If you’re on the job market and you don’t have a Twitter account, get one. It’s a valuable tool, once you know how to use it.

It’s taken me a while to come to this conclusion. I used to think, like many, that the social networking site – which allows users to post in 140 word snippets – was stupid. Then I had to join it for work and started grudgingly posting updates, rarely, then a little more often, and soon I was posting quite frequently and interacting with an online community.

So, it’s grown on me. (In Twitter’s defence, I hate a great number of things at first but a lot of them eventually grow on me. Examples of things I once disliked but now enjoy include Katy Perry, mushrooms, my husband [kidding!…maybe]).

But, really, I was being obtuse. In certain sectors (I don’t know how badly, say, neuroscientists or mathematicians need Twitter) shunning Twitter is a very grave mistake. You look like Great-Grandpa dismissing that noisy Rock and Roll music. Employers want you to be on top of things, social networking being a very important one of those things. And on top of that, it really can get you a job.

My friend Marci O’Connor was for many years a small town stay-at-home mom. She had once worked in the finance sector but that was two tween boys ago. Marci recently decided she wanted to make some connections and find something to do. She set up a Facebook account (with my help) and founded an online clothing swap, through which she met all kinds of clothes loving women. Then she joined Twitter and started a blog, posting about clothes, mom stuff and her weight loss quest. Suddenly she had thousands of followers and web friends whom she started meeting in person by travelling to mommy blogging conferences and book launches. She got her first assignment for a major glossy magazine and then a full-time job in community management. All through social networking — in just over a year.

Clearly Marci is a whiz at community building, but you too can use Twitter to further for your own career. Here are the basics. The rest should be pretty intuitive:

1. Sign up. Create a succinct, compelling “About Me” bio and start “following” people. I hope you know this already but, in short, when you follow people, you see their 140 word updates. Just follow a bunch of people. Follow your friends, see who your friends are following and follow those people, follow the celebrities you like and, most important, follow the captains of your industry. The idea is for people to follow you back. The celebrities and captains of industry probably won’t, though some will if they find you compelling.

2. Tweet. Now is the time to post updates. Be witty, funny and informative – and include links to relevant articles, videos, etc. Don’t post that you’re eating eggs for breakfast. Nobody cares. Post things that people will find useful and interesting. Make jokes. DO NOT tweet inspirational quotes. There are thousands of people out there doing this. They follow tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people, who in turn follow them back (more on that in next bullet). They are wasting cyberspace and they drive me CRAZY. DO NOT tweet about tweeting. If you don’t know what I mean, you soon will, so don’t worry about it.

3. Follow Back. When someone follows you, follow them back, even if you’re not interested. It’s only polite and that’s how everyone who isn’t famous builds their follower base – it’s all a little weird. If the person’s updates start to irritate you, or they turn out to be spammers, you can always unfollow them later. You can be pickier once you’ve built up a network.

4. Read other people’s tweets. Don’t just post. Read. In my network, which is admittedly rather small, there are constant job postings. I’m not looking right now but I always repost them. Marci got her job through a tweet. She says, “It was something like, ‘We are looking for a Community Manager for our company. DM [direct message] for details. I replied. Greg gave me his number & the next day I interviewed.” Keeping track is best done by setting yourself up with Tweetdeck or a similar application.

5. Interact. Retweet. It’s so important to retweet (repost) other people’s tweets. That person will see that you retweeted them and feel chuffed, then possibly follow you back if they’re not following you already, and respond in kind by retweeting you. Respond to tweets with comments or insights. If someone retweets you, send some sort of response or message. Have conversations.

6. Let people know you’re looking for a job. Maybe. I’m not so sure about this one. Forbes recommends it and even has a spiffy success story. I’m more inclined to suggest that you privately make the people with whom you are well acquainted aware that you’re looking, but not the whole Twitterverse. A lot of employers won’t hire someone who is unemployed. If you do advertise that you are looking for new position, don’t broadcast that you’re not currently filling one.

Remember to treat Twitter like a networking opportunity. Always put your best face forward, as you would with a roomful of people you want to impress. Don’t complain, swear or bash others. It always bears repeating that once it’s online, even if you try to remove it, there’s a good chance it’s there forever.

NOTE: Workopolis is also tweeting jobs for a wide variety of industries and locations across Canada. Pick the Twitter feed that suits your career and find out about the latest opportunities instantly. Follow us.