This is a guest post from Karen Haller of Karen Haller Colour and Design Consultancy.

This article is part of our series for Social Media Week London. Read all the posts in this series.

Marketing on Twitter is not just about sharing your latest offers, or building rapport with your followers, business prospects and clients. It’s also about creating relationships with people who can help you, and vice-versa.

I have successfully used Twitter (@KarenHaller) to build relationships with some well known and important people, which has led to me being listed as one of the top 100 UK interior design Twitter influencers, being invited to speak at industry events, and offered press passes to some great shows in my field.

This has not happened completely by chance, because Twitter gives you the opportunity to get in front of industry leaders and industry experts with the real potential to have conversations with them—and ultimately be seen as their peers.

So how do you get started?

First of all, find the leaders and prominent tweeters in your industry you want to connect with. Watch them for a while to learn what they tweet about and how they interact with their followers.

This will help you know whose eye you’d like to catch with your tweeting. Once you have decided who you want to get in front of, here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Ensure your Twitter bio clearly states who you are and what you do. Most people use your bio to decide whether to follow you or not.
  2. Follow them. You never know they may follow you back straight (especially if they like your bio). This also gives you the chance to keep a closer eye on what they’re up to.
  3. Enter any competitions they are running, respond if they ask their followers a question, RT (retweet) their articles and generally support what they are doing on Twitter.
  4. Engage with them. Ask a question or comment on something they are doing. This is more likely to open up a conversation more than giving a general statement. However, be careful about this. Don’t just jump in like a crazy stalker and start hassling them. Play it cool.

Does this really work?

Taking these steps really does work, and a good example happened recently:

Tamsin Fox-Davies from Constant Contact wrote a blog post entitled “You Are Not Richard Branson.” She and some of her colleagues tweeted about the post over the course of several days. A member of the Virgin social media team picked up on the tweet and they in turn mentioned it in one of their own blogs and tweeted this and put it on Facebook.

Then Richard Branson himself wrote a blog about it (he even made reference to a tweet I’d sent). This gave Tamsin the opportunity to engage in a conversation on Twitter with @RichardBranson via the @ConstantContact handle. Where else other than social media would you get access so quickly? This result was quite unexpected and extraordinary don’t you think?

A similar thing happened to me, and this is why I say that you should keep an eye out for any competitions your industry leaders may be running:

Last year, I entered a blogging competition run by Decorex, one of the UK premier industry interior design events. I was one of the runners up, which in itself I was very pleased with. I decided to take this further by following and conversing with @Decorex and staying in contact with their social media team. This year I was chosen as one of the Decorex Top 100 interior design Twitter influencers. I was also asked to guest blog for them on a number of occasions. From this, I have seen a significant increase in Twitter followers, gaining 100’s of new followers during the Decorex campaign.

Golden rules:

Here are three key things to remember if you want to get “in front” of your industry idols:

  1. Be worth talking to on Twitter. Post relevant industry content, make intelligent comments, and talk to your followers.
  2. Make yourself available. Be on the social media channels your industry leaders are on and actively use them. Keep your profile open, and clearly identified as you (e.g. by using a picture of yourself as your Twitter avatar—not your logo).
  3. Talk back to people who talk to you, because you never know who they are. Apart from being good manners, if someone tweets you, you should always get back to them, because you don’t know who they are, or who else might be watching!

As a final note, I want you to remember to treat your industry leaders as you would treat your other followers and the people you follow. The experts that you look up to, are people too, and everyone likes to be treated with courtesy. Being nice to people can get you a lot further than you think.

You can watch Karen’s presentation, “How small businesses win in a socially connected world,” at London Social Media Week via livestream.

Karen Haller is one of the UK’s leading authorities in applied colour psychology. She runs her own colour and design consultancy specialising in business branding and interiors. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter at @KarenHaller.