In case you are one of the people who haven’t taken the plunge into the Twitterverse yet, a definition may be in order. In simple terms, Twitter users have 140 characters to answer the question, “What’s happening?”

This social site is still going strong and is officially defined as a social networking and micro-blogging service. You can think of Twitter updates as mini blog posts written in 140 characters or less.

Twitter is a little different from any other form of social media, but at its heart it is essentially a communication tool. When people first begin using it, it can seem a bit confusing.  You may wonder, how can I really type anything of substance in 140 characters or less—and how can I make the most of it once I’ve signed up?

I personally built a large part of my own business through Twitter and many of my clients and students also report great success with this social media site, so what exactly is it that we are doing to bring about such stellar results?

Upon really giving it some thought, I came up with six important steps you can follow to get the most out of your time on Twitter.

1. Set Yourself Up for Success.

When you create your Twitter profile at twitter.com, be sure to use a real photo of yourself and list your location and website URL.  For your Twitter bio, you don’t get much room, so be sure to include a succinct description of what it is you do.

Tip: Include keywords in your bio that reflect how you want to be found in a search.

2. Understand Twitter Lingo.

Twitter has spawned a whole new world of vocabulary—some clever, some silly.  There are some basics you should be aware of, as you’ll surely come across them being used sooner or later.  Brush up on the meanings of terms like “re-tweet,” “direct message,” “hashtag” and more.

Tip: Check out the “Twittonary.”

3. Build Your “Tribe.”

The more people you follow on Twitter, the more followers you’ll gain and the richer your experience will be.  Use directories like Twellow and Wefollow and Twitter’s own “find people” function to get started.  Look for people who fall into your ideal target market by searching by keyword and/or location.

Tip: Search everything on Twitter in real-time by using search.twitter.com.

4. Build Those Relationships.

This is where the rubber hits the road.  I always say that Twitter works if you work it. First, understand why you are there and what your goals are, engage in 2-way conversation (instead of just broadcasting and promoting your own stuff all the time), continually follow good people and use Twitter consistently—once every two to three weeks does not a consistent user make!  If you have made the decision to use Twitter as a marketing tool, then really use it.

Tip: Find key people to build relationships with by using Listorious to search Twitter lists by category.

5. Generate Valuable Tweets.

Getting stuck on what to tweet about is a common stumbling block.  Be sure to share links and resources that reinforce your expertise, ask and answer questions, re-tweet and acknowledge others and show some of your personality.

Tip: Use tools like stufftotweet.com and the twitthis button to make finding and spreading content super simple.

6. Manage Your Time and Your Strategy.

Use a productivity tool like Hootsuite, a desktop client like Seesmic or Tweetdeck, and utilize Twitter lists and Facebook applications such as Selective Tweets to automate, delegate and save you valuable time.

Tip: Check out this post on social media productivity tools to get you up to speed.

The biggest Twitter takeaways?

•    Understand why you are there and what you are trying to achieve;
•    Spend a good a good amount of time interacting and engaging with others;
•    Mind your manners: for every 1 promotional tweet, do roughly 10 non-promotional tweets;
•    Share valuable content—yours and others’;
•    Take advantage of the many tools and applications that can boost your productivity

Follow my advice, and in no time, you’ll be tweeting like a pro. 🙂

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