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