For years, marketing and PR professionals have turned to Twitter to share content about their brands in hopes of reaching new customers. New blog content? Tweet it out. Releasing a new product? Let your followers know. Secured a new media mention? Share a link. The list goes on and on.

While these tactics are a great starting point, the real winners are those that use Twitter and other social platforms to actively engage influencers. In a recent study, 94% of marketing professionals agreed that influencer marketing is an effective form of marketing, and it’s expected to gain even more momentum. While ‘influencer marketing’ can seem like just another buzzword, it’s actually a crucial part of any well-rounded PR program.

Finding top influencers on Twitter

The first step is researching topics related to your brand on Twitter and finding the people who are talking about them. Are you a big data company? Try researching ‘data processing’ or ‘data analytics,’ for example. Not everyone who is talking about these topics will be an influencer, so it’s important to look at their other activity, their number of followers, and their bio. Most influencers will have a role related to the industry and a large following.

After following a number of influencers relevant to your brand, you can start to monitor the types of things they tweet about. This will help you to stay updated on current trends in the market, and could even lead to some content generation ideas. If you see content that particularly resonates with your brand and customers, be sure to like or retweet it.

Starting the conversation

So you’ve found some influencers, began monitoring their content, and even retweeted a couple of relevant posts. Great! Now, it’s time to stir the Twitterverse pot and dive into the conversation. According to another study, engagement is still the most important way marketers are measuring influencer marketing performance, with 89% stating this is the way they measure success.

One popular way influencers and brands are approaching engagement is through Twitter chats. According to Sprout Social, the reason Twitter chats are so effective is because “the people who participate in them are the ones that enjoy actively engaging on the social network. They don’t use it just to distribute and consume content. Instead, these people use Twitter for the purpose it was meant for, which is to interact.”

Influencers and brands aren’t the only ones leveraging Twitter chats to start interactions. Publications are taking this approach as well, to speak to executives and industry experts about the most pressing trends. For example, eWeek hosts a monthly #eWEEKchat to discuss top tech topics, such as Big Data, DevOps, and more.

The more you actively engage with influencers, the more you will be able to gain visibility for your brand and amplify your message. With enough determination, and a unique point of view, you may even be lucky enough to catch the attention of a journalist and gain media coverage, like this Streamlio executive did.