The ULTIMATE guide to finding and engaging influential Twitter users

While I provide specific steps below, what’s most important is that you (1) be a real person (2) and engage people (3) who are interested in your topic. Any way you do these three things is good! For the best use of this information, see “How ANYONE can become incredibly popular on Twitter.”

Remember to begin by thinking creatively of what categories you would like to find influential people in. Consider using a thesaurus to come up with ideas for terms. For this example, we’ll use “parenting” as an example. Once you have settled on “parenting” as the phrase that best describes the category you’re interested in, you’ll also want to consider finding people who are influential about such key words/phrases as

  • Kids
  • Families
  • Raising children
  • Etc.

How to find the most influential people willing to help you

Maybe you’re trying to make important connections for your business, or get your name onto important Twitter lists. Whatever your reason, you need help and connections.

The first step is finding people. Start with this great list of resources for searching for users by topic, influence, name, etc.

This is actually a two-part strategy.

Ideally, you’ll begin by first being a resource, mentor or inspiration for people that can benefit from your help. Start by giving, even if only from enlightened self-interest—it builds your reputation. However, most people want to get what they need first. With that in mind, I’ll cover getting help before I cover giving it—but giving is usually the better place to start.

Figure out who the most helpful influencers are

Most influencers will be on Twitter and Facebook and have a blog or website. Twitter is the easiest place to learn about influencers efficiently, but be sure to pay attention to key influencers even if they are not on Twitter by reading their Facebook status updates or blog posts.

You can skip or abbreviate any of these steps that seem too time intensive:

  1. Rank users by influence scores using tools such as Kred, Klout, PeerIndexTweetLevel, BlogLevel, Twitalyzer, Tweet Grader, etc. Note that step 3 below—read some of their tweets—can be more useful than their influence rank. So I would suggest not solely eliminating people from consideration by rank.
  2. Create one or more private Twitter list(s) of everyone you are considering.
  3. Read 2-3 pages of each user’s tweets, or do a Twitter search like this one to see many of their conversational tweets. Take note of who has conversations with other users and who seems to be most engaged on the specific topic you are interested in.
  4. Follow the users who seem most engaged with other users, and interested in your topic, and add them to a public list.

Over time, add and remove folks from your Twitter list of potentially helpful influencers. Check it from time to time to see if anyone stands out—either good or bad—and to find useful information or opportunities to engage. If you’ve decided to follow them, I suggest either removing them from your first “trial” list or—even better—creating a second list and adding your chosen users to it.

►  Tip: Some folks subscribe to see whenever they are added to a Twitter list, so this step alone can help get their attention and increase engagement.

Learn about them quickly

While the first step is to find the right people, what do you do when you find them? Read about how to find the the things they like best and the things others like best about them here.

Figure out who will be most responsive to your request for help

To do this, engage the users you have selected by first being helpful to them. The four steps are:

  1. RT something they have tweeted that they seem to feel needs to find a wider audience.
  2. Search for tweets of theirs that ask a question and respond helpfully if you can (example search for tweets from a user with a question) and/or comment on or ask them about a tweet they’ve written.
  3. Tweet something about them. By accurately and positively sharing information about them with your followers, you are helping them to widen their reach and deepen their engagement with like-minded people.
  4. Leave comments on their blogs.

These are just a few suggestions: there are plenty of ways to engage others on Twitter.

Find the communities influencers are a part of

There are communities built up around every topic or interest imaginable you can tap into. When you think you may have found an influencer in one of those communities, examine, in order:

  1. Who they tweet with (read their tweets or do specially filtered searches);
  2. Who they have made lists of;
  3. Who they follow.
  4. Who comments on their blog.

Try to figure out which of these three is the most useful. For example, if they have curated good Twitter lists (#2) that will probably be the most helpful—it’s their attempt to give you exactly what you are looking for—key members of a community. But sometimes a user who is clearly highly involved in a specific community and has many followers only follows a few people themselves. The people they follow are then a good starting point (but realize some will be unrelated family, friend, news/hobby accounts that they follow, etc.)

How to tweet your request for help

Through this process of engagement they have learned more about you, and recognized you are a real and engaged person.

