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Twitter: Where’s it @ for Business?

Twitter: Where’s it @ for Business?

“Might be hiring someone as a direct result of posting my “recruitment video” to the Twitter stream.” Jeff Sass, Myxer

“We won a contract with (major media brand) from a tweet request for a Java expert.” Madhava Bailey,

“I’ve actually been able to generate business from twitter just by word of mouth.” Jeff Ledoux,

“My friends on Twitter are the cutting-edge “influencers”-and participating actively has given me an ongoing way to educate people about my “brand,” values, initiatives and business services and products on an immediate, daily basis.” Cathryn Hrudicka, PR, Social Media and Marketing Mentor,

What do all of the above quotes have in common? Not only were they messages sent to me via Twitter, but they all refer to business benefits derived from Twitter. One of the images many people have of Twitter is as the ultimate time waster. The site itself asks, “What are you doing?” and the skeptical among expect the answer to be, more often than not, “eating a sandwich.” The truth is, you can find those mundane, content-free “tweets” on the site if you want to look- that’s what I did to get the link in the last sentence.

However, many people are finding uses in Twitter that go beyond sharing messages, making friends and staying in touch. These people are doing business. I’m one of them. I’m in the communications business, but that does not automatically mean every communication tool I try, I need to spend my life on. Twitter is one tool among several that works for me, because the community is active and I have found hundreds of people with at least some relevance to my work.

What makes Twitter Work for Business

A social network is its members. The platform dictates how you interact, but does not limit what you can accomplish. Twitter’s limits: 140 or fewer characters per message, stripped down functionality, feed into its strengths: ubiquity, and an easy source for quick responses. So how do the above people make Twitter a business asset?

The first, obvious answer is that people at conferences have been able to connect with each other and more importantly, with those who cannot attend. More important to event organizers than the live-blogging conversational, community aspect of this (which I wrote about previously on Media Bullseye) is the promotional side. Attendees let people know the best of what’s going on, and spread that information beyond the previously self-imposed borders of the event.

One great example sent to me from Twitter was from a man who likes to be known as “Ontario Emperor,” who took part in the Twitter group set up around Oracle Open World, an “Unconference” that the software giant established for its community. You can read the results on the “oow” Twitter page.

Another simple answer is that you can poll people quickly for information and get quick replies. I need go no further than the quotes that begin this article. I got them all, and more, from a query I put out on Twitter. I have been doing similar things for months, such as asking Twitterers during a client messaging meeting about impressions of a competitor. I fed the immediate answers I got live on the projector screen to the client.

Admittedly, as an online social network, Twitter has appealed to technologists and forward-thinking communications professionals. However, a quick look into LinkedIn’s “Answers” section uncovered a question about Twitter use, which invoked the following response from a “foreclosure expert;” hardly a software code-jockey or social media marketing guru:

“I have connected with 2 new clients, increased my blog readership, answered a couple of questions about foreclosure, and am entering in to a new business opportunity in the energy

I firmly believe we will see more people from outside the social media cliques who have these stories to tell.

How Do You Make Twitter Work?

I will never tire of saying that you need to build your network, and its trust in you, before it can work for you. Any venture into Twitter starts with a small network, and an unclear view of how you will get value. However, as you stay with it, and find more relevant contacts through your current group (looking for more foreclosure experts? Start with the people is following and follow them as well).

Also, participate in your network. Don’t bore everyone asking business questions all the time. Do what you would do in a real networking environment. Converse, show your personality, and give before you receive. Or, to invert and re-phrase something I wrote in a recent online roundtable:

  • Give Value: I invoke the Golden Rule: treat others as you would like them to treat you. Participate and become a part of the group you have joined or started. Do you answer the questions others pose? Do you check out their links and offer feedback? If you don’t, should you really expect others to do it for you? This also applies to giving of yourself in
    terms of friendship (little “f” if you prefer), support and general conversation. Be smart and funny, and help others.
  • Offer: What can people get from you? Talk about what you do and what you offer, but rather than a constant hard sell, mix it in context, among the interactions that come under the first bullet.
  • Ask: I said don’t go in just selling or hounding people about business, but once you have established trust, it’s ok to be direct. You got this far in business by having an ear for when and how it’s acceptable to approach people about business. Use it in Twitter.

Yes, you need to keep the social in social networking, but that does not preclude business. ROI is there for the asking. Just ask, like I did.

By the way, here’s one last answer from my Twitter network. It’s a bit more general, but expresses a great attitude towards approaching Twitter as a business tool:

“Twitter: improved relationships with some biz contacts by maintaining non-intrusive presence within their peripheral awareness.” Neil Dixon,

What’s your Twitter success story?

*Doug Haslam is a public relations professional with [Topaz Partners](, specializing in technology clients in the Web 2.0, mobile, online marketing and networking industries. Doug blogs at [Tech PR Gems]( and Gischeleman’s

(, and is a regular on Topaz Partner’s weekly PRobecast.*

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    Thanks for mentioning what we did at OpenWorld. One unique thing was testing out Craig Cmehil’s eventtrack, which can aggregate all the tweets for people attending an event into a single feed.
    Here’s the one for OpenWorld (scroll down into mid-November for the meat):
    Oracle AppsLab


    Awesome article! Thank you!
    I’m very new to Twitter, and just getting past the “bewilderment” stage into “this can be exciting!” Plus it’s fun and a good way to meet and learn from great people with great ideas. :-):-)

    Doug Haslam

    Thanks for adding your info. “Ontario Emperor” was very enthusiastic about the OpenWorld initiative, and I was glad to add it.
    Glad you got something out of this. We look forward to your great ideas on Twitter as well– that’s the point!

    Jeff Sass

    Thanks for including me and Myxer (@myxertones) in this post. It has been amazing to see how much Twitter has evolved in a short period of time, and we are all just scratching the surface of the potential, both personally and professionally. There is incredible knowledge, creativity and power rushing through the Twitter stream at any given moment, and the constraint of 140 characters is the great equalizer that gives just about everyone the same opportunity to dip their toes in, or dive in headfirst. Thanks again!
    – Jeff @Sass


    Particularly like your comments re: keeping the social in social networking. It think the beauty of Twitter is that, like ‘real world’ networking, it is a balance of the inane, the directly relevant, and the important stuff that only becomes clear later.

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