It’s a strange thing about Twitter. Follow too many people and your timeline could become a river of chaos. Follow too little and you might be left with morsels from the great information banquet that’s on Twitter every second. The trick then is to be precise and start with an objective. What is the one thing you want to take away from Twitter every day? For me personally, it’s about learning new things in my areas of interest and developing myself with the help of many thought leaders on Twitter.
In the real world, a mentor is a wise teacher who supports and guides someone, and helps them maximize their potential. In the online world, you would be very lucky to find someone who will handhold you with advice consistently. On the other hand, Twitter is a tool which helps you canvas far and wide for the wise. Look at how Twitter is contributing to the teaching community — our first mentor experience in life. You might come up short on mentors, but you can touch base with Twitter influencers, experts, thought leader, kindred spirits, and friends. So, first…
Figure Out Who You Would Like To Follow
The most basic of all tips in your search for a mentor – follow people who you want to have in your Twitter stream.
This is easier said than done. It is easier to follow someone whom you personally know, but even if you don’t, Twitter and the web give you several ways to seek out influencers in areas of your interest. Here are four suggestions among many:
Use Twitter Search
A good old-fashioned Twitter search with the relevant keywords will give you the people who are tweeting about topics of your interest. Twitter also allows offers auto-suggestions when you search with hashtags. You can be even more strategic with Twitter’s Advanced Search. After you get your search results, click on the link for People on the sidebar to get a continuous scrolling list of people who are tweeting around that keyword.
Twitter also generates suggestions for you on the Discover page based on who it thinks you might find interesting. I haven’t found it be very accurate so far, but there’s no harm in checking it out once in a while.
One of the more manual ways (but an invaluable one) is to search through the Following list of those you would like to follow. Follow those whom the others in your industry are following.
Use a Twitter App to Do the Hard Work for You
My colleague Nancy suggested four ways to do a Twitter search and find results that matter to you. A powerful service you can use to find mentors with influence is Topsy which is a social analytic tool. Topsy uses its metrics to sort the search results according to their social influence. You can use the Experts filter to find influencers in your area of interest.
Use Local Twitter Search
Twitter’s Advanced Search gives you a field to do a localized Twitter search. Twitter apps like the earlier mentioned Twellow also allow you to search locally (via Twellowhood). Searching and contacting experts located nearby gives you a better chance of a face-to-face meet.
Tap Into Your Other Social Networks
Social networks overlap. Usually, key influencers have a presence in more than one social media which you can tap with a search. Taking the example of Google+, there are people directories like:
Prepare the Ground Before You Reach Out
You have your list of people to follow ready. Now, it’s time to focus on the few you would like to approach for more in-depth guidance and encouragement. Selecting the right person – though there are no guarantees – should be based on more than their tweets and social influence. For that you have to dig dip and research your mentor “prospects”. The idea is to learn more about the potential mentor and their field of expertise. Knowledge will help you relate better and ultimately bring value to the interchange. Even a virtual conversation is a two-way handshake. You can look for the following cues:
- Are they comfortable sharing their knowledge?
- Do they run a website, a blog, Google Hangouts, Tweetups, or podcast from where you can learn more about the areas of common interest?
- Look into the blog comments and Twitter timeline which are a dead giveaway to a potential mentor’s keenness to support and encourage.
- Are they published authors? For the price of a book, you get to learn before you approach the person.
- Don’t miss out on an opportunity to meet face to face if possible.
The Slow Phase of Reaching Out To a Mentor
Thanks to the web, all it takes is an email. Email is the best bet to contact someone as using the @reply option is sometimes a hit and miss if the recipient is not looking out for it; which is usually the case. The recipient can DM you back but you won’t be able to send a direct message till he or she follows you in in return.
- Make an effort to contribute and show your value. You can promote their tweets with your take; write on their blog and build up a dialog; ask for their advice; point them out to breaking news in their fields…and more. The idea is to build a dialog and demonstrate value.
- If the potential mentor is working on a project, you could volunteer to help for free. It could be an invaluable learning experience.
- The bottomline – be sincere, polite, and patient. Take care not to overwhelm someone with too much information or too many tweets.
The Great Things about Virtual Mentorships
Unlike the real-world, you can cast your net wide on the web. In my personal opinion and experience, it is also easier to take rejection on the web. It works both ways – it is also easier to move on from one mentor to another. The best thing though about virtual mentorship is that it doesn’t even have to be a dialog. Today, thought leaders and influencers are disseminating knowledge in so many ways. We learn so much by just following their written and spoken word. But if you can move that “relationship” beyond the limits of 140 characters, it could be a leap for personal growth.
Have you tried searching for a mentor on the web? Were you successful? What tips do you have for establishing a mentor-pupil connection?