It’s one thing to get a lot of followers on Twitter; it’s another to be able to retain them and keep them engaged and interested. To be followed is not enough, especially if you’re a small business owner looking to maximize the long-term value of the social microblogging site for your company or brand. You’ll want people to eagerly await your tweets, and to have them “retweet” whatever you have to say. You’ll want them to keep asking you for more.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you should suffer from tiny little panic attacks whenever someone decides to un-follow you. But retaining followers on Twitter can be one of the most crucial parts of your social media strategy. So here are the top 7 tips on how to keep them once you have them:

1. Quality over quantity

Twitter users follow you not because they want their home page cluttered with meaningless minute-by-minute updates, but because they assume they’re going to find out useful – or at least interesting – information from you. Twitter isn’t a competition in having the most number of updates. The fact that you had scrambled eggs and French toast for breakfast isn’t interesting – so just leave the dietary chronicles to your personal diary. When you tweet, make sure you have something important to say, and be consistent in how you say it.

2. Separate personal from professional

Tweeting should be fun. We’ll understand if there’s always a temptation to update followers – some of whom may be good friends and colleagues – with personal status updates. However, you may find yourself tweeting more about your love life, your plans for Saturday night, or your sister-in-law’s fantastic cooking than about the latest company information, your new deals and promotions, or the people in your workplace. If that happens, then you might consider signing up for two Twitter accounts and separating the personal from the professional. That way, you don’t risk annoying your followers to a point where they decide to un-follow you.

3. Make yourself retweetable

You have a maximum of 140 characters, right? Wrong. Well, not if you want your tweets to be retweeted one way or another. Twitter has a convenient Retweet option that lets your followers share your tweets word by word, but not everyone prefers to do it that way. Some insert “RT @yourusername” when retweeting good bits of content from you; others still add their own commentary when sharing your tweets to their followers. By keeping your tweets to 120 characters or less, you make room for followers to retweet howsoever they prefer. And that’s a great way to retain Twitter followers: you make life easier for them.

4. Stick to the plan

There must be one original reason why you decided to use Twitter for your business. Keep reinforcing that reason whenever you tweet. If your Twitter account is for customer service, make sure it stays that way. So goes if it’s for lead generation, marketing promotions, or company news. It’s perfectly all right to veer away from that once in awhile, but 75% of your tweets should be related somehow to your original objectives. After all, if Twitter is a cocktail conversation, then no follower would want to stay at a table where they’re served scattered bits of information.

5. Tweet regularly

Many Twitter users ask, “How often should I tweet?” As a general rule, try once to three times a day, but no more than that. Obsessive tweeting irks followers. On the other hand, don’t give them the impression that you’ve become inactive – there are applications that allow users to un-follow a mass of people who haven’t tweeted for, say, a month. You don’t want to be part of that mass.

6. Share links with your commentary

People will always be wary of links without commentary. Sharing your content that way will only make you look like a spammer. So stand out on Twitter by posting links that are accompanied by your own thoughts and opinion. Ask yourself: Why am I sharing this? What do I think about the linked article? Adding commentary is a great way of retaining Twitter followers because it gets them interested in what you have to say – even if it’s not about your own company or brand.

7. Maintain etiquette and engagement

True story: when this writer first started out using Twitter, he sent an @ reply to Stephen Fry. Getting no response, this writer un-followed the British wit. The lesson? If a Twitter user can dare to un-follow one of the most popular Twitter users ever, then there wouldn’t be much hesitation in un-following a small business that doesn’t maintain proper Twitter etiquette. So engage with your followers. Reply, retweet, and embrace the wonderful privacy of direct messages. Say hello to a random follower once in awhile. Don’t be obnoxious. Don’t publicize what should be private. Just like in real life, it pays to be engaging and courteous on Twitter.