If you are not on Twitter yet, you should be, for three key reasons:

  1. Few things build credibility quite as effectively or as efficiently as a professional, topical Twitter account.
  2. The constant, instant news feed helps to keep you informed and on top of your field.
  3. Recruiters use Twitter to look for fresh talent.

So how do you get started? First, sign up and start following people. Build a feed (or multiple feeds—Hootsuiteis great for this) around your niche. Who should you be following?

  1. People you want to work for.
  2. People who recruit for your dream job.
  3. People who currently do your dream job.
  4. People who write about your niche.

How do you find these people? Start by following some of your favorite companies on Twitter. Identify their CEOs and VPs, and find them on Twitter. You can type their name into the search bar on Twitter, or you do a Google search for “Firstname Lastname Twitter.” I prefer the latter method just because, if someone has a particularly common name, I can add search terms for the name of their company or the city they’re based in.

Smaller companies may list their employees on the website. They might even link you to employees’ Twitter accounts. Bigger companies generally won’t do that, but that’s okay. That’s what Google is for.

Try searching for your dream job title and your city to locate potential mentors and network contacts in your area. Then try searching that job title and the name of a company you’d like to work for.

Follow the publications relevant to your niche. If you’re into web design, the list might include@Real_CSS_Tricks@SmashingMag, and @SixRevisions. If you’re into business, you might be following@Forbes@HarvardBiz, and @Inc.

Of course, it’s not enough just to follow people. You have to interact with them, too.

It’s easy enough to do this; really, the “hard” part is keeping up with your feed. You do actually have to read it, yes. You don’t have to read every link posted, but you should review the recent tweets and take time to read anything that jumps out as interesting or relevant.

Retweet one or two items each day, reply to tweets by a couple people you’re following, and be sure to post one of your own tweets during the day, too, about something you’re working on or an awesome article you just read. Make sure you hashtag a keyword here and there.

By all rights, you don’t have to tweet more than two or three times a day. This is not something that needs to be incredibly time-consuming or difficult, though I will say that, the more you put into this process, the more you’re likely to get out of it.

The important thing is just to get involved in the conversation. By participating in your niche, you’ll stay informed about current trends, best practices, and new developments in the field. You’ll also gain visibility as someone who knows about these things, which will make you more attractive to potential employers and colleagues.

It won’t be long before you’re doing more than looking like an expert.