I remember getting invited to check out Twitter over two years ago. Shortly thereafter, I remember thinking that it seemed useless. Months passed….I got lots of random emails that said things in the subject like, “@delicioushair is now following you on Twitter”. WHAT?!? Why?
The notion of someone following me used to strike me as both odd and off-putting. I guess it sounds catchier than saying that someone is “paying attention to you on Twitter”, or “interested in what you have to say on Twitter”, but that’s basically exactly what this means. I prefer to think of my subscribers, friends, contacts, and followers as part of my online audience. The better you are at building an audience, the more likely you are to convert this to actual business growth, in my opinion. Granted, the analogy isn’t perfect, since being part of an audience implies something more passive, but you get the drift.
Over time, I started to get the hang of it with Twitter, and I finally jumped in with both feet in September 2008. I’m thankful that I did.
So, I now have over 11,000 people paying attention to me on Twitter. What’s the significance of this? Well, by itself, not much. A friend of mine mentioned to me after I crossed the 10,000 mark that quality is more important than sheer quantity. Despite the fact that he is probably a bit jealous, I agree wholeheartedly. I think having BOTH is pretty nice, too. 🙂
I consistently see Twitter users with 20,000 or even 50,000 followers who have really only built a very big and delicate house of cards for themselves. They never converse with anyone, and they are still trying to use Twitter like a traditional marketing channel, by broadcasting information rather than hanging out and listening.
A few months ago right here in Austin, I was happy to be able to attend a local “tweetup” (Twitter-based meetup) with author Shel Israel. I even got to sit next to him at dinner, which made my day. Shel is the author of “Twitterville” and co-author with Robert Scoble of one of the seminal books on business blogging, “Naked Conversations”. During dinner, we had an interesting discussion with my local friend Mike Chapman about the fact that no politician has truly utilized social media yet, including President Obama. Obama’s campaign certainly did a very effective job of using the tools to broadcast their message, but that’s not the same thing as listening and joining the conversation. Shel noted that it would be newsworthy (and bookworthy) for a candidate to do this.
As with the candidates who jump on the bandwagon to appear hip, the same thing goes for anyone attempting to use Twitter to build his/her business. You MUST listen! The old saying about God giving us two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak is really appropriate when it comes to new media channels. Sending links from your blog posts, or just having a profile is not enough. What if someone responds to your post but you aren’t even there to see it? In much the same way, having a giant number of followers means nothing if they are all spambots, or if you are never around to converse with them. Raw numbers are not the important part – engagement is. While I’m happy to have garnered a good-sized following, I recognize that the key to success in any social medium is being consistent.
Part of my goal for 2010 and beyond is to use Twitter as a springboard to more face-to-face meetings. I have always said that social media is not intended to replace the “in real life” meetups, but to enhance them. With the advent of more geolocation tools such as Foursquare and Gowalla combined with Twitter, finding friends and valuable contacts has never been easier. I saw this in action several times at SXSW Interactive last week, and I only expect that these tools will experience explosive growth in the years to come.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/wonderferret