The uses of Twitter are many and varied: to broadcast, to research, to keep up with breaking news, to converse, as a CRM tool, for feedback, for help, and of course, to follow. This article looks at how to network with Twitter, and some of the tools that are available to do so. However, as a disclaimer, each day hundreds of new Twitter tools are launched, and a hefty number of Twitter tools disappear, so be warned: do not become too reliant on any single tool when conducting internet marketing using Twitter.

The value of Twitter as a means to network has been proven. Networking though means linking up with people, creating relationships, sharing, conversing, and not just seeing how many followers you can get overnight as Charlie Sheen recently has.

To network effectively online, just as in real life, means getting to know your network circle and understanding the value and place each person has within it. Therefore, it is actually better to start small, and stay reasonably small. Recent research shows that most people can only cope with between 100 and 230 ‘friends’ (Dunbar’s Number) and for the purpose of networking, rather than brand building, this would seem a figure that could actually bring valuable results rather than overload.

Interestingly, this smaller network can be seen in apps such as Path, which is limited to 50 of your closest friends and family, highlighting the belief that smaller networks are often more manageable, and bring more value.

Consider why you want to network on Twitter.  If it is to find potential business leads, then you need to find those within your industry, be they suppliers or likely customers. If it is to network within your industry, or to learn more about a specific sector, then you need to find those who are viewed as an authority.

Search using keywords within Twitter, and if you know of any conferences or events, search for any  hashtags for that event. The most vocal people following an event on Twitter are usually heavily networked within the sector, both on and offline.

Use Twiangulate.com to find followers and mutual friends of authority people. You can also generate maps showing how everyone connects, and these show how many people each user is connected to.

Twellow.com is a great yellow pages that allows you to search by keywords, and lists users found by the number of followers. It also offers a wide variety of related categories to search through. (You can also add 2000 characters of extended bio which many businesses will find extremely useful.)

Use Google and Bing to find the latest updates by users who may interest you and don’t forget the real-time search within Twitter

Once you have started creating your network, you need to regularly check what people within your network are saying, doing and thinking. The point of networking is that it must be interactive, so follow links posted by those within your network, comment on their tweets, get into conversation, share information.

If your network starts to become too big, or it takes too much time to monitor all that is going on, be ruthless and crop people who are less active, or whose posts do not interest you all of the time. By keeping your network tight, you will gain more from it. Work on the “small is beautiful” axiom.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology