If you talk about social media, invariably someone is going to say something I’m sure you’ve heard a lot: “I don’t have time to chit-chat. Time is money, and I don’t care about a bunch of nerds’ opinions anyway.” …or something along those lines! Twitter is often the target of such criticism.

Now, reading Social Media Examiner, you might be surprised to hear that sometimes I think people who say this have a point. Sometimes.

Fact is, if you see Twitter or any other social media service as a venue for chit-chat, and that’s how you use it for hours a day, then you’re likely better off doing something more productive with your time.

On the other hand, there are ways to get a lot of value out of Twitter. As with most things, it all depends on how you use it.

We programmers have a saying: “Garbage In – Garbage Out.” This essentially means you get out what you put in. If you put in chit-chat, don’t be surprised if that’s all you see in return!

Here are nine benefits I’ve personally seen through my couple of years of Twitter usage.

1. Networking connections

Because of my Twitter network, I’ve had real conversations with people I never would have been able to reach otherwise. Also I’ve been able to form deeper connections with people in real life because of our first meeting on Twitter.

It might not last, but right now Twitter is allowing people to slip past the traditional gatekeepers that might have prevented them from talking to people they want to reach. If you think of how some executives, celebrities or just very busy people have their email inbox and telephone locked down tight, being able to slip 140 characters past all that and get right in front of them, well… it’s like the magic wand of networking.

2. Traffic

How much traffic you can generate with Twitter depends on a number of factors, not least how many engaged followers you have. “Engaged” being a key point; they have to want to hear from you, otherwise they might as well not be following.

But get the right combination of audience targeting and presentation and you can drive a great deal of traffic with Twitter, and that traffic can turn into a flood once you take into account the viral nature of the retweet. Even with humble, standard links you can easily get dozens of clicks that you might not see otherwise.

Twitter Drives Traffic

Twitter drives traffic.

3. Leads

Twitter is fast becoming an instant referral system for business leads. Someone will ask if anyone knows a consultant/freelancer/vendor/etc. with a certain skill set or experience, and others will reply with suggestions.

If you build a strong network, you will get a good share of those referrals. I have seen it happen repeatedly, from design and programming through where to stay on vacation!

4. Direct sales

Obviously the end result of all those referrals is you get sales, but also sales of products and other services too. Dell is making millions of additional dollars this way.

Keep in mind that if all you do is promote your products, people will stop listening, so keep up the good content too. Make an offer and see what happens.

5. Insights

There are some very clever people on Twitter sharing their wisdom and expertise. Through Twitter conversations my opinions about a lot of topics have changed.

Keep an open mind and you can tap into the collected wisdom of smart people all over the globe and from many different industries and backgrounds. You can also learn a lot about what people think about the content that you put out and the service you offer.

Ask Questions for Content

Ask questions for content.

6. Content

Your Twitter followers can be a terrific source of additional valuable content. If you poll your followers about a subject, you can get ideas that you would never be able to generate yourself. This is Twitter as crowdsourcing model! All you have to do is ask the question and collate the answers. Obviously you need to ask the question in a certain way and you need to get followers’ permission.

The best method for me is to say up front that I’m writing an article and would like my followers’ input. Ask an open-ended question that people on Twitter would enjoy discussing outside of the article. Avoid yes/no questions, or anything that would potentially embarrass or annoy your followers to answer. If there is a chance that followers could feel they might get the answer “wrong,” they will simply not reply.

7. Answers

I can’t count the times that Twitter has saved me… From computer problems to which car to buy, Twitter folks have the answers you are looking for.

Google search is great but it can’t answer questions like the Twitter hive mind can. Twitter understands that humans can’t put all their needs into tidy little keywords, especially when we are not good at expressing the problem! Need a certain type of software? Ask Twitter! Want to know the name of that singer who wrote the song from that movie? Ask Twitter!

8. News

I don’t need to list all the stories that have broken on Twitter by now; they are already well-established. Yes, there is some misinformation, but Twitter is great at clearing that up too. Twitter is now my default news feed, with the advantage that you can ask questions and get understanding.

9. Inspiration

Twitter messages and discussions are a constant source of inspiration and motivating ideas. Not just for content but for all kinds of things. For example, through Twitter I was inspired by people doing 5k and 10k charity runs, so I decided I wanted to start running.

Bonus: And yes, chit-chat!

There is nothing wrong with a bit of a chat, as long it’s not excessive or done at the expense of work. My social media activities are often a break from work; coffee and a chat can be a great way to recharge your batteries. We all need a break once in a while.

Of course, I asked my Twitter followers what they get out of their time investment.

Here is what they told me:

How are you using Twitter? Have you tried any of these ideas? Please share your thoughts in the comments…

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  • edgandia

    Chris – This is an excellent summary! Right now, we’re looking for a great VA, and I’ve posted that request on Twitter. So far, I’ve gotten a few potential candidates, even with my modest following. And I agree with you that the ability to connect with people you normally wouldn’t be able to get a hold of is amazing. Crowded inboxes and voicemail hell have made Twitter (for now) a great alternate channel.

  • kkwiatko

    The amount of knowledge that I have received from Twitter in such a short period of time is just mind-boggling. And the amazing this is that it just keeps coming – something new every day. I’m also a big fan of the fact that I can connect with so many different people from around the world.

  • Excellent observations, Chris, Twitter is an extremely valuable tool in relationship building. Like you, Chris, I’ve gained valuable insights from people I wouldn’t have met any other way. Great article, sir, keep up the good work!

  • Hi Chris.

    This a great summary of how to get more engagement from your Twitter followers. Not only did you ask the open ended question on Twitter, but you kept your promise here. Brilliant example on how it should be done.

    Cheers.. Are

  • Great list,, my favorite are 1 – 2 and 6.

    If done right, all 3 will have a huge impact on your blog ort site.

  • I use Twitter search a lot, and probably have 20 search terms set up and pulled into my RSS feeder.

  • Interesting fact that you *only* got 27 replies out of 17 872 followers. Prorate this amount with my followers, 541, I can only expect 0.8 answer per question. Unfortunately, Twitter is only a “game breaker” if you have thousands of followers.

  • DJ – It is not at all about the number of followers you have, it is about how engaged they are. You could have 500 super engaged followers and get a much better response than Chris did.

  • First, Chris, many thanks for including me in your post – including the actual tweets is a good idea – they are interesting to read (no false modesty here!)

    @DJ I agree – I have >400 followers and I’ve been so disappointed after posing a question on Twitter (Chris’s #7) and getting zero response. However, there’s been times where I made a routine tweet and got responses from people I’d never met before and with whom I’ve continued tweeting.

    The percentages may not be there, but the quality can be.

  • Yeah but you must admit there are strong chances that you get more engaged followers with a higher total amount of followers (considering they aren’t autofollow), average law.

  • Chris, I agree with all your ideas, but I think it’s critical to mention that to reap the kinds of goals you’re speaking of, you have to invest time daily for weeks and months, before seeing a real benefit. I’ve been fairly active (about an hour over the course of each day) for a few months. And I have around 500 real followers, and I have yet to throw out a question that garners more than a single response. While many of your other benefits I’m beginning to experience as well, I feel like for most smallish businesses, the time devoted to Twitter won’t necessarily pay off, like it often will on LinkedIn or Facebook, unless they have an employee who loves Twitter, and often does it on his or her own time anyway.

  • Keeping in mind that the twitter stream is constantly flowing and not all your followers are watching at the moment you post a question, I recommend tweeting questions or polls at several different times and days to get the best exposure and response. It’s worked for me over and over when I’m looking for feedback, help and resources.

  • I see zero correlation DJ. I have 20000+ followers and there is no way to engage them all. It’s not all about numbers

  • That’s why I said “considering they aren’t autofollowed”. I think you gain your followers because you follow over 16 000, so many are just auto follow back, which aren’t “real” followers.

  • Chris – fabulous post – completely mirrors my experience with Twitter. I have close to 3K followers of a very high quality (imo), but you have to remember that only about 10% of them are online at any one time. And only 10% of these will actually “see” the tweet. So, using my numbers, 3000 *.10 = 300 * .10 = 30 Which is about the number of clicks I get for any good tweet. Unless — you have a tweet with a very good collection of keywords — as I did for a client who normally gets 30 clicks per tweet and got 370 with one such powerful one thru Twitter searches. My motto is human + sharing + RTing + business links = good social media citizen. You have to develop your voice on Twitter and the trust of those who follow you and really spend good amounts of time finding “real” people on Twitter who enjoy the conversation. Again – great post – sending it out.

  • Jim

    I think you hit it on the nose when you said “engaged followers.” While it’s good to have the numbers, it doesn’t mean anything if nobody is listening. Turning followers into “engaged followers” takes time and effort. It doesn’t happen overnight.

    There is so much noise in the Twitter stream, you need to do something to stand out. That can be as simple as talking one on one to providing information of value to your followers (or a combination of the two).

    Like all social media, it doesn’t happen overnight. However, there’s enough value in Twitter to make it well worth the effort.

  • We use all of the time and it’s great to see which blogs are drawing the most views. Great article

  • Stephen Da Cambra

    Denise – thanks for the good advice.

  • In my class on using twitter for business I emphasize that it is the ultimate tool to find marketing nirvana – the audience of one. ONE engaged follower who interacts with you and your brand is worth more than 5,000 who couldn’t care less. As you and others point out, though, it takes time and an investment in sharing knowledge to build these engaged followers.

    Chris, you make some great points and I will be using your article and several others from this site as a jumping off point for discussions in this class on how business people can be more interactive and engaged with their followers.

  • Great post. I’m having all kinds of fun both for my business and my clients by tagging the URLs of various tweets to track subscribers, leads and opportunities right through to the CRM and ultimately revenue. My old school executive clients are being shown the proof that twitter is definitely viable for B2B lead gen. Now I just have to learn how to harness and leverage it more wisely! : )

  • Awesome post, Chris!! I’m on board with all 9 Ways!!! 🙂 Regards DMs too – it’s one of the most efficient and effective ways to reach folks quickly. I’ve always been a mega proponent of following everyone back cuz you never know who wants to DM with a real bona fide mega deal. I’ve gotten many a consulting contract and speaking engagement by responding to DMs!!! And we just kinda have to put up with the odd auto DM and spam message. 🙂

  • Thanks Todd!

  • Excellent post Chris!! A must read for all. I have shared your brilliant post with my facebook, twitter and linked in connections. Initially I was very irregular on Twitter. Now it is in my daily routine. Through this social media I got connected to so many excellent people around the world which otherwise would not have been possible. Twitter not only helps me with a lot of knowledge, information but also motivates me a lot.

  • Great post, many key ideas…however I would love to get your take on the Nonprofit sector and IF you are seeing anyone who is really leveraging the power of Twitter rather than just pushing information out.



  • I see all these wonderful things people are saying, but I still don’t get it. I’m very new to Twitter. I can say the most profound things or ask interesting, open-ended questions, but who sees it? How can people follow me if they don’t know about me? How do they get to know I even exist? More importantly, WHY would someone follow me. My industry is VERY niche and has a whopping 21 followers according to WeFollow. I want to make the most of this, but don’t see, as a small business, how it can help when very few, if any, are “talking” about my industry. How do you get followers? I’m about to throw in the towel, but there’s SO MUCH hype. How do you engage when you’re just starting out? Thanks for any advice/opinions. -Julie

  • JL,

    You should signup for our free Twitter Marketing Tutorial. See

  • Nice post, Chris. These are all extremely valuable things. One other thing you get with the advent of lists is a very low-end CRM. In some cases you can identify how your exact customers, members and profitable groups are. This is helpful so you can hear the voice of your customers as it can be drastically different from that of the other people you follow.

    Your point about engagement is a good one. There are some features and developments on Twitter I would love to see unfold over the next year. I wrote a blog post about them several months ago . Some of these features may already be in the works but I am keeping my fingers crossed for some more powerful analytics to track true value of Twitter.

