Twitter is a highly popular social media platform with millions of users all over the world that businesses can engage with to build traction, a following, and revenues. According to Statista, Twitter had 307 million monthly active users as of the fourth quarter of 2014 with significant daily engagement among mobile users in the U.S. and U.K.

Twitter is important to my business because it is a direct path to my customers and prospects. However, it took considerable time to build and engage with a large following. Along the way, I learned that there are specific steps to take with the ingredients that go into creating this following. I'd like to share my own seven-part recipe to how I've gone from 0 to more than 500,000 engaged Twitter followers over the past couple years.

Before going through the steps that it takes to build and engage a Twitter following, I had to find the right combination of ingredients. Here's what I've found works:

Once you gather these ingredients, it's time to perform each step:

Step 1: Collect research from various sources on Twitter to better understand how this social media platform works.

Don't assume it's the same as Facebook or Instagram. There are very specific ways in which followers use and respond to Twitter so learn those behaviors and patterns before tweeting. Look at which tweets your target audience responds to and likes as well as how they react to what your competition is doing on Twitter. It's important to also determine the number of tweets and time of day that result in the highest response rate as this determines how to maximize engagement. You can also gather information on which influencers, people, and companies you should follow by tracking the patterns of use on Twitter.

Step 2: Take the time to create a well-constructed Twitter profile that helps others understand and value your brand image.

It should also be consistent with all other online displays about your company's brand, including the words and visuals used to define it. First impressions count, and your prospective followers will look at your profile, read your bio, and check out any visuals. Make use of the Twitter tools available to customize the profile to match your company colors and graphic approach. You will be judged as worthy or unworthy by how your profile looks.

Step 3: Formulate your content strategy based on your research as well as on your marketing messages that frame all communications with your audience across traditional marketing channels and online platforms.

Consistency is critical as this illustrates that you have a unified concept of what you offer as a brand and partner to your audience based on a specific value proposition. Your research should show you the frequency of tweets and shape the subject matter you will use. While you may have some ad-hoc tweets based on a particular unexpected situation or a topic that provides an opportunity to prove your market leadership potential, most tweets can be planned in advance.

I personally like to connect with my followers through quotes and inspirational thoughts. These "quick" tidbits are easily ingested and people love to share.

Step 4: Monitor your Twitter account daily to determine mentions, re-tweets, and responses that should receive some type of response.

While you can use automated tools for posting content, you definitely want to personalize this step in the recipe by doing the work here to not only acknowledge a re-tweet and craft a response to a comment, but also to make note of the person that took this action, follow them, and research their background to continue building intelligence about your audience. This information provides new influencers or followers that you can turn into loyal subjects.

Step 5: Compile Twitter lists to segment and further personalize your interaction with followers.

Often overlooked, this is a way to discover and curate the potential followers you do not yet know about alongside others that fit the same demographic. The lists then help to direct specific content at certain groups of followers for a more personalized experience designed to increase engagement. One of the lists should consist of those you have identified as influencers because they play a key role in building your Twitter followers and should be tracked and engaged with regularly. These lists also provide a way to compile those that provide good insight into industry trends so you can keep researching.

Step 6: Look for links that can be added to other content as well as to tweets for greater coverage and follower growth.

You can use tools like Click to Tweet to encourage and speed content sharing. Add links to other relevant content to your tweets so followers see they can come to your profile to quickly access other interesting content without having to spend the time looking for it. Specifically include your influencers in your tweets and link to their profiles or content as well to get their attention. Often, they will then re-tweet those posts that include their name.

Step 7: Use a cross-platform approach to share what you are doing on Twitter as well as vice versa.

This widens the net to include followers that may not realize you are sharing content across many channels. Put a button on each page of your website so it's easy for visitors to link directly to your Twitter profile and begin following you.

Include it in your blog posts, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, email blasts, marketing collateral and conversations with suppliers, your network, and even friends. You can follow them on Twitter and their followers (and your competitors' followers) to see if there is potential to mine. I also have recently started posting on Vine and promoting.

This can be added to anyone you find during research on Klout or other social media platforms. Consider other platforms that encourage others to share your content, including Triberr.

Get Cooking in the Twitter Kitchen!

This is the recipe I've concocted because it works for both personal brand as well as my company brand. I'm even implementing it on my company Twitter account and it's working.

The quantities of each ingredient are up to you as you test the recipe out and either add or decrease these ingredients as you see what amounts optimize your success. You can also continue to add cooking implements that improve the recipe, including numerous free apps and tools that work with each step.