How to grow a targeted following on TwitterWhen I first started using Twitter, I made a big – yet common – mistake. I followed only people who followed me. This resulted in a stream full of spam and total silence whenever I posed a question or shared a link.

When I reached about 1,000 followers, I decided to take a proactive approach to Twitter. I began to seek and follow people in my industry – people who care about the same topics I care about.

Once this happened, I generated some great opportunities through the social networking platform. Below are five ways you can develop a targeted following on Twitter:

1. Don’t overlook your contacts. You can start building a targeted following by encouraging your contacts to engage with you on Twitter. Include a link to your Twitter account in your email signature, on your website, on your blog and in all your other social media accounts.

2. Conduct a search. As Twitter grows, it’s becoming easier to find people who are tweeting about your hot topics. You can use the Twitter search function, Twitter directories or a third-party application such as TweetAdder to search for people to follow. Before you follow someone, just be sure to check the date of the person’s last tweet. Since 73% of Twitter’s users are inactive, you want to make sure you follow active users.

3. Use hashtags. Many people think hashtags are just for promoting events. However, you should add them to as many of your tweets as possible. People search for hashtags related to their industries and will follow you if you’re using their favourite hashtags.

4. Engage in conversations. The most important thing you should do on Twitter is engage in one-on-one conversations every day. You can reply to someone’s tweet, answer a question or give someone information they might find valuable. Doing this helps you build relationships and establishes you as an expert in your industry.

5. Weed out spammers. As your following grows, you’ll find that spammers will manage to sneak past you. I recently cut over 10% of my followers using TwitSweeper, a service that checks your account for spammers and gives you the option to block them. Weeding out spammers clears junk from your stream and provides you with much more relevant content – you won’t have to read tweets about teeth-whitening products!

If you use these tactics, you’ll discover you don’t need a large following to grow an active and engaged community. I recently helped a nonprofit organization build a presence on Twitter and was careful to follow only people who discussed their cause. Although the organization’s new account had fewer than 200 followers, their following was very active. The organization got responses to almost all their tweets, and they reached their initial goal of engaging people in conversation around their cause on Twitter.

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