How To: Engage Successfully on Twitter

By Michele Weisman

I've been on Twitter for almost four years. Almost 27,000 tweets and 10,000 followers later, Twitter has become--by far--my favorite social network. In fact, my Twitter handle has become part of my identity; people have even called me "Ottogrl" face to face and it was once on my license plate.

At first I didn't fully understand how to utilize it, as evident in my first tweet ever:

But I've come to understand the power of Twitter and appreciate its ability to instantly send concise messages to over 200 million people.

I've met some incredible people on Twitter, including CEOs, celebrities, journalists, Syracuse alumni, and marketers, just by networking in fewer than 140 characters at a time. You can start a conversation with anyone on Twitter in many different ways, but the same rule of thumb always applies: be yourself. Here are the six tips I've learned for engaging on Twitter.

1. Become an expert. People who share their expertise with others (no matter how small the niche) greatly improve the quality of Twitter and become reliable “go to” authorities. Many of these individuals devote their life’s work to a particular topic. Wouldn’t it make sense to follow such passionate champions rather than a star athlete, musician, actor, or a television host? The true potential of Twitter lies with the buzz created by the Average Joe, sharing practical information for the common user.

2. Thank others. Social media allows for expressions of gratitude at a greater scale than ever before. Start by personally thanking everyone who gives feedback, shares your content, pays you a compliment, or favorites your tweets. Let your followers know how much you appreciate their support by sharing their content too. Build meaningful relationships by engaging with your followers. With social media, responsiveness is no longer a choice. Prompt responsiveness shows followers that you are accessible, transparent, and personable.

3. Follow hashtags. The hashtag is meant to facilitate and encourage conversation on Twitter. Use hashtags in your tweets so that people can find you easily, participate in Twitter chats, and--most important--never stop listening.

4. Favorite tweets. The favorite button is equivalent to the like button. When favoriting a tweet, you are endorsing the content and letting the user know you like it. The most practical use for favoriting a tweet is marking it for later viewing. Simply click the “Favorites” tab on your profile to view all the tweets you’ve ever saved. This can also be used as a great way to collect testimonials.

5. Utilize Twitter's media platforms. Content is king, especially with a powerful distribution channel like social media. Simply put: text is boring. As multimedia networks continue to grow, it's important to share beautiful and sophisticated photos, infographics, presentations, videos, and other visuals. Share multimedia to spice up your content. In 2013 Twitter has already introduced Vine, Cards, and (more recently) music. When possible, avoid pushing images from Instagram to Twitter since users cannot view the photos in the platform.

6. Be a resource. One of the best ways you can contribute to the conversation is to share useful information. Give a fresh perspective and grab the attention of the people you want to reach--but don't over-share irrelevant details! Selectively follow back users in your industry or those you find interesting sources of information.

What tips do you have for engaging on Twitter? Share in the comments below!