And you will have learned who would be most responsive to your request for assistance. When you compose a request for help, be specific. It’s essential to direct requests to people who might be interested or responsive to the topic of your request—you have to have done your homework first. Indicate that you have read their tweets, bio and blog by addressing their interests. Do NOT tweet to random people “I don’t know anything about you, but would you be interested in _____?” Start by:

  1. Tweeting a request for help, not directed at a particular user. Wait at least a  few hours to see who responds, if anyone.
  2. Tweet via @ msg—not via DM—your request for help to the most-likely-to-help user you’ve found so far, repeat with the second-most-likely-to-help user, etc.
  3. Space out your tweets by at least 45 minutes, and don’t tweet more than 4 requests for help in one day. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but the more you spread out specific requests, the less annoying it is
  4. Wait a couple of days for a response. Many people are a few days behind on reading their Twitter messages from time to time.
  5. If no one responds, continue the three-step engagement process for your most-desired contacts, and continue finding new contacts. Also consider ways to expand your use of Twitter lists. See, for example, 10 Strategic Twitter Lists Ideas for Your Online Business.

The more frequently you tweet in general, the more frequently you can mix in @ messages requesting help from others. But unless your need is urgent, the more you space it out, the better.

Making difficult connections: The “friend of a friend” approach

If you’re trying to connect with someone that follows a relatively small number of people (as many celebrities do), look at the list of people they follow, and find the most engaged people on that list. If you can build a strong and legitimate relationship with the friend of someone, you may be able to get your request or message passed along by them to the hard-to-reach contact. Note that the worst thing you can do is simply ask someone you don’t to do something for you. For example, sending a tweet such as “Hey @[friend], get @[celebrity] to follow me” is likely to get you blocked and reported as a spammer by multiple people. You’re also likely to be blocked and reported as a spammer for tweets such as “Hey @[celebrity] follow me back!”

Be real and engage people interested in your topic

These steps are just a rough guide to get you started. Any way you achieve real engagement with the right people is a good thing :) Here’s another good article on how to get engaged on Twitter. For finding folks you might be interested in, you can also try Twitter’s Suggestions for You service. You might also like Why 150 Followers Is All You Really Need.

The more important part: Helping, and building a community reputation

As I mentioned at the beginning, it’s best to give before you get. With that in mind, use the same techniques as above, but look for people that could use your help, instead of the other way around.

Since these people are harder to find in directories, use Twitter search. Experiment with search terms to find people tweeting about things you can help them with. And that means NOT sending tweets trying to sell them your product or service. Educate, advise, consult and inform. Don’t sell. This is a reputation you’re trying to build, not a sale. Follow up. To help someone, do Google searches and ask others for advice and help on how to help them. When I find a question I don’t know the answer to, I ask others for help, and pass along what I find to the person asking the question (along with the usernames of the people who helped).

Build your reputation one person at a time. Give each person you try to help “awesome service.” Once you’ve built up a reputation as a giver and a resource, getting people to help you becomes much easier.

If you’ve been using your Twitter account very differently from this, you may want to consider opening an additional Twitter account.

A Secret Benefit

A lot of Twitter users are NOT very engaged. If you don’t try to find the engaged ones, Twitter can feel like a ghost town at times. But if you follow this approach, you’ll have a completely different experience.

Users often ask me why so many of the people they tweet don’t respond. A lot of people don’t know how to use Twitter properly, and are just here shouting things and not engaging. Also, sometimes a mostly spam account can fool you—some of them try to fake appearing engaged by sending messages to other spam accounts—fake conversations. Of course, they won’t respond to you—there often isn’t a real person reading incoming tweets.

Also important to realize is that most people take much more time to respond to tweets than to other ways of communication. Give someone the better part of a week before assuming you’ll never hear back.

Have a question or suggestion?

If you’d like more information or have ideas to share, leave a comment! I respond to all requests for help :) You might also like “How To Find Influencers to Maximize Efforts.”

2 thoughts on “The ULTIMATE guide to finding and engaging influential Twitter users

  1. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto
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    And he actually bought me breakfast due to the fact that I stumbled upon it for him…
    lol. So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this subject here on your website.

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