My Twitter experiment

 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 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.

So what?

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:


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!

Further reading:

Connect with me on Twitter, if you feel so inclined:

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  1. Dick Willis

    A cynical question. Outside the marketing fraternity and the creative industries, who uses twitter in business?

  2. Sonja Jefferson

    You are right that it is still dominated by these markets, but I’m being followed by a growing number of technologists of one sort or another, and have seen reference to professional service users such as architects (as mentioned above), finance types and CEOs of a variety of different industries too. Early adopters will obviously be from marketing/social media/design, but it seems to be moving outside this now.

  3. Timea Kristof

    Great article. I have found you through NLP Reunited. I have signed-up for Twitter a while ago and wasn’t sure what it’s really used for. I will re-visit my use of it now. Very insightful. Thanks

    I work for a chocolate manufacturing company and I know we are looking at using things like Wikis, blogs and Twitter in the business environment. Don’t know when and how but we are investigating. 🙂

  4. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks Timea,

    I’m very glad you found the article useful.

    3 months in and I’m finding Twitter to be a fantastic online communication tool. It’s helped me to secure a new contract, plus writing opportunities for 2 well-known blogs in the field of small business marketing.

    More than anything, I’ve made contact with some fascinating people, and learned a lot in the process. I’d recommend it to you: used well and Twitter will help to build trust and credibility with potential customers, more quickly and effectively than other online social networking sites I’ve tried.

    In answer to Dick’s original question, I see every conceivable type of business on Twitter: as well as the marketing and creatives he mentions there are manufacturers like your company; consulting organisations of all descriptions (Accenture use it to great effect); publishers; architects; recruiters and even my local video store!

    I hope it proves valuable to you too.


  5. Angie

    I too was sceptical about Twitter. I paid lip service to it, set up an account, and like you, left it. However, after talking to a friend about how Twitter can benefit business, I went back. And after 4 days I have over 80 followers, and am following some really informative people. I have made some useful contacts, and got plenty of new ideas!

  6. Sonja Jefferson

    Thanks for the comment Angie, and I’m glad Twitter is working for you.

    I’ve had some great results since I wrote this article: I’ve secured two new clients via Twitter, some fascinating contacts with links to some really useful content/articles/ideas too.

    I hope it continues to help you build your business.


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