First off, I’d recommend using your real name and a real picture of yourself. Include an accurate, up to date bio that honestly explains a bit about who you are; what you’re interested in, what kind of work you do, where you went to school, etc. People are more likely to respond to questions or comments you make when you present yourself as a “real person.” On the flip side, this makes you more accountable for everything you say, so you need to be a bit careful. Also, if you can, include a link to a personal website, blog, linkedin page, or something that tells a bit more about yourself. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, but having some sort of link on there helps.
Secondly, take a lane. For me, being in New York and with my background I’ve naturally gravitated towards people who discuss finance and business. But there are awesome communities out there about cooking, music, tech, law, and just about anything else. Taking a lane doesn’t mean limiting what you talk about, but it does help people identify a reason to follow you. It also doesn’t mean you strictly have to talk about finance, food, gadgets, etc. I by no means am a strictly finance guy on Twitter. There are students my age and younger that do use Twitter predominantly to share and receive financial data and do a damn good job, guys like Zach Moose and Jerry Khachoyan. This is an awesome way to build a following and show that you actually know what you’re talking about. Really, people have no incentive to follow someone who is going to give random updates and anecdotes from their life unless they know that person in real life, or unless that person is famous.
Lastly, reach out to people. People have made themselves accessible, and you may as well take advantage of it. Cold “@-ing” someone can be like the 2012 version of cold calling or emailing them. I read somewhere that “cold @-ing is the new intro.” If you have a realistic bio and picture, people are more likely to answer. Generally, I’ve found that chatting with people publicly on Twitter is a good start, and then moving to DM or email helps you discuss things at length. Over time, you’ll find the right people to follow by seeing who your stream RTs and interacts with. I discovered and reached out to my boss through Twitter, which is how I got involved at Estimize. I’ve also met a bunch of awesome people, especially in New York, who I can chat with, bounce ideas off, or grab a beer with. I think Twitter is an awesome product and there’s no reason college students and recent grads shouldn’t be using it. This has been my experience, but see what works for you. Good luck.