Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: How do you use Twitter as a tool for engagement and networking? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.
Twitter is surprisingly effective in the discovery phase of networking – where you are trying to find out who are the people you would like to engage with.
Very often you might be starting with an idea like “I would like to develop my network in the widget manufacturing business”. You know there must be some people in that field but you don’t know who they are.
With Twitter you can identify interesting people simply by doing keyword searches. When a search brings up an interesting tweet take a look at the profile of the person who tweeted it. Check out the other tweets of that user and if they are interesting then follow them.
Then look at the follows of the interesting user. Interesting people tend to follow other interesting people so look through their sources for the most interesting and follow them, too.
Follow the best tweets upstream, too. Good users retweet good content but they also help you to track the information to the source. Watch out for both good sources of information and also people good at curating good content from multiple sources. Both are very useful.
Starting from zero you can use this method to build a map of power sources in any field in a very short time. It would take days of work with LinkedIn to get the same result.
At this point you should have some interesting users in your list of follows and you should start seeing better content in your feed. Keep that feed clean by never, ever following automatically or out of politeness.
Now you can start engaging. Watch what the interesting users say and wait for an opportunity to comment. Maybe they say something very useful you can retweet — people usually notice this — or maybe they ask a question that you can answer. By doing this you get your name known and then later when you ask a question or tweet directly at the person you will not be a stranger. Once you have become a recognized contact on Twitter you have more chance of connecting in other networks that have a higher barrier.
These are the essentials of Twitter networking. But what about engagement? If you are doing the networking part correctly you have already started engaging, but to increase this engagement you need to do a few other things:
- Follow only active human users. People who use automated bots cannot engage. Ignore them.
- Tweet what you are doing. Are you writing an article? Tell the world. Have you just written a book? Tweet about it.
- Ask questions. Not every question gets an answer unless you are a celebrity, but it is surprising how responses can come from people you didn’t know existed.
- Answer other people’s questions. They will appreciate your help.
- Write a helpful bio. Some bios don’t actually say what people do — “studying mechanical engineering” is better than “just another lost soul” — or are so spammy they make people recoil in disgust. Be factual, helpful, modest.
- Have a clear profile photo. It is much easier for most humans to engage with someone who appears to be human, too. Logos, flowers, cats and dogs tend to limit the number of people who will engage with you. No photo is even worse.
- Be active at the right times. If most of your audience is in the US then tweeting when it is early morning in Europe will greatly reduce engagement. There are actually tools that analyze your followers and tell you which are the best times. An alternative is to build a more global following.
- Tweet useful and relevant images. People tend to notice pictures more than words, but don’t ever tweet fake Einstein quotes or Internet memes. We have seen them all too many times.
There are many other ways to engage but this should be enough to get started.
This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.