Using social media as a marketing activity can often feel like you have arrived late and alone to a crowded event: There is no lack of people to talk to, but it may be difficult to cut in on conversations that began without you. Twitter is a main demonstration of this scenario. It can be confusing and overwhelming to know who to follow, how to get others to follow you and what to say to your audience once you have one.

Hashtags and targeted tweets

To start getting a response to the short tweets you post on Twitter, consider chiming in on discussions that have already started. Visiting Twitter’s search page makes it easier to find out what people are talking about. The page allows you to look up general trending topics or use the advanced search operators to find tweets specific to your interests or those of your client base. Searching for “life insurance,” for example, generates a list of conversations that include that phrase. This can provide insight into what people are saying about the topic and may present you with the opportunity to share your knowledge.

If you notice that many people are discussing a certain topic but have not addressed an angle you find important, write a new tweet that includes the phrase – without spaces – preceded by a hashtag (#lifeinsurance) that users will be able to easily find. Be sure others are using the hashtag for similar purposes or at least know to search for it, otherwise your tweets could go unread. Given the volume and frequency of tweets, you may need to convey the same message in several different ways to reach more people’s newsfeeds.

Monitor conversations to find ways to engage

Continue monitoring a few key phrases and hashtags, and follow the users who are the most knowledgeable and vocal on those particular issues – they may choose to do the same with you. As you build up a following on Twitter, you may find that other people are talking about your business or are directing their comments to you by including your handle (@yourusername) in their post.

Twitter is also a useful tool for driving traffic to your other internet assets, such as your company website, blog or other social media platforms. For example, if you recently posted an editorial but are disappointed with the low response, consider sharing the link with your Twitter followers and asking for their feedback. Did you just upload a fascinating podcast to your website? Include a shortened URL in your next tweet. This sets the tone for a two-way conversation and can help you bridge the gap between your various online marketing activities.