You’ve been to countless gatherings where you’ve passed out business cards hand over fist.

You’re commenting in LinkedIn groups and are always working to grow your connections there.

But it feels like something’s missing. Isn’t there another way you can start building meaningful relationships that can help your business grow?

If this is a question you’ve been wrestling with, it’s time to look at using Twitter for business a little bit differently.

You may already have an account and tweet from time to time, but maybe you aren’t implementing a few important tactics that can make a big impact on your business.

Why Using Twitter for Businesses Matters

Before we jump into strategies, let’s look at why Twitter is a valuable resource for entrepreneurs.

For any kind of business, Twitter can be a powerful selling tool. A recent survey from Market Probe International showed that:

Think about it: These opportunities to interact and begin ongoing dialogues on Twitter can result in referrals, purchases, and greater buy-in with your brand. So why not participate?

How to Use Twitter…Better

There are many opportunities to use Twitter for business that go beyond sharing your own content and retweeting the occasional positive customer review. Let’s look at a few ways you can approach the platform differently.

Follow People in Your Industry

Don’t look at your peers as competitors on Twitter—think of them as the people down in the trenches with you. They’ve probably faced a lot of the same obstacles you have, so they can be great resources to call on when a question comes up. Look for and follow the newbies in your industry as well as the pros you look up to.

This is also an important tactic because peers often refer fellow peers for work when they’re at capacity or if they need an expert for a specific project.

It’s proven: 81% of freelancers refer work to fellow freelancers, while 52% team up on projects or hire fellow freelancers, according to FreelancersUnion.

How to find them: Search out people within your industry (usually just a quick search for a title like ‘copywriter’ will bring up some suggestions) or seek out the writers of articles you enjoyed within your business realm.

Start Conversations More Often

One thing that happens often on Twitter is that we take in a lot of content there, but we forget to comment on it or interact with the people who shared it.

A simple acknowledgement that you read an interesting article someone shared or a sentence worth of input on it are the building blocks of a Twitter relationship.

A few ways to start conversations are to:

Take a few seconds to interact with your followers and be an active participant in the flood of activity there. This steady drip of conversation means more people will see your name and will begin to associate it with your service or product.

Use Hashtags to Join In

Many professionals and industries use specific hashtags to talk about their area of expertise—and even host live chats around them. Seeking out these highly relevant hashtags that bring like-minded people together is a great way to meet new people and build new relationships.

So how do you find these hashtags? Try tracking tools like:

Once you find a few hashtags that are relevant and active, start incorporating them into your tweets from time to time. No need to use all of them in one tweet—stick to one or two at most per message.

To find relevant chats, try browsing sites like Twubs. Put a few you think could be helpful into your calendar, and then tweet away when it goes live. Be sure to follow the people you interacted with most during those chats.

Say Thank You

A simple “thank you” goes a long way on Twitter. Look for opportunities to thank people who’ve mentioned your business, a blog post you wrote, or a place you made a guest appearance. Then return the same kindness to others. Rather than trying to make a formal introduction in 140 characters, get your foot in the door with new people by mentioning people on Twitter and thanking them for sharing great work.

Keep building on these initial interactions by favoriting their content, retweeting, and responding to the content they share. These new connections will remember how you’re constantly cheering them on, and the relationship can turn into an online friendship over time.

Note: Don’t be a stalker. You shouldn’t be interacting with every single message a person posts—that’s a bit overkill. Only engage when you have something worthwhile to add or when you actually enjoyed what you read. If you need a rule of thumb, interact with only one of every five posts from a specific person.

The Bottom Line

The most important thing to remember: Don’t be a bystander when using Twitter for business. Jump in and start engaging with people rather than lurking on the sidelines. You’ll be amazed at the growth in follower account you receive and the relationships you build.