I first set up a Twitter account in October last year, but to be honest I was fairly sceptical about its worth. I’d seen the cutesy Twitter logo on many of the blogs that I follow; I’d read about it in the Sunday papers; I’d heard Stephen Fry rave about in on radio 5. I was curious to know what the fuss was all about, but I was pretty sniffy about its value as a business tool. Our working days are busy enough. Do we really need yet another ego-massaging, time wasting social networking site?
Having said all this, I don’t like missing out on a party, even a bad one, so I thought I’d give it a go. Like most bewildered newcomers to Twitter (note: I refuse to use that hideous social networking phrase ‘newbie’) I was totally clueless about what to do with it. I signed up and my first post just read something ineffectual like ‘Help! How does this work?’. At that point I got cold feet and, feeling pretty idiotic, fled at top speed without looking back.
It was only in January, having read yet more glowing articles, that I resolved to restart my Twitter experiment.
What a revelation!
- In just 5 weeks I’m pretty sure I’ve learned more about my field than I did in the whole of last year.
- I’m now connected to 140 clued up marketing experts/business types around the world. I follow their ideas, read their resources, and share their thoughts.
- I’ve had some well-informed answers to my questions about marketing small businesses, got instant feedback on my ideas and articles and stayed up-to-date with the latest news, often before it’s even broken on mainstream media.
- It has prompted me to buy 3 new business books, which I was unlikely to discover otherwise (authors, take note!)
- Yesterday, a brilliant Indian online training company contacted me about creating a ‘visual case study’ on my approach to marketing with content (no charge – we both benefit) – see: Telezent
- Oh, and I’ve got a meeting with a potential new client too.
If you too are curious about Twitter, and want the real low down on what it’s all about from a business perspective, here’s a quick resume of what I’ve found out to date:
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a website www.twitter.com where you can broadcast very short messages (maximum 140 characters) to anyone who has signed up to receive them. It’s a communication tool; a bit like a cross between a blog and a chat room; kind of text messaging but to a larger audience. It’s free.
As you post on Twitter, you also get updates from all of the people that you are following. You control who you follow and can also block people you don’t want to receive your updates (useful function, if you make the mistake of following someone who continually tweets about what kind of pasta sauce they’re having for lunch!).
These short updates often contain links to articles and resources but they can also be questions, insights, thoughts, jokes – anything really. You can pay as much or as little attention to this stream of ‘tweets’ as you like. Unlike email, you aren’t expected to respond to, or even read, every message. You can dip in and out of the flow of the conversation as suits you.
Here’s a quote from a consultant and Twitter user which sums it up for me:
“We’ve always known that networking, connecting, mentoring and collaborating better are extremely valuable for business. You miss out – massively – when you dismiss stuff as new-fangled and faddish…The value (of Twitter) is not substantially different from the value of reading and writing articles, building business relationships, networking and surrounding yourself with successful people.” Laura Fitton
I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but this experiment with Twitter is yeilding unexpectedly positive results for me. It has broadened my reach to a wider network/community and is helping me learn a lot more about what I do, very quickly. I’m finding it a useful database of links to interesting articles and resources I want to remember. It may even get me work.
What to expect
To give you a bit of an idea about what to expect, here are a few ‘tweets’ that have landed on my Twitter page recently:
- “Great article from @dmscott ‘People want to do business with people’ http://tinyurl.com/aljb6h“
- “Thinking about “Why Architects should Twitter ” – http://tinyurl.com/de5tc3“
- “B2B current trend: Social media makes sense for frugal CMOs http://tinyurl.com/bchdfw Cost-effective, collaborative, authentically yours”
Not so much…
- “Up and bouncing, ish. Must stick myself under a shower before biffing off into the morning traffic. Hope you’re not all triskaidekaphobic x” (Yup – this last one is from Stephen Fry!)
The more you give on Twitter, the more you’ll get. As in face-to-face networking if you share useful information, add value and participate regularly in the general conversation, you’ll attract more followers and get more value out of the experience.
Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it
Twitter is difficult to describe unless you’ve seen it in action. Even when you’ve signed up it takes a bit of time to ‘get it’. Sure it can be a time-waster (it really is quite addictive – I’m having to ruthlessly ration Twitter time) but it can also be a great news source, a research assistant, a networking device and a very valuable business tool.
My advice? Don’t poo-pooh it until you’ve tried it. If you don’t see any value you can always choose to close it down, but it could just be useful to your business. At the very least, it’s a fascinating experiment. And it’s a lot less annoying than Facebook!
- Chris Brogan, social media consultant: 50 ideas on using Twitter for business
- Laura Fitton at Pistachio Consulting: Using Twitter for Business
- Raintoday: Guide to Social Networking for Professional Services: how to add social media to your networking plan
Connect with me on Twitter, if you feel so inclined: www.twitter.com/sonjajefferson