I have been answering quite a few questions on Quora. The most recent one was "What are 5 tips to becoming an influencer on Twitter?" This post is a version of my answer on Quora.
Being an "influencer" means different things to different people, but I would attempt to describe this in the most general sense.
- Be unique: Twitter has very low signal to noise ratio. You don't get others' attention if you cannot differentiate yourself and your contribution. Be passionate about the topics that you care for and work hard to craft high quality tweets. Go through a brutal qualifying process to discard the weak draft tweets and post the ones that are of the highest quality. Treat your Twitter account as your personal brand and think what makes any brand stand out. As Seth Godin would say, be the purple cow.
- Be a great blogger: Let's not forget that Twitter is still a form of blogging; a microblogging. Ask yourself what makes a great blogger? Apply those qualities on Twitter such as extensive due diligence, passionate about your point of view, not afraid of picking up a fight when you think you are right, not afraid of taking criticism in public, ability to give constructive feedback, and importantly discovering, reading, and synthesizing the information. To blog and to tweet is the last mile to influence the people. There's plenty of legwork that happens before that.
- Converse with the influencers: Being surrounded by smart people makes you smart. This is not only true in real life, but it is also true in social media. Don't just follow the influencers, but try to understand why they are the influencers. Retweet their posts with your insights, thank them, and reach out to them with interesting stories, insights, and comments. Also, make an attempt to meet them in real life at tweetups and other networking events. At times, they are more open to meeting people than you might think.
- Hashtags: I cannot overemphasize the importance of following and tweeting the live events. Follow a few conferences remotely such as #tcdisrupt or #sxsw and be part of weird memes such as #lessambitiousbooks. Also, try following obscure events. This is how you will discover interesting people and people will discover you. Follow up with people, that you like, after the event. Don't be afraid of self-promotion as long as you are humble and adding value in the conversations and interactions.
- Cross-channel pollination: Twitter is one of many social media channels. Author your own Tumblr or Posterous blog, answer questions on Quora, post interesting pictures on Flickr and Instagram, and importantly, use the channels to direct people to follow you on Twitter. There are many different ways people find other people to follow on Twitter. Use the low impedance nature of Twitter to your advantage by converting all the social media interactions to have rich conversations with them on Twitter.
You don't have to be an influencer in real life to be an influencer on Twitter. In fact, that's exactly the point. It's all about Twitter as a channel that empowers simple human-beings, that are not influencers of any kind, to do amazing things and become an influencer. Justin is a great example. He found Twitter and used the medium for what it was good for. Now, he has a book and a TV show. On the other hand, Eric Schmidt has 54 tweets but has 2.34 million followers, as of 01/27. I don't think of him as an influencer on Twitter. Is he an influencer in real life? Hell, yeah. There are also people like Padmasree and Chamillionaire that have effectively been using Twitter to amplify and extend their great influence in real life to social media.