How to build a great reputation on Twitter

Twitter is by far the best social media platform when it comes to networking online. It's fun, it's fast and you can quickly find and chat to like-minded individuals or even people looking for your products and services.

But did you know that most people check out your profile before they decide to follow you? They'll look at your avatar, they'll read your bio and if they're still curious, they'll even read your latest tweets.

It's this initial contact that's crucial because your Twitter profile will determine how people perceive you. Get it right and people will be keen to follow you. Get it wrong and people will go elsewhere. They'll also do something you might not expect – and that's talk. That's right – they'll talk. They'll tell their friends, colleagues and associates – they might even gossip.

As you'll want to attract more followers and make friends on Twitter, it's vital that you give the right impression through your profile to gain a solid reputation. Because reputation is everything in business. How you do that is covered in the following tips, which will show you how to build a great reputation while avoiding some common mistakes...

Get your avatar right

Your Twitter avatar will often be the first thing people see about you. First impressions count, so make sure you use an appropriate picture of yourself. Avoid logos if you can and add a face to your Twitter profile. Remember, people want to chat to people, not brands.

When choosing a photo, pick one where you're smiling and looking relaxed. Don't use anything like a snap of yourself on holiday in a bikini or trunks - it will look like you're 'one of those' Twitter spam accounts. If you can, stick to the same happy photo because people will come to associate that friendly avatar with you.

Every tweet counts

Everything you tweet is public. Everything you put out there builds a perception of your personality. If you're whinging and moaning all the time – do you think that makes you a likeable character? If you're constantly swearing and ranting – don't you think people might see you as aggressive? Or what if you're always tweeting passive-aggressive tweets like: "someone just did this and it's not clever!" – it makes people think you'll do the same to them!

Every tweet counts – every single one. They build up a profile of who you are – so be nice, considerate, warm, friendly and professional at all times. Your reputation depends on it.

Stop the pity talk

Some people love nothing more than attention. Looking at some Twitter profiles through older and wiser eyes, you can see people's insecurities swamped all over the place. Twitter isn't a playground to air your personal problems or complain about your life.

People don't like others who focus inward all the time. We've all got problems, we all get ill... deal with it! If your Twitter profile is giving off an unattractive whiff of 'Poor me!', stop it right now. You won't get the pity or attention you want, you'll just alienate people.

Deal with negative tweets

Everyone encounters a negative tweet once in a while. How you deal with these tweets is crucial if you want to protect your reputation. Negative tweets present the perfect opportunity to turn them into something positive. But learning when to not respond is just as important. You just have to learn when it's best to ignore and when it's best to respond.

If you're going to respond, be as friendly and helpful as possible. Eight times out of 10 you can resolve the situation. Just listen to what the other person has to say and as long as they're being reasonable, you can continue to deal with them.

Engage, engage

Twitter accounts with automated tweets are obvious. People know when you've hooked your account up to an outside service. Whilst this is really helpful if you want to automatically tweet about your latest blog posts or Facebook updates, don't let these be the only things you tweet about. Add warmth and personality to your Twitter profile by actually talking to people. Be human and make friends. Be someone people enjoy catching up with.

Give a little

Twitter is about people. If you help others – that's whether you RT their own tweets, add them to your weekly #FF list or give them a little advice – they will love you for it. Karma is a wonderful thing and if you're nice to people, they'll be nice to you too. Plus you'll gain a great reputation for being someone who cares and is worthy of following.

Be thankful

Whenever someone does something nice for you, thank them for it. Whenever someone adds you to their 'Follow Friday' recommendations, return the favour – within reason! When someone re-tweets your own content, shout about their generosity! Being polite and thankful on Twitter will help to strengthen your growing reputation as someone worthy of following.

Review before you tweet

When drafting tweets, always take a step back to consider whether people will enjoy reading them. If you think your tweet is a bit pointless, it probably is. I'm terrible for doing this myself... telling my followers that I'm about to eat lunch! It's not very exciting is it! And I sometimes forget that every tweet should count for something. Before you hit 'send', be ruthless and consider if your tweet is really worth publishing.

Don't tweet like mad

Imagine you're in your local pub and one of your friends is just talking constantly and loudly over everyone else. It's not exactly going to make them very popular is it! The same rule applies to Twitter – don't tweet all the time! It will only dilute the importance of those tweets that should count, while turning off your followers.

Don't swear

Swearing has its place, granted. But on Twitter, it can come across rude, aggressive and unnecessary. If you want to have a professional and approachable reputation – one that only brings more followers – then keep your tweets clean.

Avoid religion and politics

Those two old chestnuts, religion and politics are the all-important conversation avoiders. Whatever you do, don't voice your opinions on a public forum like Twitter if you want to have a great reputation. It's actually quite offensive to talk about something so personal, in my humble opinion. Remember, Question Time is great if you want to shout at the telly and get things off your chest. Just don't do it in public!

Tweet about interesting stuff

There are some people on Twitter who just know what to tweet. They'll always share really juicy things... things that are interesting and hugely enjoyable to read or watch. Boost your reputation by sharing helpful stuff relevant to your own creative field. People will come to see you as an invaluable source of information. Even better, they'll tell all of their own followers about you.

Don't spam or sell things

Twitter isn't for marketing. It's about networking. It's part of the modern world where people no longer want the 'hard sell'. Don't see Twitter as another platform to say 'Hey! Buy this or hire me for that!'. Just work towards building relationships and don't ever expect anything else.