How to Use Follower and Following Tools on Twitter

By Laura Fitton, Anum Hussain, Brittany Leaning

While your Twitter universe grows and grows, you probably want to find the best way possible to keep up with your followers and the people you’re following. For some reason, Twitter doesn’t offer a way to search your follower or following lists. It also doesn’t offer a way to sort your followers alphabetically or navigate in any way more efficient than a slow page-by-page scan.

You can quickly find out whether someone is following you back by trying to send that user a direct message (DM). If you’re on the Twitter web interface’s DM update screen, that twitterer’s username appears on the drop-down menu only if he follows you back. If you’re on a desktop client, you can try to DM that user; if he doesn’t follow you, you get a message telling you so.

Networking is by far one of the most powerful uses that anyone can make of Twitter. But finding interesting people, maintaining your network, and digging in to really understand who you’re connected to aren’t always straightforward. Here are some tools that can improve your networking experience on Twitter:

  • Find your followers. You can use sites such as Your Tweeter Karma and Friend or Follow to check who follows you and whom you follow, and to keep up with the people you want to add to your follow list. You can use these services to check out your followers and to double-check that you’re following the people who are important to you:

    • Friend or Follow: This site came onto the Twitter scene more recently than Your Tweeter Karma did, and its interface is a little bit easier to understand. The interface tells you who your mutual follows are, who you follow without being followed back, and who follows you without your following them back. Then you can pick and choose who to follow and who to stop following.

      Friend or Follow connections don’t automatically opt you into people’s device updates, so it’s okay to use the tool to connect to many people, even if you have device updates turned on for your account.

    • Your Tweeter Karma: This site offers you a way to see who you follow, who follows you, and which users both follow you and are followed by you. You can also use the site to add followers, as well as remove users whom you no longer want to follow.

      Your Tweeter Karma tends to select Notifications On as the default setting when you add a new follower from its interface, so be sure to double- check that user’s profile if you don’t want to receive her notifications by text message.

  • Find new people to follow. The resources below help you find some interesting people to follow. Following great accounts is the absolute best way to get value out of Twitter.

    • WeFollow: This user-generated Twitter directory was launched by Digg founder Kevin Rose at South by Southwest (SXSW) in April 2009. It associates up to three hashtags with each twitterer who lists herself in the directory and then presents the most-followed people and accounts. Because the results are searched by follower numbers, it’s a particularly good way to find the top celebrities, musicians, journalists, politicians, and others who are using Twitter at any given time.

    • Twellow: Structured like a Yellow Pages for Twitter, this site allows you to find new followers based on category, name, location, or Trending Topics. If a Twitter user has been active long enough to have a few Tweets on record, as well as a bio, you can find him on Twellow.

      If you search for yourself on Twellow, you can claim your profile, meaning that you contact Twellow and prove that you are you to get editing privileges for it, and then tweak it to categorize yourself so that others can find you based on your interests, services, or professional categories.

    • Twitter (or your home screen): You can find new people to follow on Twitter itself in three useful ways. Twitter’s people search function is, ironically, the weakest. To find a specific person whom you know to be on Twitter, you’re better off searching Google for his first and last names and the word Twitter.

      Twitter also offers a list of suggested users, and while there has been some controversy about who gets to be in that list and who doesn’t, it includes some pretty interesting accounts and is worth browsing.

      But to really fine-tune your interests, periodically search Twitter for Tweets about topics close to your heart and your unique interests. You never know who you might find. Click a user’s name in any Tweet he’s written, and peruse his last page or so of Tweets. You get a surprisingly good feel for who he is as a person that way.

  • Find users by location. TwitterLocal used to use Twitter’s XMPP feed to show what users were in certain locations. Because Twitter has its XMPP feed switched off for the time being, TwitterLocal is offered only as a downloadable Adobe Air application that you can use to view Tweets by location. You can also try several other good sites for finding local twitterers:

    • Twellowhood lets you find twitterers by city, using a zoomable map.

    • Justunfollow is an easy tool that shows who you are following but isn’t following you back. That way, you can easily clear your stream by finding any users whose content you don’t care to see anymore, particularly if they haven’t reciprocated the love.