Earlier this year, research firm DB5 released a study--based on responses of over 1,000 active Twitter users--that outlined the social media platform's impact on the purchase decisions of Twitter users. Of those surveyed, 60 percent said that they purchased something from an SMB because of the platform, while 86 percent said that they have plans to make purchases in the future. In fact, 43 percent of respondents said that they plan to make multiple purchases from the SMBs they follow on Twitter in the future. So it does seem that small businesses on Twitter can see a return on their tweets and presence on the platform. That, however, doesn't mean that every business will.

Last week, Twitter released a guide to getting direct responses from customers on Twitter--"Drive results with Twitter"-- which is worth a read, but Inc.'s Abigail Tracy also spoke with Russ Laraway, head of SMB at Twitter, about how small businesses can create a successful presence on Twitter. 

What do you think businesses should be doing to create consistent engagement with their brand on Twitter? 

One thing to note is that when a Twitter user chooses to follow someone [or a company], it shows a pretty strong interest in what they have to say. So the first order of business for any SMB is to treat a follow as a sort of responsibility. For example, tweeting about what you had for lunch or the funny thing that your cat did might not be quite that interesting to your users.

Successful brands are creating a community on Twitter that they care about, building a strong follower base and then using that follower base to send out messages that are important to them. 

So then, what suggestions do you have for brands in terms of content?  

First off, they need to make sure that their profile is fully filled out. It has to be descriptive and reflective of their business. Everyone has seen, no doubt plenty of accounts that have the egg avatar--they just don't look professional.

Another really important thing to do is create a content calendar. Companies can create a recurring, weekly cadence of content that sort of takes the guesswork out of tweeting--which they might organize by day of the week and then make adjustments as needed. That tends to be a pretty good approach to getting out quality content to users and retaining them as followers. 

What would you say to businesses that don't think they have enough bandwidth or manpower to really focus on their Twitter presence? 

The reality is that many [companies] are already using email marketing, which means that they already have some base of content that they could use. They should just think of Twitter as another channel to put that content out there. Yes, there is a constraint of 140 characters, but businesses can still include a bunch of rich media--such as images, vine videos and videos from other platforms. They can create a really rich experience with just 140 characters now. Thats a good way for people to think about it--they already have the content, they just need to get it out on Twitter. 

How important is it for businesses to interact with individual followers on Twitter? 

Really, really important. The reason is because your followers can end up driving sales. Obviously, it would not be a good thing to build a big follower base and then never say anything to them. Don't forget that by following you, they have given you a very string signal that they want to hear what you have to say. So when you're interacting with your followers, you are dramatically increasing the likelihood that they are going to visit your store or website and make a purchase. 

What is the biggest stumbling block for companies on Twitter? 

Just not engaging enough. Companies go to great lengths to build a strong base of followers on Twitter who have a strong interest in what they have to say and offer. It's really important to put out interesting content with some frequency. It's actually really easy to do.