Twitter BirdWhew! Social networks are huge and only getting bigger. Twitter has proven that it is a great way to reach an audience, but how can you use Twitter to build credibility over time if you have more to contribute than jokes, memes or mean tweets directed at celebrities? One of the first rules of useful Twitter engagement is to base your interactions on courtesy and respect. It is important to think through your comments before you post, as your tweets will live on in eternity. Remember: if you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, don’t put it in a tweet.

Connect with Leaders in your Field

Search wide and far to find influencers in your industry. A great way to initiate contact is to ask them a thoughtful question that they may not have been asked before. Think long and hard before asking something that you could just look up on a search engine. Kudos are great, but they don’t really add to the overall conversation. Use them sparingly as your first means of communication.

Share Great Content

Sure you can link to your own work, but to build your reputation on Twitter, it is vital to share timely, interesting, and related content. There are no limits. Share industry humor (keep it light-hearted), good advice, relevant articles or even original research that connects to your area of interest.

Answer Questions

Search for keywords in your field and answer questions if you know the answer or share links if you can direct the person to the answer. Find places where your expertise benefits others. You will quickly gain a reputation as a helpful and knowledgeable expert.

Promote your Peers

People remember what we do, so when you see your peers do great work, give them a shout out and share their information. Follow Friday is a great Twitter tradition (#FollowFriday or #FF) where you can recommend interesting Twitter accounts. Remember to share the reason for the recommendation, which clarifies for your followers what type of information they’ll find on that twitter stream.

Tell Your Story Visually

Twitter’s use of inline images can increase click-through traffic as much as 94%. 140 characters can limit the depth of your interactions, but images can resonate more deeply. Take advantage of the power of images and use what you have to create simple and personal vignettes that reflect your values and brand.

Twitter’s powerful capacity for engagement is well established at this point, so taking advantage of it is a great tool to have in your arsenal. The best way to learn is by doing. It is never too late to begin anew. If you make mistakes along the way, acknowledge them and move on. Share what you have learned with others and you will be well on your way to establishing yourself as a contributor who makes Twitter a better place. We live in a world where your reputation may be more important than a credit rating. Twitter is great place to build your reputation.