Choosing who to follow on Twitter via your database.

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February 20, 2012 by dannybishopcreative

Twitter is one of my favourite social media platforms.  It’s quick, it’s broad reaching and it is social beyond the ‘real friends’ that most people limit their Facebook accounts to.

Brands have long been using Twitter to communicate with customers. I set up the Twitter account for the Essendon Football Club back in March 2009, months before setting up a Facebook profile for the club.  In that time Essendon have amassed 19,996 twitter followers while over on Facebook the numbers are now a staggering 149,634 fans.

Which raises the question “How can you grow followers on Twitter?”

The answer is pretty simple really. Any sporting team, club, organisation or body should have a database of fans, members and other people who have been customers over the years.  (If you don’t have a database you’re putting names and email addresses into then you need to stop reading this and start doing that… NOW! It’s not just Twitter followers you’re missing out on, it’s a whole range of marketing and business opportunities you’re not seeing!)

"There's just so much more personal information in databases!"

"There's just so much more personal information with databases"

Most of us remember when we first set up a Twitter account.  You enter in your preferred Twitter name, your real name, your email address and voila – you’re a Tweep!  The fact you’ve got zero people who you follow, and who follow you, is usually a worry – so Twitter makes some recommendations for who to follow, and gives you a way of checking if anyone from your email contact list is already using the 140 character juggernaut. Most of us probably let Twitter check our personal Gmail account and never use this functionality again.

But if you’ve got a brand account for your Twitter you should use this service again!

Export your database of fans, members or clients so that you have their name and email.  Exporting is different for every CRM and database system, so consult your internal guru or as a last resort – the manual.

Open up the exported file in Excel and make sure the fields are as expected.  If you don’t have a header row, add one now.  You can format the name as a full name, or two fields with first name and last name. Once you’ve made sure the file is correctly formatted, save it as a .CSV file under the “Save As…” option in Excel. More details on creating a CSV file for gmail can be found here.

CSV Header example

CSV Header example

Now you’ve got a CSV file saved its time to import it into Google Mail. Go to and make sure you’re logged out. You will need to create a new Gmail account.  That’s a pretty simple process. Once you’re done, click on the “Contacts” menu item which will reveal a drop down menu with Gmail, Contacts and Tasks – click on the “Contacts” item.  You will be presented with a simple box asking you to locate the CSV file you’re previously created.

Gmail CSV import

Gmail CSV import

Select your file and click “Import”.  Google will upload your file and import all the contacts from your database into your newly created Gmail account.

Open a new browser window and head to Make sure you are logged in as the account you’re wanting to add all these people to.

Click on the #Discover menu item along the top menu in Twitter, then the “Find Friends” menu item in the left navigation.

Find your clients in Twitter

Find your clients in Twitter

From here you can click on the “Search Contacts” button alongside Gmail.  As long as you have not logged out from your new Gmail account Twitter will make it easy to import the contacts.  Simply approve the authorisation pop-up asking you to grant access between Twitter and Gmail. After clicking “Grand Access” the pop-up window will close and Twitter will go about scanning your the contact list you imported via the CSV earlier.

Here’s the clever part. Once Twitter has scanned your email list it will show you all the people who have already signed up using an email address from your database.

It then gives you a one-click button for following everyone from your database!

Follow everyone from your database on twitter!

Follow everyone from your database on twitter!

Just click the “Follow all xyz” button and your brand is now following all the people you’ve already been engaging with in other ways. That’s it… apart from the hard work of maintaining your twitter feed of course!

In an ideal world lots of these people you’ve followed will (eventually) follow you back.  Even if they don’t you’ve got an easy way of checking their updates on match day to see if they’re engaging with your brand already, and use those moments to reply and build an even stronger relationship.

I would recommend splitting your database export/import up into chunks. 5,000 emails at a time should be fine for both Gmail and Twitter to handle.  The limits might be higher, I haven’t stress tested them beyond this point.

Note: I highly recommend you NEVER click the “Invite XYZ to join twitter” button. Don’t spam your fans! Let them choose the platform they like, and be there for them.

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