Twitter isn’t just for keeping up with the latest memes and viral videos.

It’s also a powerful business tool. One that we don’t see enough people using to its full advantage.

That’s why I’m here to show how you can start using it more productively, and it starts with following the right people. I personally follow around 750 people, which has proven incredibly beneficial in a number of ways. Such as finding new topics for a blog, meeting like-minded people across the world, landing guest spots, and finding people who would like to post on the Flippa blog.

Just to name a few.

But it’s not just about following as many people as you can. The key is following the right people, and then grouping those people into organized lists. Most of the people I follow are all in the web business industry, but the type of people you’re going to want to follow will be different depending on your niche.

It’s easy to find influential people on Twitter no matter what niche you’re in.

In this post I’m going to show you how to find your influencers, how to efficiently group them into lists, and what to tweet to get their attention. Then I will leave you with a list of the 20 top Twitter accounts to follow for web entrepreneurs.

How to Find Your Influencers

There are a number of tools out there for finding influencers in your specific field. Let’s start with the easiest one. If fact, it’s so obvious you might not have even thought of it.

Twitter hashtags. That’s right, Twitter hashtags can actually be useful.

They’re not just for adding witty sentiments at the end of your tweets. They were created with a purpose and that purpose still stands today. Every niche has their own popular hashtags for topics, Twitter chats, or conferences. Find out what they are and monitor them. Your influencers are the ones consistently tweeting and engaging with other users using those hashtags.

Next, influencers tend to have Klout. Literally and figuratively. Regardless of how you feel about Klout, it’s incredibly effective at helping you find the top thought leaders in your niche. Sign into Klout, type your niche into the search bar at the top and you’ll instantly be supplied with the top influencers within that field.

From there you can easily find their Twitter handle and start following them.

The last tool I’m going to suggest helps you find influencers based on content published all over the web, not just on social media.

Social Mention is a social search engine that helps you find content being published right now in real time. Go there and search for a subject in your niche. On the left is the information you need to find your influencers. The “Top Users” are the people who are publishing the most content about that subject. If you click on them and dig around a little you’ll be sure to find their Twitter handle. Oh look, underneath the top users are the top hashtags, which was the first tool we mentioned.

So not only can you find the top influencers using Social Mention, but you can also find some of the best hashtags to monitor to help you connect with even more influencers. It’s an incredibly versatile tool. The more you use it, the more valuable it becomes.

Now that I have shown you how to find your influencers, it’s time to talk about what to tweet at them.

How to Get the Attention of Influencers

Typically, it takes seven points of contact before you make an impression. So don’t be discouraged if you don’t get their attention right away. Make sure your interaction with them is genuine. Only tweet at them when you really have something to say.

Replying to something they tweeted is an example of genuine interaction. Retweeting them, or quoting one of their tweets followed by your own comment are two more points of contact you could have. Sharing one of their blog posts with their Twitter handle at the end as attribution is another way of mentioning them.

The key is consistency. Relationships are built over time, so the more frequently you engage with your influencers the stronger your relationship will end up being.

Grouping Influencers into Lists

Once you’ve found your key influencers and started following them, the next step is to group them into lists.

A tool that helps make this incredibly easy is called Twit List Manager.

After following hundreds, or sometimes thousands of people on Twitter, it becomes difficult to keep track of them. It’s a tough task for anyone to remember who’s who, why you started following them, how you know them etc. Twitter lists help to ease the burden. Think of it as an indexing system for the people you follow.

Another benefit of using lists is that they can be used to separate the tweets of specific people from the rest of your feed. Instead of looking through your whole feed you can look at just the tweets of people from a certain list. This allows you to more effectively keep up with what they are saying so you can engage with them on a regular basis.

It’s a great idea to group people into lists based on what industry they’re in or what they regularly tweet about. For example, you can group people who tweet about SEO into one list, and people who tweet about affiliate marketing into another.

Are you attending a conference in the near future? Create a list! Follow the event hashtag and make a list of people attending. Engage with them and get to know them so you will be aquatinted well before the day of the conference.

Twitter lists are also a great way to gather ideas for new blog posts and new niches to venture into. When you group thought leaders together, engage with them, and follow what they have to say, you’ll generate ideas based on the topics being discussed and the questions being asked.

Now let’s start you off with a list of influencers to follow!

Top 20 Influencers to Follow for Web Entrepreneurs

All of these influencers were found using the methods outlined throughout this article. They were picked based on their expertise in web entrepreneurship, level of influence, and quality of content shared on Twitter.

Want a faster way to follow the web entrepreneurs I’ve outlined below? No worries. I’ve put together a Twitter list for you.

Eric Ries (@ericries)

Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh)

Gary Vaynerchuk (@garyvee)

Mark Suster (@msuster)

Ben Parr (@benparr)

Robert Scoble
(@Scobleizer)

Kevin Rose
(@kevinrose)

Tim Ferriss
(@tferriss)

Guy Kawasaki
(@GuyKawasaki)

Scott Stratten
(@unmarketing)

Jay Baer
(@jaybaer)

Mark Schaefer
(@markwschaefer)

Jason Falls
(@JasonFalls)

MG Siegler
(@parislemon)

Mitch Joel
(@mitchjoel)

Chris Brogan
(@chrisbrogan)

Darren Rowse
(@problogger)

Brian Clark
(@copyblogger)

Danny Sullivan
(@dannysullivan)

Matt Cutts
(@mattcuts)

Conclusion

Twitter can be an extremely valuable business tool if you’re following the right people. You can be even more productive and build stronger relationships by grouping those people into lists.

The list I have provided should be a good starting point. Before you know it you will have dozens of lists with hundreds of people and plenty of new relationships built along the way.

Now get out there and start connecting!

Thanks to Darwin Bell for the picture!

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