Social Media Strategy – Developing a Twitter Audience Based on Affinity

by Josh Opinion on January 20, 2011

A while back a friend of mine (@jeibey) asked how I grow a Twitter account. Besides actually using Twitter to socialize for people, there is strategy involved on how to build a following based on your interests.

Step 1- Set Up an Autofollower Account

I’ve used Social Oomph (formerly known as Tweet Later) for a while now for auto-following and creating an automated direct message. There are probably more services out there that do the same but this is the only one I’ve used and it hasn’t caused me any problems so I stick with it.

  1. Once registered, go to the main page and select “Manage My Social Accounts”.
    Social Oomph Manage My Social Account
  2. Click “Edit” on your Twitter Profile in the main body.Edit Twitter account in Social Oomph
  3. Click the option for “Auto Welcome” and “Auto Follow”Auto follow in Social Oomph
    The Auto Follow part is important to check for later and this process. I like having an automated DM to engage people with a social message for other things, but it is not necessary.

Step 2- Target Your Audience by Interest

The next step is to find real and quality people on Twitter that match your interests. So per se if you moved to Chicago and want to find people associated with Chicago that would be one particular audience to start to build your Twitter following with.

There are a lot of ways to go about targeting an audience based on interest and I use a lot of them, but one of the best ways to start to build a general audience is through a few Twitter web based tools. I’m going to detail one method.


WeFollow is a Twitter directory which ranks Tweeps based on the site’s calculation of their influence or on raw amount of people that follow a particular person.

For this example, I am going to use the general interest of the keyword “Chicago” to build an audience.

  1. In the search bar of WeFollow, I type in the keyword “Chicago” and it gives me a few options. For this exercise, I select the phrase “Chicago, IL” to conduct a search.
  2. WeFollow then generates a user list of approximately 2,400 people associated with that term and ranks them by influence (you can also select a tab based on the raw amount of people following them).
  3. Your screen should look something like this-
    I go through the Top 50 results manually and find which people listed in this search are real. Sometimes you will see Twitter accounts RSS feed syndication or brands- those don’t interest me. Social media is supposed to be social- take time to sort out the real people. (Extra bonus points if you put some of the Top 50 in a Twitter list to follow and engage with. Here is a video of how to make a Twitter list- the video is old but you’ll get the general idea.)
  4. Select 3-5 people out of that list that seem really interesting to you. Write them down on a sheet of paper for the next step (or if you are like me, I develop an Excel spreadsheet with their brand, Twitter name, amount of follower, and the link they have in their profile).

Step 3- Build an Audience by Affinity

This is one of the key steps in starting with social media to connect with others- whether you are a digital strategist, building your personal brand, or just want to find people with common interests as you. In order to connect with the right people, you need to know where to look for them first.

One way I do this is by searching for people who share the same affinity towards 2 or more Twitter users. For this exercise, this means people who follow 2 or more of the same people you do. The tool that allows me to see who the common followers are between 2 or more people on Twitter is Who Follows Whom.

Who Follows Whom

Continuing to use the example of finding people based on the interest of “Chicago” AND the 3-5 people we liked from Step 2, I am going to find people who like BillyDec (#5 from the WeFollow example) and NicoleYeary (#11 from the WeFollow example) [NOTE: I do not know these people, I chose the first accounts that looked like they were real people]

  1. Simply type in the names of the Twitter handles in their respective fields. I find that 2 is more than enough to start, but WhoFollowsWhom allows you to do up to 5 Twitter handles at once.
  2. Click “Find Out Results” and the service will show you people that follow the Twitter handles you entered AND the people that they follow. [NOTE: For this list to generate, it make take a minute or two]
  3. In the results that generated, there are 115 that follow both BillyDec and NicoleYeary. You can see these results by clicking on this link-
  4. [This part is the most time consuming] For this exercise, I am going to concentrate only on the people who follow both Twitter accounts we searched for. In the photos that are shown under “Followed by“, I hove my mouse over each photo. This is going to give me 2 figures- people they follow and people following them.I look for Twitter accounts with over 200 people following the person I am hovering. Then I look at the ratio between Followers and Following. My personal rule of thumb is the variation should be no more than 200-500 between those two accounts. The lower the number of people that follow them, the lower the variation. The higher number of people that follow them, the higher the variation. This ratio is important, because it indicates to me two things 1.) They actively follow back people who follow them OR 2.) They have an autofollower turned on (like we went through in Step 1). Either way, these people will “help” populate your following.

    Once I identify people who look like they follow back, I click on their photo which brings me to their Twitter page. There I look for a few things- have they ‘@’ someone (ie are they engaging other people on Twitter), when was their latest tweet, do they just send SPAM through their feed? In short- I verify quickly if they are real. If they are, I just hit follow and move on through the “Followed by” list. I do this repetitively until I’ve followed about 30-50 or sometimes more new people. I usually put these new people I follow in a private Twitter list- this is important for Step 4 but not necessary.

Step 4- Engage

Once I’ve completed Step 3, I go in and start to read their tweets and engage when relevant or appropriate. The real part of social media- building connections and networking. The easiest way I can jump right in is through strategic Twitter lists like the one developed in Step 3. From this point forward, I know if I am engaging the right people who are active and real on Twitter, I will be able to get seen by their audience and grow my follower base more naturally.

Use for Good

I don’t particularly like sharing this technique, because in essence you are “gaming” the system and under the wrong “social media expert/guru/ninja/maven” it can become a way to create accounts used to SPAM and syndicate RSS feed. But if you are a brand just coming on to Twitter or haven’t found a way to connect, this is a great start to “seed” your user base and start to build a following- as long as you are actively engaging and using Twitter to connect and add value.

Questions? Comments? Leave them below or hit me up at @jopinion.

Previous post:

Next post: