Why Twitter? – Method in the Mayhem

Short version:

Twitter , while seemingly pointless, is actually useful. If you’re clever and persistent, you can use Twitter to:

  • Let contacts get to know you as a person
  • Develop existing relationships and create new ones
  • Learn about your friends, colleagues and contacts
  • Demonstrate your intelligence/wit/charm
  • Get answers to your questions
  • Find new clients
  • Find volunteers to help you get things done

Long version:

This post is all about how I accidentally started lobbying for Twitter, and the justifications I gave for its use. If you don’t know already, Twitter is essentially a website that allows you to create your own account, then post short messages (limited to 140 characters) that answer the perennial question: What are you doing?

Twitter is loved and hated – to some it’s a beautiful device that brings them closer to their world, and to others it’s an inane time waster and an unwanted surge of information in an already overloaded world.

I recently found myself evangelising on behalf of Twitter at a party – I was recommending Twitter to a social media consultant, who viewed Twitter as an unnecessary additional distraction.

So, how did I justify Twitter?

1. By demonstrating usefulness

I gave real examples of how Twitter had been genuinely useful to me.

Example 1:

I’ve been working on writing guides recently, and when I wanted some readers to give me feedback, I turned to my Twitter followers.

And nearly ten different people responded. And those are ten people who volunteered to read my guide. I’ve since received their feedback and revised my guide.

Without Twitter, I would have had to email the people I thought would be most likely to cooperate, or most interested in providing feedback. With Twitter, I can broadcast the request and let interested people decide for themselves. It’s less pressured, more casual, and more effective because of it.

Also, many people follow me on Twitter who I’ve never met – let alone emailed. So I’ve had relative (and in some cases total) strangers giving me valuable feedback. Without Twitter, that would not have happened.

Example 2:

Back to my writing guides… I realised that having nice looking PDFs would probably help the guides get distributed and get read. So I needed a designer.

As the guides are going to be completely free, and freely distributed, I’m trying to avoid spending money on them. So how do you find a designer who is willing to work for nothing more than a discreet marketing opportunity and a dose of good karma?

I was wary of even asking anyone to work for free, because I’m sensitive to the fact that many people receive requests for work on spec, or on the promise of equity. But I asked the Twittersphere, happy knowing that nobody could reasonably resent my request, because it’s so easy to ignore.

And you know what? I had two offers from designers, willing to take a look at my project. Currently, Emma Nicol from Door 22 is working on the guides (the guides are now published). Thanks Emma! I should point out that Emma only agreed to even consider helping me out because we had become better acquainted through Twitter.

2. By suggesting that not using Twitter means you miss out

What’s happening in your town? What are the latest web apps, memes or theories that are bouncing around cyber-space? How do you know about all the ‘latest’ things?

Twitter can be a great way to keep up with the world. People tend to Tweet about their new discoveries or latest passions. So you get to hear about them.

Increasingly, conversations are taking place within Twitter. Ideas blossom, burst into life, crash, burn and die before they’ve even left the Twittersphere. If you’re not on Twitter, you’ll never know.

3. By explaining the value of the seemingly inane

So you’ve looked at Twitter, and got annoyed because people post messages (or Tweets) like:

Now, everyone has their own idea of what is useful, what is boring, what is rude and what is pointless. The beauty of Twitter is that you can constantly refine your Twitter stream. If someone consistently Tweets about stuff that doesn’t interest you, block them. It’s easy.

But, it’s worth considering that even ‘inane’ messages about what people are eating or cooking or blogging about, are giving you a window into their lives. You may have a strong network of business contacts, but how well do you know your contacts as people?

Twitter gives you a great opportunity to get to know the people that you work and network with. Twitter also gives you a great opportunity to meet new people. And yes, that means meeting people in real life too!

4. By explaining that I’ve found work through Twitter

I’ve encountered new clients through Twitter – people I might never have met had it not been for a connection on Twitter.

For many people, Twitter is a great way to maintain contact with their network, and to expand their network in new directions. There is probably no greater way to casually, gently tell people that you exist.

In conclusion

Twitter offers powerful benefits. But you have to contribute before you’ll ever get anything from it. If you view Twitter as just some way to find people to do things for free, or just as a tool to promote your blog, or just as a forum to moan about your boss, then you’ll probably struggle to really enjoy it.

View Twitter as something bigger; something that you do because it’s fun, something that just happens to be very useful.

Further Reading:

To avoid accidentally annoying lots of Twitterers, I recommend reading Josh Russell’s article on Twitter etiquette.

How to Grow Your Twitter Network (How to Find More Followers) by Gregor Spowart


  1. For me Twitter can create one thing that so many other sites cant:


    I think then I should ( at some point ) blog why that is. Thanks for asking me to drop in and read the article. Its certainly another reason why post that I’ll add to my bookmarks on twitter


    Comment by nicholas butler — January 7, 2009 @ 7:11 am

  2. Hi Nicholas – thanks for stopping by.

    So do you persuade your clients to use Twitter? And do you find that easy to do?

    I often encourage my clients and friends to use Twitter, but when they first look at it they get the impression that it’s just a silly website and a time-waster. It can be hard to persuade people to give Twitter a chance!

    Comment by Leif Kendall — January 7, 2009 @ 7:24 am

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