Over 300 million people globally use LinkedIn. More than 500 million Tweets are sent each day. Once seen as a personal hobby, social media is rapidly seen as a powerful professional tool.

It’s hard to ignore the benefit of making social media connections for professional reasons. In my field alone, I’ve found that B2B marketers with Twitter accounts generate twice as many leads than marketers who don’t have an account.

Recently, I tweeted about a Marketing and PR book I was reading. The tweet began an engaging conversation which sparked some great ideas for leveraging Lucas Group’s press releases in different ways. Connecting with thought leaders expanded my professional connections and helped build my credibility in the industry.

Here are three rules to live by for cultivating a professional social media network:

1. Quality over quantity. There’s little benefit to having 10,0000 Twitter followers or thousands of LinkedIn connections who are not in your field or interested in your professional content. Seek out making connections with people who care about the same topics as you and who will be interested in your content and can provide valuable discussion and conversations.

2. Find out who the thought leaders in your network are following. Research the content these leaders see as valuable, and assess whether these would be good accounts for you to follow. Once you’ve connected, actively share their content and engage in their discussions to become a contributor to their network as well.

3. Make social media part of your daily routine. Spend 15 minutes each morning and evening listening to your network and thoughtfully composing a tweet or two. Engage in conversations with your network. As you become more comfortable, this part will get easier and your social presence will continue to grow.

Social media is the perfect tool to expand your network and present yourself as a thought leader on industry-relevant topics. By using social media networks regularly, you can be part of relevant conversations as they happen, spot opportunities first, build relationships, deepen the trust of your network and make a name for yourself.

Do you agree? Are you active on social media? What are your top tips to connect with the right professionals on social media?