Last time we chatted about some of the ground rules for using Twitter effectively to reach your clients, or potential future customers, and get them interested in what you are doing. This week let’s talk about another fundamental rule for effective tweeting – listening and responding.

Twitter is a Conversation

Actually, Twitter is a lot of conversations. Not with the entire Internet, but with those individuals who have taken the time to stop and listen to what you are saying and, hopefully, find what you are saying engaging enough to reply.

While there is a place in the public relations world for Twitter accounts that simply push out press releases or talking points, this kind of Twitter account is a terrible way to connect with customers or clients. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t use Twitter to send out important information or updates, but it is important that people who follow your Twitter feed can interact directly with you if they have questions or comments, and not some intern you’ve got operating your social media for college credit.

The most successful people on Twitter, in any industry, are those who take the time to read the messages people send them and respond to them in an open, thoughtful way. The Internet is impersonal and anonymous – that’s what people have been conditioned to expect. It’s likely what you have been conditioned to expect too. You want to capture and keep the attention of your Twitter followers? Then surprise them by actually listening to what they are saying and letting them know that their thoughts and opinions are important to you.

Be Useful, Be Helpful, Be Entertaining

It doesn’t necessarily take a lot to make an important connection with your Twitter followers. Just keep three things in mind: be useful, be helpful, and be entertaining. And yes, in that order.

Current or potential future customers or clients will be grateful if you are able to provide them with useful information. Often the key to success with Twitter is being able to provide specialized knowledge in a particular area, such that when people are looking for an informed opinion they turn to you.

Being helpful is also quite important. People will remember if you, or your brand, were able to help them solve a problem or answer a question they had quickly, and efficiently. Don’t worry, your followers are not going to ask you to solve any of life’s great mysteries (unless, of course, you are @PopeBXVI or @DalaiLama). You are more likely to get questions about the work you do, or products you sell, or maybe comments on your latest company blog post. Whatever the question or concern, if you can be helpful it will be rewarded. When all of your other followers are watching how you deal with one of them, it doesn’t take long for effective communication to have a positive ripple-effect for you.

Being entertaining is, of course, a hallmark of Twitter. If you are able to turn a quick phrase or fire off witty 140-character comments with ease, you will certainly draw people to your Twitter feed. Being entertaining is always good, but on its own won’t do much for you. Being entertaining will get people to look your way, but being useful and helpful, and carrying on a conversation, is what will get them to stay, with you and with your company.

Check back in early December when our next post in this series will offer some final thoughts on Twitter and answer an important social media question, “Are you an Individual, or a Brand?”

In the meantime, you can follow us on Twitter at: @PlaybookPR