and a bajillion and a half commentators; add in satirists and comics who follow politics and you’ll fill up your follow list in no time.
  • Arts and entertainment: Check your favorite artists, musicians, writers to see what kind of presence they have. A blue check mark means that the account has been verified as actually associated with that person, though he or she may have a staff member handling the feed rather than doing it him/herself.
    A verified account

    A verified account

    • Not too surprisingly, many comedians are masters of the 140-character quip. I started with @andyborowitz and @stevemartintogo.
    • Other great humor feeds aren’t associated with a particular individual: I like @fakeAPstylebook, @sarcasticrover (tweeting from Mars), @honesttoddler, and @sockamillion (a cat).
    • Authors in general tend to have good feeds: @MargaretAtwood, @susanorlean, William Gibson (@GreatDismal), Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), and @stephenfry are all very effective tweeters.
    • Not all musicians are worth following, but @roseannecash has a great feed, whether you’re a particular fan of her music or not.
    • Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) tweets a lot, and on plenty of topics besides movies.
    • Many TV shows have official feeds, as do both actors on those shows and characters from them. (Downton Abbey fans, for instance, will want to follow @TheDowagerSays.)
    • Your favorite magazines almost definitely have feeds.
  • Professional interests: Start with whatever professional society you belong to, and if there are any big names in your field, see if they’re tweeting. For me, “professional” includes people who tweet on writing, editing, and language; colleges and universities and people who cover and comment on higher education; and arts organizations and venues in Philadelphia. The great thing about Twitter is that you don’t have to choose a single area of interest.
  • Personal interests: I follow several knitters and crafty types, for instance. Whatever your hobby might be, there are undoubtedly plenty of feeds — individuals, groups, businesses — waiting for you.
  • Friends and family

You aren’t going to follow all of these avenues at once: figure out which sound the most interesting — and useful — to you and start there.

As you start developing a list of “followees,” Twitter will leap into action and suggest related feeds. Their algorithm is useful but, like any algorithm, imperfect, so you don’t want to accept all suggestions. How do you decide who to follow and who not to? My next post will explain how to evaluate possible Tweeters before you hit “follow.”

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