How many LinkedIn connections or Twitter followers do you have? 500? 800? 1,000+? Gee, that's impressive. Now for the reality check: Measuring your social media communities purely by the numbers doesn't really count for much. What does count is how engaged your connections are with you, your ideas, and your discussions.

Engagement = interest = a professional relationship.

The right content, obviously, is the key to driving engagement, but how exactly do you use content tactically? First, you have to build a community that actually drives business value and keeps its members interested and involved.

Here are some proven tips I always count on to ensure I'm cultivating a community that will deliver the goods. Keep in mind that I play primarily in the B2B arena, so the strategies focus on LinkedIn, Twitter, and blogs. Many of the tactics will apply to other channels, such as Facebook—which should certainly be a key component for those in the B2C space.

1. Target

First, zero in on your ideal targets and listen to them; later, you will use different forms of communications to go after them. To find them on Twitter, research profiles by keyword to identify thought leaders in your space (start with's Twitter bio search). For LinkedIn, start by searching groups that sync with your goals, perspectives, and personality. At this point, your goal is merely to identify candidates.

Then search both LinkedIn and Twitter for the easy targets, such as current and former colleagues, customers, vendors, subcontractors, and suppliers. Don't forget former employees of current clients who have moved on and can start to bring you into their environments. You can connect with these folks immediately since a relationship is already established. Connecting with "strangers" effectively will take some additional work.

2. Listen

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image of Philip Paranicas

Philip (Phil) Paranicas is director of new product development at He is responsible for creating new products and services that support ThomasNet's mission of helping bring buyers together with sellers. Reach him via

Twitter: @Flip2Market

LinkedIn: Phil Paranicas