The web is a big, noisy place.  Lots of brands I talk to want to engage the right people with their social media efforts. In my view, that starts with finding the right people and media outlets to follow according to topic areas. If this was easy, more folks would do it. That said, there are some free tools to make this process easier. For me, that begins with search, Twitter lists and curated RSS feeds. In this post, I’ll talk a bit about how to find the right people to create Twitter lists and RSS feeds around.

Speaking of free tools, in the technology space, I’ve used for years. Scanning the front page, you can easily see which articles and blog posts are driving news cycles, and the Discussion section highlights the main related stories and tweets. Mediagazer is a sister site that works like Techmeme, but it tends to be more focused on traditional media. Both sites are a great place to start.

Now onto searches. I start with Google for news searches and Google is also a good place to start to find top people to follow on Twitter. These days, because of its ubiquity, it’s easy to take Google for granted. But, if you dig a bit deeper, you’ll see that Google searches can help you uncover lots of sources that are worth reading on a regular basis.

Don’t overlook the depth of Google Search

If I do a Google search for Android, I can easily click on the News tab to see results listed that way. Also, finding Blogs is a couple of clicks away (you’ll see Blogs under the More section). Regardless of how you filter the Search results, clicking on the Search Tools button will let you easily look filter for the Last 24 Hours, or other time period see image below).

Android Search

But, even more interesting than that, Google Alerts now make it easy to make RSS feeds from Google searches. To get started, just go to The example below is my Android RSS feed. You can easily filter for News, blogs or other items before you create the alert itself, and it’s easy to edit your feed alerts after the fact.

Google Alert RSS feed for Android

Twitter Searches and Twitter Lists

While Google searches are great for finding news and media sources, I find that Twitter is great for finding individuals. Recent numbers show the service has over 200 million active users.  Sites like Twitter Counter make it easy to see the Top 100 Most Followed accounts both globally and in regions. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s often a good idea to start with a Google search to find top Twitter lists to look through. Doing a search for Top Twitter for Cloud Computing will give you a few different list of folks to sift through. Looking up individuals manually is time-consuming, but most bloggers will include their blog URLs in their Twitter bios.

There are a few Twitter list-related services out there. Listatlas is a site that aggregates and tracks Twitter lists in a few different ways. Years ago, I used Listorious, which ultimately became part of Muckrack is a great service that makes it easy to follow journalists on Twitter. Little Bird is a paid service that I’ve been intrigued by… part of its usefulness lies in the ability to create both Twitter lists and RSS feeds of individual influencers by topic. Any other Twitter list-related services out there that any of you use on a regular basis? I’d love to know in the comments.

Since making lists on Twitter is a semi-tedious process, I recommend that you start by looking at profiles of folks who provide a lot of value to you on a given topic. Clicking on Lists from their profile page will let you see all Public lists they’ve created, as well as any lists they’ve subscribed to. You can subscribe to any of those lists by clicking on that list and clicking the Subscribe to this List button. You can also use Google searches to find useful Twitter lists… two that turn up pretty quickly are Mashable’s Social Media list and @Scobleizer’s Most Influential in Tech list.

If you do want to create your own list, it’s pretty easy to do. First, go to the Me tab on your Twitter profile. Then click the Lists link. From there, click the Create list button. You’ll see this dialog box:

Create a New Twitter List

From there, you can name the list, type a description, either make it Public so anyone can see it, or Private so that only you can access it. After you create the list, you can go to any Twitter member’s profile page, click on the drop down menu by the Follow button, choose Add or remove from lists, then choose the list you want to add them to. Below is a screenshot from @Scobleizer’s account as an example:

Add @Scobleizer to a Twitter list

Use an RSS client like Feedly to manage your RSS feeds

Feedly was probably the biggest beneficiary of the Google Reader shut down. Lots of users who were upset about Google Reader’s demise exported their RSS lists into Feedly for good reason in my opinion. Feedly has grown into a really flexible tool that I check several times a day to keep up with things. Feedly makes it easy to create sections and to add RSS feeds to a given section. It’s easy to navigate sources within sections and you can also easily search for items in Feedly overall or in sections. Feedly also makes it easy for me to mark any post to read later by automatically adding it to a Read Later section.

I also really like the Android and iOS mobile clients for Feedly. Besides making it easy to manage and group feeds, I love that it offers a Flipboard-like experience. That’s the main reason I use Feedly on my Nexus 7 tablet every day. I can quickly read through lots of feeds in a short time by flipping through my feeds on a daily basis.  It offers all kind of versatility in terms of how it displays those feeds. For example, here’s the List View of the Techmeme RSS feed:

Techmeme - Feedly List View

And here’s the Card View of the Techmeme RSS feed:

Techmeme - Feedly Card View

Though finding the right people to follow takes some work in the beginning, it’s well worth the effort in my opinion. Once you have appropriate Twitter lists and RSS feeds set up, you can spend a few minutes each day reading the articles and blog posts that matter to you and your area of expertise.

The first step to engaging influencers is knowing who they are and being familiar with the work they produce. If you don’t take this first step, building strategic media and blogger relationships will be much more difficult.