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Five ways to find engaging people to follow on Twitter

July 14, 2009 |  3:25 pm

Twitter_logo In an earlier post, we discussed how to amass followers on Twitter. Now let's talk about finding people you can follow. Actually, it's about finding people you'd want to follow (because we're pretty certain that you don't want to know what everyone is having for breakfast).

Twitter is about eavesdropping on random conversations and figuring out which parties to join. Not into celebrity blather? Don't follow @BritneySpears. Love cycling? Check out @LanceArmstrong. There are literally millions of conversations happening on Twitter. You don't need to be listening to every single one of them.

Once again, we tapped Andrew Nystrom, the Times' social media guru who Twitters @latimesnystrom. His advice follows.

1. Start with your friends. Twitter lets you import contacts from your Gmail, Yahoo or AOL e-mail accounts. It will show you which of your contacts have Twitter accounts.

2. Be picky. Resist the temptation to "select all" of your contacts to follow. Because this is the default option when you import your contacts, you need to uncheck the box to select all. Start with dozen or so people to begin with. This helps keep the signal-to-noise ratio low. The idea is to funnel as much useful, relevant information to your page. Start with a dozen people. Andrew has a good Twit Test: If you can't wait to open a personal e-mail from this person, follow him.

3. Pick a topic. If you're passionate about a particular topic, say video games, try sites such as WeFollow, which is a directory of Twitter accounts organized by topic and ranked by popularity. 

Andrew Nystrom 4. Poach your friends' follow lists. Chances are, you share a common set of interests with your friends. If that's the case, they may have some leads for you. Check out who they're following and "eavesdrop" on those conversations by reading a few of their posts. If you like what you read, follow them.

5. Talk about your passions. Start by filling that all-important "Bio" with keywords of topics you're interested in, whether it's comic books, World of Warcraft or "Twilight." People with similar interests will start replying to you. If they're interesting, you've found a new best Twitter friend.

As your reward for reading this far, here are two bonus tips from Andrew (pictured above with his son, Maximo). Once you've Twittered for a few weeks, try recommendation engines that analyze your Twitter stream and suggest like-minded people for you to follow. Be careful, though. Some of these sites ask you to divulge your account name and password. Do so only if you know you can trust the site. One recommendation site that seems legit is Mr.Tweet.

Second bonus tip: Don't be afraid to unfollow people. If you find yourself getting annoyed or bored with someone, unfollowing them is not a big deal. You're not hurting anyone's feelings. "It's pretty impersonal," Nystrom said. "It's all about finding conversations you're interested in."

-- Alex Pham

Follow my random thoughts on games, gear and technology on Twitter @AlexPham.