So you have a Twitter account for your small business or one just for yourself.

You’re following some interesting and influential people in your industry. Maybe you’re following a couple of prospects you’d love to do business with.

You’re regularly tweeting – or retweeting – relevant and insightful updates.

And you’re using #hashtags and using a tool to automate your tweets.

Congratulations! You’re doing Twitter wrong.

I know. Because I was doing it all wrong, too.  Why? Because I had the wrong mindset for why I was using Twitter – well, maybe I was half wrong and half right.

For me Twitter was a promotional tool. Someplace I could broadcast links to my latest blog post and drive traffic to my site. Yes, I was sharing interesting posts I saw online and retweeting insights from industry leaders. But I was sort of just doing it. Without any real intent.  Everything I tell my clients NOT to do!

And then something happened.

A prospect thanked me – through an @mention – for the time I had taken in speaking with him. On Twitter! And it was in that moment (and the weeks following) that I realized something. Twitter isn’t just about broadcasting links, using hashtags, and retweeting influencer’s insights.

Twitter is About Building Relationships

 

Mark Schaeffer deftly illustrates how meaningful and long-lasting relationships can be forged on Twitter in The ROI of Twitter. In his post he talks about how he secured a paid speaking assignment, made a new friend and had a memorable journey – all because of Twitter.

“…quite often the return from Twitter, and the social web in general, cannot be expressed quantitatively. And yet, we did receive legitimate qualitative benefits, didn’t we?” – Mark Schaeffer

But building those relationships takes more than tweets – it takes engagement. Engaging with those you follow and those you’d like to follow you back.

I recently had the extreme pleasure to get to know Twitter expert, Blake Jamieson. Blake is wickedly talented when it comes to Twitter.  And he understands how to use Twitter to build relationships that can lead to new partnerships and new business.

I met him because of a mutual connection on Twitter.

Once I began following Blake, his insights helped solidify all the thoughts about building relationships through Twitter that I had percolating in my mind.

As Blake says, “The rules (of Twitter) have changed in the past 12 months.” And while the number of followers plays a role in how your brand is perceived online, it’s your engagement on Twitter that “turns followers into lifetime customers and brand evangelists.”

3 Ways to Engage With Others on Twitter

 

Mastering Twitter engagement isn’t going to happen overnight. But there are a few things that will help you get started and at least, begin to understand the value of having an engagement mindset.

  • Respond to Tweets
    • Responding to influencers in your industry with insights on an article they linked to or giving a congratulatory thumbs-up to a prospect that tweeted some good news helps you engage on a deeper level and start to build a connection with them that can eventually move beyond the Twitter platform.
  • Favorites are for more than bookmarking
    • I favorite tweets that I want to read later all the time. But the favorite function is also a great tool to use in your Twitter engagement strategy. Favoriting a tweet lets someone know that you like what they’ve written, that you appreciate them mentioning or retweeting you, or to just give a positive acknowledgment.
  • Thank those that engage with you
    • As Juan Lopez points out in How to Grow Your Twitter Following on Social Media Examiner, “This should be the golden rule of Twitter: Engage with people when they engage with you. When people add you to a Twitter list, thank them. When users favorite a tweet you’re mentioned in, thank them. When people follow you, thank them. When people retweet you, thank them..”

What Twitter Engagement Looks Like

Last month author, entrepreneur, speaker, and Help a Reporter Out (HARO) founder, Peter Shankman, asked for remedies for a strained voice.  Since I happen to know an expert when it comes to vocal remedies, I sent him a link to her blog post with some ideas.

 

He then favorited my reply as a way to acknowledge and, I’m going to assume, thank me. Why is it a big deal? Peter Shankman is a giant in the marketing industry with close to 170,000 followers (and only follows a handful of people himself).  And while it was brief, it was the opening of a door to a conversation. The more I engage, the more likely it is he’ll remember my name.

Now, imagine using this strategy with a company you’d love to do business with.

Could you use a door opening with any of your prospects? Of course you could.

What Engaging on Twitter Means for You

 

I’m not going to lie. This mindset of engagement takes time. And if you are a solo-professional or the face of your business it is going to take your time. You absolutely cannot farm it out to an assistant, intern, or Twitter app.

Think of it this way – if you’d been working hard at landing a new prospect, would you send an intern to have lunch with them? Would you let someone else thank them for their time? If you’re smart, you wouldn’t.

You shouldn’t outsource your engagements on Twitter either.

Set aside some time every day to engage on Twitter. Even if it’s just 10 minutes. See what your network is talking about. Reply to an interesting tweet. Answer questions. And check your notifications to personally thank people and favorite retweets.

As Blake says,

“Somewhere along the line, the masses were fooled to believe Twitter was something that could be put on auto-pilot. I am a huge fan of using technology to make things easier. That being said, I would never let some robot or cookie-cutter response make a “first impression” on my behalf! The upside, though, is that it’s actually really easy to stand out on Twitter since most users neglect its full capabilities.”

You can leave your scheduled tweets and retweets to interns and automation tools like Hootsuite and Buffer.

But your Twitter engagement should be done by you.

Me?

I’m still broadcasting my blog posts and retweeting those things I think would be interesting and helpful to small business owners and the marketing community in general. I’m still using Hootsuite to help schedule out my tweets.

The difference is that now I approach Twitter with an engagement mindset. As a place to connect. A place to start a conversation. And a place to build business relationships.

What about you? Do you have an engagement mindset when it comes to Twitter? Leave a comment below – or Tweet me at @jgenow to start a conversation!