An intro for newbies. Or sceptics.
(I have borrowed this image from a blog called ‘Tony Hannan’s Compendium of Games‘. I’m not entirely certain what it’s about, but that’s probably because it has a lot of sports references in it.)
These days, I increasingly find myself being hired to manage other people’s Twitter accounts, or to advise them on how to get started on Twitter (and other social media channels) to help promote their personal brands or their companies. You may find this odd, since at only 2300 Twitter followers I hardly qualify as a super-user, but I happen to be one of those people who think that it’s not really about quantity. If I followed back every bot, hotsexyorgy.biz account, #teamfollowback person and people with bizarre profiles like “Yooo!! Follow Me && My Twin 100 Mfs Cant Tell Me NOTHING! S| KayMichelle.”, I’d definitely look a lot more popular – but I’m not sure I’d be doing anything for my brand or my business.
Twitter has become a lot more socially acceptable than it was when I set up my first account back in 2008. Sure, your friends’ statuses on Facebook could be amusing, but a whole site – a whole app! – based on 140-character status updates? Admitting you were on Twitter almost always got you a comment about how stupid it was to be telling everyone what you had for lunch or that you’d just cleaned your garage.
Today, with 140 million active users, a track record of breaking news, and credited with furthering the cause of democracy by providing a voice for the previously voiceless, most people (grudgingly) admit that maybe Twitter has a legitimate role to play.
However, I’m still often asked about the ‘point’ of Twitter for the average person. This is what I say.
What Twitter can do for you
There’s a lot that Twitter can do for larger organizations – customer service, crisis communications, customer engagement – but this particular list is focused on what Twitter can do for individuals, whether they’re working independently or within a large organization.
1. Teach you stuff about what you do for a living
By following the right people, you’ll get fed a steady stream of links to articles about trends, opinion, research and insight in your industry. This is especially helpful for people who are in business for themselves, or are part of a small department or a small company, where there aren’t a whole lot of other people ‘in the office’ to learn from.
2. Virtually real-time news updates
In the past 2 years, I’ve learned about almost all the big news stories – from the death of Michael Jackson to the Japan tsunami to the death of Osama Bin Laden – via Twitter, because it lights up with relevant tweets almost as soon as something big happens. This is easier, and more immediate, than watching tv news or keeping the radio on 24 hours a day.
3. Connect you with thought leaders in your field
One of my clients had been trying to get on the radar of a ‘famous’ person in their industry for a couple of years, without success. But a well-timed interaction on Twitter, with a clever response, finally got them the recognition they’d been looking for. Now my client is being included in high-level industry events, invited to participate in committees – and they’re well on their way to becoming ‘famous’ in their field as well.
4. PR/media opportunities
Media types are all over Twitter – that’s often where they’re getting their hottest news tips. When they’re looking for sources for a story, they turn to high-profile tweeters. And I’ve participated in quite a few online radio shows because of a connection made via Twitter. Online radio and podcasts aren’t going to make you famous overnight, but they add up and you never know where they might lead. Tweeting smart commentary can also lead to invitations to write articles or posts for other publications.
5. Improve your Google ranking
Whether they admit it or not, potential clients almost always Google you before you walk into their boardroom to make a pitch. If you haven’t got a lot of web-based content out there, an active Twitter account can help.
6. Build an audience for your blog/website
You want to increase traffic to your blog or website, but with only 150 Facebook friends and 250 LinkedIn connections, how do you spread the word? Twitter gives you access to a much larger potential audience, for much less money, than any other channel.
7. Build your brand
Much of what I’ve already said, above, are components in building a personal brand. Twitter is especially helpful in brand-building because it allows you to infuse your professional commentary with personality – which is crucial in creating a differentiated brand.
8. Promote your events
Many of my clients host networking events or webinars as part of their client relationship management programs. Twitter is an excellent way to get beyond your existing database of ‘prospects’ and reach a larger audience. You never know when a retweet by someone with 75k followers will suddenly make your online event the hot topic of the week.
9. Competitive intelligence
Twitter is an excellent way to find out what your competitors are up to – but of course they may be keeping an eye on what you’re up to, as well!
10. Building credibility
Ultimately, credibility is really a function of multiple touchpoints + relevant content + time. Tweeting consistently relevant content (i.e. getting a reputation for tweeting about industry-related news and insight) will, over time, get you a reputation as someone who knows their business and can be counted upon for up-to-date information – especially when it’s done in conjunction with a blog and other channels.
11. Advice and input
Looking for a new employee or supplier? Asking for recommendations on Twitter can get you good information. Looking for a case study or resources or participants in an opinion poll? Twitter can be a great way to get input.
12. Random, interesting stuff
Most of the time, I follow people who are in my field: Branding and marketing types, designers, writers, etc. But it’s amazing what you can learn and discover when you follow people who are just plain interesting. Sometimes I get directed to a new invention, a new scientific study, or a hilariously written blog. Twitter is a great way to discover new things that you’d never otherwise know about.