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Our 4,000 Twitter followers can’t be wrong

Major milestone: After just over one year on Twitter, MinnPost now has 4,006 followers. (This is just for our main Twitter feed, and doesn’t count the separate Twitter feeds of Arts Arena, Business Agenda and numerous individual MinnPost reporters.)

Through Twitter, MinnPost reaches out — 140 characters at a time — to a community of people who share an interest in the coverage we provide. These people help us promote our stories and introduce MinnPost to other Twitter users who haven’t checked us out yet.

We also use Twitter as a way to listen, and we’re now following more than 2,500 Twitterers.

Anyone can follow MinnPost, of course, although we block spammers, whose ranks are expanding rapidly as Twitter’s popularity grows. Most of our followers are MinnPost readers from Minnesota, although we are also being tracked by folks such as CNN reporter Rick Sanchez, the Republican National Committee, “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer” as well as numerous politicians, journalism students, and media watchers throughout the nation and around the world. I believe that the 2008 Republican National Convention and the drawn-out Franken-Coleman Senate race attracted many more followers from other parts of the nation than one might expect for a regional news source.

I’ve concocted a few vague rules on which Twitterers MinnPost will follow. The web offers the anonymity that emboldens folks to unleash their inner troll, so those not willing to use their real name and general location on their info page don’t get followed.

If a follower of MinnPost is labeled as being from the five-state Upper Midwest region, I generally follow the person back.

If you’re from California and trying to promote your band — no follow. If you don’t list your address and you have not twittered Tweet #1 yet, no follow.

As the number of people we follow grows, it’s getting harder for me to engage as closely with them all as I’d like.

Checking Twitter sporadically throughout the day, I feel like a guest at a large party walking up to various groups of people in mid-conversation … the eccentric guest that sidles up to a group, tosses out a one-liner, then moves on to the next group of folks, leaving the first group shaking their heads wondering where the hell I came from and where I just went.

In April, MinnPost launched a new way of engaging our readers by posting a question a week on Twitter. Titled “MP140,” I tweet a sometimes humorous, usually topical question and invite followers to tweet their answers. The question and the entries are posted at our MP140 blog. It’s been fun reading the responses and has helped in my effort to recognize MinnPost readers among the thousands of Tweets that scroll down the page every day.

On our primary goal for Twitter — sharing MinnPost stories with folks who may not be checking our site every day — we’ve been quite successful. As with any social media site, Twitter has been effective at gathering individuals who share similar interests, and in tweeting some of our daily stories on politics and policy, we have gathered followers of all ideological stripes. According to Google Analytics, Twitter.com ranks fourth in top traffic sources for MinnPost. MinnPost usually receives between 400 and 700 visits (averaging two pages per visit) every day, Monday through Friday, directly from Twitter. Of course, this doesn’t count the page views we get from people who first found us through Twitter and now get our daily email or bookmark our home page and check it regularly.

I expect that number to increase as various areas of our site, including Arts Arena, Business Agenda, Eric Black Ink, and our new health blog, Second Opinion, are now featured on Twitter as well. Many MinnPost journalists, such as David Brauer, Pamela Espeland, Jay Wiener, Susannah Schouweiler, Dan Haugen, etc., also have Twitter accounts in which they promote their MinnPost pieces. Twitterers can choose to follower areas of the site that are of specific interest and follow contributors they enjoy.

That’s it in a nutshell, but definitely not in 140 characters.

Corey Anderson is MinnPost’s web editor. Follow Corey on Twitter here.

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