Most people use social media to express themselves and to stay updated on their friends’ lives. They can see what’s new or post updates on their own lives. What you may not realize is that social media can be used for another purpose: doing business.

In my opinion, it’s an absolute must to integrate social media into your business strategy in order to optimize your company’s online visibility and reach out to potential customers.

Twitter offers easy, manageable and useful opportunities that will require commitment, but also delivers great results in return.

Once you have set up your company profile on Twitter (including customization and knowledge of basics), you can start following people (such as bloggers or influencers) in your industry. An effective tool to do this is Twellow. Its use is very similar to the Yellow Pages.  All industries are categorized and include subcategories. You could even narrow down your search by adding a location, like “New York City,” for example. It’s important to add your Twitter account to Twellow as well, so you can be found by others and help you grow your following.

Maintaining your profile is a top priority and neglect to do so could result in disappointing your followers. To prevent this, you should ‘tweet’ on a regular basis. The content of a tweet should be valuable and meaningful to your followers. An “I’m-watching-TV-with-a-bottle-of-wine”-tweet is neither relevant nor interesting for most of your followers. Tweet about upcoming events, product launches and other exciting news. Also add links to your company blogs, because this will generate web traffic and client engagement. Note that, in order to keep your followers, you shouldn’t overwhelm them with tweets every minute of the day. Be concise in your tweets and use a positive tone at all times.

Hashtags (#) are helpful, especially if you know when to use them. Don’t put too many hashtags in one tweet. The saying “less is more” applies to this situation perfectly: one suitable hashtag could have a greater effect than two or three less suitable ones.

Twitter’s search tool can also help you connect with potential customers. Enter keywords and find clients or other people who could use your services. Here’s a very simple example: If you’re a web designer, you could type ‘I need a web designer’ and you will immediately see the people who have tweeted these words and reply to their tweets. Don’t underestimate the power of this tool as most Twitter users believe this is one the best features of Twitter.

Since the world revolves around networking, be assertive in your retweets (RT). Content should be shared. On top of this, your retweets will be appreciated by the original writers and your company gets noticed, with the benefit of boosting your online visibility.

If you get a question or comment thrown at you (@YOURCOMPANY), always respond. Customer service is still held in high regard. Equally important is the possibility to monitor your competitors’ behavior and compare your strategy to theirs. Learn from what they’re doing right and use that knowledge to improve your approach.

In addition to all these tips, Twitter gets help from various applications to optimize its capabilities.

Depending on your goal, these apps allow you to present other aspects of your company. A good example is Twitpic. You can share photos and videos to support your tweets and thus visually engage your followers. Engagement and commitment is the best combination for successful tweeting. One final tip: stay up to date on new Twitter applications as this will maximize your company’s Twitter impact. I enjoy using Twitter and I think you will too. #goodluck @allofyou!