So you’ve signed up for a Twitter account and started following a few people. You’ve set up your bio and profile picture, customized your background, and you’re tweeting pretty regularly. You’re doing everything right, but you’re not getting the level of engagement you expected. Instead of turning your nose up and figuring that Twitter must really be about sharing what you had for lunch, try these tips to network more effectively.

There is a lot of latent value in Twitter as a business network. You’ve just got to know how to approach connections and build engagement in your followers. Here are 7 ways you can leverage you Twitter presence to build a powerful network.

1. Find the right people to follow

Networking starts with finding the right people. And you’re in luck: there are dozens of tools out there to help you locate people in your niche on Twitter.

Twitter.com offers a directory of people who you might like to follow in their “Who to Follow” tab. This is along the top bar of Twitter.com when you sign in. From here, you can browse suggested accounts that are presented to you based on who you follow already.

You can also find a lot of quality accounts to follow simply by asking for suggestions from those you already follow. Or, why not try participating in Follow Friday? Services like Twollo and Just Tweet It offer keyword-based ways to find people in your niche, too.

2. Show your followers who you are

Once you’ve amassed your target network, it’s time to show them who you are. Even before they read one of your tweets they should have an idea of what your interests are and why you’re using Twitter.

We’ve got the resources for writing a killer bio and choosing the right profile picture so your followers will feel that they know you, at least a little.

3. Don’t make newbie mistakes

One way to send potential connections running for the hills is by making some common newbie mistakes on Twitter. Here are some mistakes you should avoid if you want to maintain that professional sheen on you Twitter account:

  • Unprofessional (risqué, unrelated, blurry, etc.) profile picture
  • No bio
  • Uneven follower to follow ratio
  • Too self-serving
  • Too few/too many updates

It’s not easy finding the sweet spot with your Twitter account, but be sure you avoid some amateurish mistakes and you’ll attract others who want to network.

4. Think about your actions from your followers’ point of view

Whenever you send out a tweet, question how your followers will see it. Will it come off as being too sales-ey? Too pushy? Too self-absorbed? You want to think about how your tweets will be perceived by others if you are going to network effectively.

Just like when you talk with someone at a conference, consider the impact you’re making and take a moment to stand in their shoes. At a conference you offer a business card when you’re having a really great conversation, so why not extend this to Twitter and ask a particularly interesting person to have a longer conversation with you over email or DM?

It can be difficult to read sarcasm and emotion online, so be careful of tweeting things that could be misinterpreted. All of your actions have some impact on your business network on Twitter, so just be sure you tweet with confidence that you’ll be well-received.

5. Retweet, retweet, and retweet some more

Are you a little shy when it comes to saying “hi” outright on Twitter? Retweeting is one of the best ways to show someone you’re interested in networking with them without being too pushy.

By retweeting someone, you’re sending the message that you are listening to what they say and you want to share it with others. What better way to start up a business relationship is there? And if you add in your own opinion to the beginning of the retweet, they’ll get to know a little bit about your personality before you reach out and begin networking more one-on-one.

6. Ask questions

Get your Twitter network talking by asking a general question. Here are two general rules of thumb to keep in mind when writing a question on Twitter:

  1. Stick to your niche – you’re more likely to hear from people who are interested in the question this way, and if you’ve built a targeted network, they’ll want to share their opinions.
  2. Let them know you’re listening – retweet some or all of the answers, add your own answer, or tally them up and present them in poll form. This will tell your followers that you actually care about their answers.

7. Share your network

When you get to know your Twitter network, you’ll be able to introduce two people who have a lot in common, or offer up a few great account for your very own Follow Friday tweet. Don’t be afraid to share contacts, as this is what Twitter is all about – and in turn, you’ll notice others doing the same.