You know that you should be on Twitter—especially if you’re a small or medium-sized business, a solo-entrepreneur or a business that sells or provides services locally—but you’re not sure how to use it to develop your business.

In August, Market Probe International, Inc., a global market research firm, and Twitter released the results of a survey that looked into the value of Twitter for small and medium-sized businesses. The results demonstrate “a mutually beneficial relationship that drives ROI for the brand and value for the consumer.” Here are several tips that will help you make the most of your time on Twitter and build stronger business relationships.

Identify your targets

Focus on keywords to help you identify terms relevant to your industry or market. Google’s Keyword Planner is great for this. You can enter your industry, a product or service you provide, or a website, and the Keyword Planner will identify words that people use when looking for information related to what you entered. Use Twitter’s search to find keywords in user profiles and tweets. This will help you determine who you should follow and will get you tweeting with the right people. You’ll also gain visibility when you respond to influencers because their followers will see your tweets. This helps you start a conversation with someone you may not be able to reach directly via email, Facebook or LinkedIn.

Build your base

A strong following on Twitter gives your brand weight and increases your credibility in your industry. Influencers take notice when someone has not only a large number of followers, but engaged fans who retweet, favorite or respond to their tweets frequently. Other brands and businesses will want to connect with you because you have the power to amplify their message.

Your number of followers is important for appearances, but another factor is social reach. The more engaged your Twitter following, the wider your business network is, and the more people you can pool from when you’re looking for an introduction or a mutual connection.

So how do you grow and engage your following in order to increase your social reach? Providing followers with immediate access to your business and its expertise is a great way to build your base. Keep followers updated on sales and insider deals at your company (e.g. @mybrand: Tix to Sat’s game on sale now. First 50 retweets get 50% off #gametime”) as well as any other exclusive or relevant content your followers will be interested in.

When you don’t have updates for your followers about your business, you should take a few minutes each day—or at least weekly—to scan the news for articles that are relevant to what you do; that’s what your followers care about. If you find an article or video that’s really interesting, share it. Do likewise when you write or find a blog post that could help your followers. You should always include a shoutout to the author or poster of the piece of content you share; make sure you also follow them on Twitter.

To make it easier to find interesting content, you can use a variety of services that will show you when specific topics or people are in the news. Google Alerts, Talkwalker and Social Mention are a few free services that help you identify relevant content you can then share on Twitter.

Make the first move

Twitter levels the playing field: You can tweet anyone that has a Twitter handle. Try a site like Twellow or Klout to identify influential Twitter users in your industry. The tools help you find who is tweeting about a given topic, what they’re saying, how many followers they have and how engaged they are with their users. If you’re looking to simply start connecting with influencers, start by responding, retweeting and favoriting their tweets. If you’re planning to tweet someone influential or someone who is not following you, try to build up a rapport first. When you do tweet them, try to begin with a compliment or by asking an open-ended question to spark a response.

Twitter is great for reaching out to people that you can’t get a hold of through other means. When you reach out, make sure you’re providing value to that person, not just asking for something. For example, if you want your company’s new health initiative covered in the press, you should reach out to a local business or medical reporter and offer them an exclusive interview.

Participate in the conversations

Your followers are already tweeting, and you should get into the habit of joining existing “twittersations” that are relevant to your business. You can also review Twitter chats to find ongoing conversations that you can join and demonstrate your expertise. Retweet your followers and favorite tweets; it builds goodwill. Use a site like Followerwonk to search Twitter bios and identify people who are in your industry. Review tweets of those people with a strong following, and introduce yourself by responding to one of their recent tweets. If you have a strong following on Twitter already, you can also tweet your followers if you need an introduction to someone. Simply ask: “Can anyone introduce me to @__________? Please help if you can.”

Twitter resources

There are a number of tools that can help you use Twitter more effectively (manage posts, track clicks, shares and retweets, etc.). Here are some of the common ones (most have a basic free version):