More and more businesses are jumping into Twitter to find new customers and connect with current ones. The word’s out that Twitter builds relationships – but many businesses get it wrong.

Twitter has unwritten rules of engagement. If you don’t follow the norms, you can be a turn off – losing your chance at building a relationship with a prospective customer.

Think about the unwritten rules of a dinner party. You don’t sit at the head of the table unless you’re the host. It’s also polite to bring something with you – flowers, a bottle of wine, or dessert. People think you’re rude if you violate norms. Know the norms on Twitter. If you’re using Twitter to build business relationships, follow these eleven tips.

  1. First, make sure you’ve opted into receiving email alerts when you get a new follower. Send them a tweet thanking them for following you. Make the tweet personal. Use their name. Say something about their bio, location, or Twitter wallpaper.  Sometimes I do a Linkedin search to get more background on my new follower and mention something that piques my interest.
  2. Follow them back if they are relevant to your interests.
  3. If their interests are aligned with yours, retweet one of their tweets.
  4. Use @ to send them an interesting article related to their interests, “Saw this interesting story about your company in the news.”
  5. Add them to a Twitter list. Make the name of your Twitter list flattering and interesting. Everyone likes a little flattery and recognition. So, a list like “Savvy Business Leaders” is better than a generic “Business Professional”. After you add your new follower to this elite list, let him or her know.
  6. Find one of their tweets they sent out about their latest blog post, and retweet it.
  7. Read one of their blog posts and leave a comment. Social media is, after all, about sharing and being social. Don’t leave a trite comment like, “Nice post”. Contribute something meaningful to the discussion. Never plug your blog with your first comment. It looks like spam.
  8. Find their blog and tweet a blog post (read the post, of course!). Go a step further. Instead of just tweeting the headline, summarize their post and include a comment in your tweet.
  9. Subscribe to their blog.
  10. Follow their company on Facebook.
  11. Post one of their blog posts you enjoyed on your Facebook Wall. Say what you liked about the post and tag their company.

Don’t do all these things at once. That’s stalking. Build relationships slowly and over time. Just like in real life, it takes time to get to know a person. Would you add anything else to this list?