In my last post about social media strategy, I covered Facebook (read 10 steps to building a successful Facebook brand page), and now it’s time to cover the other big hitter in the social media space: Twitter.

Twitter has half a billion registered users and over 100 000 new sign ups every day. There are 9100 tweets every second and a billion tweets sent in less than a week. In short, there are a lot of people on twitter and a lot of tweets being sent. That means there are loads of potential customers for you to connect with, but also a lot of brands and tweets to compete with.

How do you make sure your brand stands out on Twitter and that you attract engaged followers? It’s not that hard, but you need a strategy as well as dedication and patience.

Here are 10 easy-to-follow steps for Twitter success

1. Don’t think it’s all about you

People don’t want to follow a brand that is only about promoting itself and its products or services – that would be like watching TV and only watching ads. As with any social media network, you have to be respectful of sharing this social space – that means not spamming people with sales tweets or just tweeting about your brand. People are on Twitter to share and to gain information about things they’re interested in, so keep that in mind each time you tweet.

2. Focus on sharing quality (relevant) content

Think of your tweets as curated content – your newsfeed is like a newspaper or magazine, full of headlines and links to interesting content. Spend time finding content relevant to your brand to share – content that is also informative and high quality. For example, if you have a catering company, you would probably want to be sharing recipes and food articles from top magazines. If you have a web development agency, you’d want to share news about the tech/online world, web development tips and resources that would be helpful to other web developers – also keeping in mind the clients you’re trying to attract so sharing content that’s helpful to them (for example, 10 ways to decide what kind of website you need for your business).

3. Follow the 80/20 rule

A general rule to follow is to post other interesting content 80% of the time (including links to articles, blog posts and retweets) and your own content and pushes for sales 20% of the time.

4. Support a community

Get involved with a community of people who share an interest related to your brand, whether it’s travel, photography, online gaming or Formula One racing. Join in live Twitter chats (for example, the travel community runs a #TTOT – Travel Talk on Tuesday – live chat with questions and answers) to engage with members of the community and also share content and blog posts by others in the community.

5. Have conversations

Out of all the main social media networks, Twitter is the one that allows the most engagement with your customers and followers. Facebook is slightly more one-sided in that it’s mostly about you posting photos, links and text on your page and then waiting for engagement. On Twitter you can reach out to people directly and strike up conversations with them, retweet others’ tweets and ask for engagement on your tweets (such as what do you think about x?) – forming relationships and establishing networks.

6. Know who your influencers are

While it’s a good idea to try and connect to all your customers or brand supporters who interact with you on Twitter, it’s particularly important to know who out of your followers is influential on Twitter (in terms of engagement and numbers of followers) – and try to interact with these people by sharing their content and mentioning them in tweets (but be careful of being spammy – people won’t respond if a brand constantly mentions them). There are a number of free tools to help you do this, including Commun.it, Klout and Who tweeted me.

7. Work on tone and copy

Brands often miss the ball when it comes to how they write their tweets – they may be sharing interesting content, but they need to back this up with engaging copy and use of tone that fits in with the brand identity. If you are a fun brand looking to sell products to a young age market then think about writing for those people – you wouldn’t write the same kind of copy for them as you would if you were an insurance company selling life insurance. If you’ve never thought about your brand identity now is the time to get a brand strategist (or a friend with marketing skills) to help you out. Social media success is going to be hard to achieve if you don’t have a clear idea of what your brand is about and who you’re trying to market to.

8. Follow relevant people

It’s not likely that you’ll build up much of a Twitter following if you just open an account and start tweeting without following anyone (unless you’re Justin Bieber). People need to know you’re out there so they can follow you. Follow people who you think would be interested in your brand – if you run wildlife safaris, you’d go for people expressing and interest in game parks, wildlife photography and camping trips in Africa, and people in the community you’d like to get involved with (eg professional wildlife photographers and conservationists).

9. Strategise timing of tweets

You’ll need to test this out at first – try tweeting the same tweet (or something very similar) using a programme such as Buffer at different times of the day (spread this over a week or so, so that people don’t get annoyed seeing the same tweets) and using Buffer’s analytics, you can see which tweet had the most engagement. Try a couple of these tests to work out which times of the day and week are optimal for you to tweet. Maybe most of your followers are active on Twitter on Wednesday and Thursday evenings – so send out your most important tweets then.

10. Offer Twitter-exclusive deals

Customers will have an incentive to follow you if you offer discounts, promotions and competitions exclusive to Twitter. Think about giving away free services, running hashtag competitions or offering a discount code when they buy products.