  • chrisgarrett

    Another great thing about Twitter for recruitment is you can look back through the person’s stream, and the potential candidate can look through your stream to see if the post is a good fit too 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Yeah, and it is not just the public side – through DM’s I have been able to grab people for a sanity check more times than I care to remember 😉

  • chrisgarrett

    Thanks, glad you liked it 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Thanks Are – Many people think that Twitter is all about who follows you, but I get as much if not more value out of the people who I follow 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    I am sure there will be more uses added to the list over time too 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    I actually got more than 27, just I had to post the article to the editor of this site (hi Cindy!) by submission deadline – they kept coming in after I said I couldn’t take any more.

    Also, not all 17k people are online when I ask, or paying attention, or have something to say. Look at how many blogs have 100k readers but only get 10 or fewer comments, only the same thing. Most people lurk in *any* environment. Way more obvious than a mere 80-20% rule, probably more like 99-1% or worse.

    It’s dangerous to look at follower numbers and draw many conclusions. As Mike says, it is about engagement, but it is also about time zones, time of day, how much is going on at the same time, and topic … etc etc etc etc

  • chrisgarrett

    Instead of discussing it, put it to the test. Ask a question on Twitter and see how many responses you get 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Yup, as I mention above in my response, people kept responding even after I said I had enough – possibly because they got up, got to their desk and saw my first tweet and didn’t see the second “stop” tweet 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    It depends on the business. Mari Smith gets huge results from Facebook, but I get none. For me technical programming forums get me good results but Mari probably would not 🙂 I don’t devote as much time as it appears to social media either – for me it is a coffee break activity (and I drink a lot of coffee it must be said, ha). If I am stuck watching a progress bar or have just completed a task, I will hop on Twitter and engage. You can see when I am busy – no tweets! (I didn’t Tweet at all yesterday I think).

  • chrisgarrett

    Good motto – one thing that extends your reach is tweeting something that gets retweeted – both because people with a quantity of followers pick it up, but also because that allows your tweet to cross timezones into times when you would not be online

  • chrisgarrett

    Yup, I always say we need to strive to be the signal not the noise, but we also have to remember some people are just not a good “fit” – I unfollow anyone who tweets about politics, people unfollow me for tweeting a lot. It’s all good 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    What are you using to do the tagging Todd?

  • chrisgarrett

    Yeah, I am seeing my DM inbox dilute in utility but it still has a good number of gems to keep me using it 🙂

  • chrisgarrett

    Thanks for sharing – much appreciated!

  • chrisgarrett

    Beth Kanter, John Haydon and Graham Richards for three 🙂

  • You’re welcome, keep up the good work.

  • have you all seen this?

    This would not normally have caught my attention as religion is not something that I am interested in. However, if you read through his stream and check out his blog, he is using twitter to save lives in Haiti and marshal aid – slashing red tape and barriers like so much melted butter. He got 5 neurosurgeons to volunteer to go at the request of CNN medical reporter on the ground when the quake hit and raised $4,000 for their plane tickets – in about 24 hours – all via twitter/and his blog. The man is a MASTER of the power that a network like twitter puts in the hands of everyone who uses it.

  • marklatimer

    This article was great, thanks for the tips. I especially liked the tip about network connections. @marklatimer

  • I’ve only recently jumped in to Twitter, and this is one of the best explanations for what it’s good for that I’ve read. It’s not obvious at first what the value is, so this post should be required reading for all Twitter newbies!

  • Prince_Matchabelli

    Patrick, I have to agree with you and DJ Nightlife that it takes a ton of work to get marginal results with Twitter. For the vast majority of people who have dozens, not thousands, of followers, most of these techniques are simply useless. The numbers just don’t add up. 10% of users are online. 10% of them happen to be on Twitter. 10% of them happen to come across your specific message. And the people most likely to be on Twitter (the power users) are also following the most people. So your message get buried even more.

    Yes, if you’re Ashton Kucher, Dell, or Bill Gates, Twitter is great. But for the rest of us mortals, I would need to spend an inordinate amount of time posting interesting tidbids to garner enough followers.

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