Keeping in touch with your colleagues and other industry professionals is important to your business, especially of you’re running a home-based business and are too busy to get out and network in person.

Keeping in touch with others who share your interests can lead to partnerships, more work, professional friendships, referrals and even jobs. Just like people prefer to buy from those they know, like and trust, people in your industry would rather work with you than with a total stranger.

While your blog can establish your level of knowledge and expertise, Twitter can enable you to converse directly with that industry leader you’d love to meet or that successful business owner who periodically looks for subcontractors via Twitter.

So, how do you get in front of the people in your network?

Post interesting content.

Not the same old stuff everyone else is posting. Talk about your own experiences, your own opinions. Your content needs to be relevant but unique to you. For example, if you have a marketing epiphany from something your kid says, and you post about it, you’ll capture attention better than just posting a link to the same boring article everyone else is tweeting.

Respond to tweets.

When someone you want to network with tweets, respond. If they tweet about winning an award or landing a new client, congratulate them. Commiserate if something bad happens, share your own stories that are related to theirs.

Tell them what you think about them. OK, make sure this is good first. So, let’s say you’ve known another virtual assistant online for 10 years. You know she’s awesome at what she does and she has been an inspiration to you. Tell her. Now, don’t make it creepy or stalkerish, but you can say, “Hey, you’ve inspired me to be a better VA” in a fairly sane manner.

Retweet their tweets.

If the people you want to network with post an interesting tweet, retweet it. Not only will you be doing your followers a favor (who may not be following the people you’re networking with), but you’re helping the original tweet. Oftentimes, when you retweet someone, they will publically thank you and sometimes even go ahead and follow you.

Ask questions.

What better way to engage someone in a conversation than to directly ask them a question. They’ll find your question if you use @theirname and most Twitter-savvy people will respond. Just make sure you pick a good question to ask that highlights their expertise. In other words, don’t ask the SEO expert if he wears boxers or briefs.

Tweet their content.

There is probably a really good reason that you want to network with people, and one of those reasons is probably that they have some great content. So tweet it for them. They’ll appreciate it and they’ll notice you. That said, don’t spam their stuff. And make sure you read it first.

Most importantly, you’ll want to make sure that your efforts are friendly and open-minded. Nothing will kill your efforts worse than spammy, unfriendly, annoying twittering.

In the next post we will discuss how to follow the right people on Twitter.

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