More often than not, our how-to posts here on the FullContact blog are brought about by us experimenting to solve the problems that we have while trying to build our products. Today is another example of that. As we get closer to the public beta of the FullContact Address Book, I wanted to follow a large group of people on Twitter who can give us great feedback. But Twitter’s own tools don’t allow for a mass import, so I had to find a way to do it on my own.
We have a lot of users. As such, I knew that trying to follow every FullContact customer on Twitter would mean a signal to noise ratio that was simply too high. But I could start out by simply finding the ones who are Address Book and Card Reader users. I then wanted to find the ones who were interested in certain topics and they had to have a Twitter account. I used the FullContact Excel macro to get this further segmentation accomplished, leaving me with a few hundred people in my narrowed-down list.
Here’s where things take a veer to the left. Instead of just being able to export my list from Excel and then find those people on Twitter, I needed an intermediary. For this task, we turn to the Twitter import tool. Unfortunately Twitter doesn’t accept Excel or CSV lists, but it does accept imports from webmail contacts lists such as Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL.
I took the Excel spreadsheet, removed everything except for First Name, Last Name and Email Address columns, then exported that data as a CSV. Since Twitter’s import doesn’t work with contact lists, I created a new Gmail account and then imported the CSV to my contacts. I then returned to Twitter and used its import tool, connected it to Gmail and imported those contacts. This should work with any of the listed webmail options that allows for a CSV import of a contact list.
Unfortunately I haven’t yet found a way to import contacts directly to a Twitter list, so that’s still a manual process. But the import worked somewhat flawlessly. Twitter automatically flushes out the email addresses that don’t have a public account associated with them, so a single click allowed me to follow hundreds of people at once.
What I Found
First off, Twitter really needs to integrate a CSV import function, especially for brand accounts. But until that happens, we have a method that will work. Unfortunately there are still some hangups. Many of the Twitter accounts that I wanted to follow are private, or they’ve since closed or they’ve changed their email address. As such, my final follow count was around 60 percent of what I had originally exported.
The other problem at hand is that a number of people who are interested in the topics that I wanted to follow don’t actually have active Twitter accounts. I used Klout data to pull the topics, but Klout had pulled those topics from all social accounts that they monitor, so that might have included Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc. But for the most part I found that I got the segmentation that I needed, and the list of users that is valuable to me.
I also found that the FullContact Address Book is really handy in this situation. I can easily export that list of contacts in the new Gmail account to the Address Book, further enrich their data and make sure that it’s always up to date. So when it comes time to get in contact with these customers, I know I’ll have the best information available.
Here’s hoping that this little hack is useful to you, and feel free to drop comments with any questions or suggestions.
Image Credit: Garrett Heath via Flickr