When I first read about Twitter in a Wired magazine article a little more than a year ago, I thought: What a waste of cyberspace! Why on earth would anyone waste their time trading banal “news” items like: Wearing pink slippers and eating a PBJ. Or, Cleaned toilet. Now for the sink.
Even productivity guru Tim Ferriss called Twitter “pointless e-mail on steroids.” At the time, I couldn’t have agreed more.
But what a difference a year makes! Like me, Tim Ferriss has now joined Twitterville. Of course, he follows no one and has about 10,720 followers. But that’s beside the point.
What I’m trying to say is that if you’re not orbiting in the Twitterverse, you might as well be living on Mars.
Everyone is all atwitter about Twitter now. It’s the THING. It’s the new pet rock of the worldwide cyber village. But I also don’t think it’s a fad. Twitter and other social networking tools are changing the way companies and individuals do business, get information, and communicate.
And the Twitterverse is getting more crowded by the day because late-adopter dolts like me finally get it. We’re all doing the “I-coulda-had-a-V8” head thump: Duh! Twitter is great for growing your business.
If you own a business of any size and you’re still not Twittering, you’re missing out on what amounts to a worldwide virtual chamber of commerce networking event that’s at your fingertips 24/7. Only on Twitter, you don’t press flesh or swap business cards—you exchange links to your Web site, blog, e-books, and online résumé. And you build relationships 140 characters at a time.
Still not convinced that Twitter can help your freelance business? Maybe my list will change your mind. As a business tool, Twitter can help you:
1. Find new clients
When I first joined Twitter, I didn’t think my participation would amount to anything but wasted time. But as my list of followers continued to grow, I began to realize the full potential of this microblogging tool. Just in the last week, I’ve received two inquiries from people who found me on Twitter and are interested in hiring me to do some writing for them. These are people who I would not have met otherwise. And I’m betting they would not have stumbled across my online portfolio and Web site without the aid of Twitter.
2. Make new contacts
In the past few days, I’ve made contact with two magazine editors and a literary agent via Twitter. We’ve chatted back and forth, and I’ve received an invite to pitch a story idea to one of the magazines. If not for Twitter, I never would have made these contacts or had the opportunity to talk to these people in near real time. Most editors and clients have overflowing inboxes, so I’m finding that Twitter can help you bypass the e-mail backlog that plagues most editors and potential clients these days. I’ve also made contact with other writers and editors from all over the world, tech people, social media gurus, other self-employed professionals, recruiters, and a number of other really interesting, talented individuals. Next time I’m looking for someone to interview for an HR or business story I’m working on, I’ll know exactly where to look—in my very own list of fellow Twitterers. And if I don’t have the expert I’m looking for in my current list of followers, all I have to do is use the Twitter search function, look for new people to follow, and contact them.
3. Stay informed
Staying on top of breaking news events and other news in your industry is a snap with Twitter. Witness how Twitter forever changed the way elections are reported or how the recent tragedy in Mumbai was broadcasted almost instantaneously by people who were actually living the nightmare. I don’t think Twitter will ever replace good old-fashioned reporting, but it sure does add another layer of real-time information that is invaluable. And if you have a question about a particular topic, all you have to do is post it and someone will answer. The other day, I wanted to find out how to change the background on my Twitter page. Within seconds, I had answers and some great new tools at my disposal.
4. Generate story ideas
Can’t figure out what to write about? Tune in to Twitter and listen in on some interesting conversations. Twitter is great because it allows you to be a virtual fly on the wall. In fact, I would argue that tracking Tweets is the cyber equivalent of sitting in a coffee shop with a notebook and writing down interesting snippets of conversation (if you’re a writer, don’t tell me you’ve never done this). My followers and the people I track on Twitter also have some very interesting blogs and articles sitting out there in cyberspace. And if you’re like me, reading always helps generate more story ideas.
5. Build your brand
One thing that distinguishes me from other freelance writers and editors is my area of expertise: HR and business. So every time I write an HR story or a post for The Golden Pencil, I publicize it on Twitter with a link. This helps build a following, and also provides information about my writing to potential clients, editors, writers, and other professionals. It also helps build my brand. Building a brand is a must for your business. I know, for example, when Darren Rowse has posted on Twitter, there’s probably a new story about blogging or Twitter that I will want to read. So if you Twitter often enough in a targeted way, your followers will start associating your name with a particular area of expertise. And that will help you grow your business.
6. Drive traffic to your Web site
Every time I Twitter about one of my blog posts on The Golden Pencil, I see a nice spike in traffic. And since I started building more business relationships on Twitter, I now have a few more regular readers who drop by every time I post a new link. If not for Twitter, I’m certain I would not have these new readers visiting my site every day. At the moment, I can’t think of a more immediate, effective, interactive marketing tool than Twitter. Can you?
7. Improve your writing
I can almost hear some of you now: How on earth can Twitter help improve my writing? Each post only allows for 140 characters! Well, as one of my journalism professors used to say: “Write tight!” Twitter helps you learn how to trim unnecessary fat from your sentences. And as someone who writes a lot of headlines for various e-publications, I’ve found that it’s also a great way to practice headline writing. You can tell when you’ve written a good one, because you’ll get a lot of comments. And on occasion, someone will like it so much that they’ll retweet it. This is valuable information—particularly if you have a blog. Using Twitter as a training ground, you learn how to write headlines that make people click on the link and read the rest of the story.
8. Learn about new tools
I recently started following @AlbertMaruggi, a very nice gentleman on Twitter who knows a ton about about podcasting. After finding out what he did for a living, I started asking a lot of questions. And as a result, I found out about Utterli. which is without a doubt, the coolest tool discovery I’ve made in weeks. Twitter also is how I learned about hellotxt and Ping.fm—two tools that I now use on a daily basis.
So have I convinced you yet? Let me know! Please feel free to say hello on Twitter: @JennyCromie. Or drop by and visit me on my blog at The Golden Pencil. I’d love to hear from you!
Written by Jenny Cromie, a full-time HR/business freelance writer, editor, and Twitter convert. Jenny also is editor of The Golden Pencil, a b5media blog about freelance writing and how to build a successful freelance writing business.