Twitter is a popular micro-blogging tool. It’s easy and free to use. Here’s how to get started:
- Sign up;
- Follow people who you are interested in;
- Spend some time watching how other people use Twitter;
- Post a message.
Twitter might be easy to use. But it is difficult to master. Which is why I recently sat down with my good friends Jace Anderson and Trevor Moore to learn more about using Twitter for business.
Me: So, let’s talk Twitter.
Trevor: Sure, let’s talk and see where it goes. Actually, Jace and I were just discussing how we first connected. Of course, it was through Twitter. We unknowingly crossed paths at one of my shows. I didn’t know Jace was there. In fact, I didn’t know him at all. But we were connected because we followed one another on Twitter, and the relationship grew from there. What would have been six degrees of separation was more like three degrees, or even one degree. Twitter led to a conversation – a relationship – that simply couldn’t have happened before.
Me: So Twitter is an effective way of building a local network.
Jace: Absolutely. I’ve been on Twitter for a few years and have seen the growth and the adoption, not just here in Medicine Hat, but around the world. It’s given me an opportunity to test the medium by throwing ideas out into the community. I get instantaneous feedback and know right away whether an idea is going to work or not. Let me give you an example. I love Risk. It’s one of my favourite games. So I threw the idea of a Risk tournament out there. I heard back from 5 or 10 people saying that this is something that they would support, something that they would pay for. Based on that feedback I decided that if we were going to do this thing, we might as well do it right. Now it’s a nice little fundraiser. We get 30 guys and girls together – corporate sponsors, everything – and we play Risk and raise money for the Medicine Hat Santa Claus Fund. It’s something that the community looks forward to. And the impetus was a comment I made in an open forum. I threw it out there and the community rose up and built it.
Trevor: Which shows one of the most effective principles that people need to know about Twitter: you have to speak to people, not at people. I’ve seen so many accounts where someone signs up and they make 11 posts and the last one is always, “I don’t get this Twitter thing”. But if you look at their posts, there isn’t one single @ mention. It’s always, “Socks are buy one get one free today”, or, “Here’s the lunch special”. But as soon as you start talking with people, then you find like-minded groups and from there it’s just a matter of tapping into people, talking to them, seeing what they think. The medium encourages eavesdropping and it encourages involvement. It’s very engaging.
Jace: One of the first things you do when you join Twitter is eavesdrop. You quickly follow 50 or 100 people and watch what they say. You learn how it works. Even before that, though, you should sit down and have a coffee with someone and talk about how it works, discuss best practices. Like Trevor says, you see so many people join Twitter and their first tweet is, “Hi, I’m on Twitter”, and their second tweet is, “I don’t get this”, and within a week they’re off to something else. It’s a different dynamic than Facebook. The kind of response that you get on Twitter speaks to the quality of people using the tool. It speaks to the level of engagement and what they aspire to get out of it. Twitter is absolutely not a push mechanic.
Me: How is Twitter good for very small business? How does it help entrepreneurs do their thing?
Trevor: Brian Kannekens is the perfect example. I had no idea about his business until I got on Twitter. And just like Jace said, I started off by following 50 people and here everyone was talking about the “dark side”. I had no idea what everyone was talking about, “Oh, I love the dark side.” And I remember thinking, “What is this… a bunch of Jedi’s?” So I asked the group, “Can someone tell me what this whole dark side thing is?”
Jace: Exactly! You asked the question.
Trevor: Right, I talked to people. I eavesdropped and then I asked the question. It was nerve wracking to ask that first question. If I were standing in a lineup at the movies and I heard a couple of people talking about the dark side I wouldn’t turn around and ask, “Hey, what’s the dark side?” I’d mind my own business. It’s rude to butt in on another person’s conversation. But it’s not rude on Twitter. I had to get over that inhibition and ask the question. Someone answered that it’s this amazing coffee, and another person answered that I ought to give it a try, it’s locally roasted. So I did. I tweeted Brian and he answered and I had my coffee. I made a local connection. Then I realized I was limiting myself because Twitter is so much bigger than local. It’s global. Let me give you an example. When I first started on Twitter, I didn’t really get it. I was trying to figure it out, and I noticed a message from someone saying they had a good PDF that explained Twitter. I asked for a link. They sent it to me and I read the article and it made sense. A couple of days later I came across a woman with a message saying that Twitter doesn’t make any sense. Right away I sent her the PDF. Then she wrote back saying, “Thanks for the PDF. I notice you do magic. I’m the entertainment coordinator for one of the major malls in Calgary. I’ll keep your information on file.” It went from A to B to a real life connection. It’s something that I couldn’t have accomplished any other way.
Me: Jace, how has Twitter helped you build a network outside your local area?
Jace: I’ll give you a couple of real world examples. I went to Africa a few years ago, to volunteer with a couple of orphanages in southern Malawi. Prior to the trip I was doing research online and on Twitter and I started following a fellow in northern Malawi who has a Twitter account and a website and what he does is buy bicycles for students in rural Africa so that the kids have bikes to get around. We made a connection. Now, as an aside, I’m a Rotarian. Rotary prefers that on international projects we send money to countries or areas with Rotary clubs, to receive the funds and facilitate the relationship. Because I connected with a guy in northern Malawi who circulates bicycles I connected directly to Malawi, and we decided to meet for coffee when I got there, and in the meantime he referred me to a Rotary club in Malawi. Twitter enabled this to happen and it did so in a way that would have been inconceivable otherwise.
Me: How has Twitter changed your life?
Trevor: It’s allowed me to get a better handle on what potential customers want, what other people in my industry are doing. It allows me to see what’s trending, what’s happening. From a show perspective, I’m able to connect with people right after the show, and I can get immediate feedback and connect directly with people right after the show. It’s allowed me to realize how much bigger my business can be.
Me: Could you have ever planned something like the Calgary connection, marketing to the malls in Calgary?
Trevor: No. Twitter allowed that to happen through immediate connection and random chance. It’s about curiosity. It’s not like you’re standing there wondering what to buy. You don’t have cash in hand. It’s more like, “What can you tell me?” It’s curiosity. It’s talking. It’s networking. It’s finding people who allow me access to their world and give me an opportunity to pick their brain.
Me: When did you get Twitter? What was your a-ha moment?
Jace: It’s tough to pick just one. I already talked about Malawi. I can also talk about Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, where men are encourage to walk a mile in 4 inch high heels to raise awareness about violence against women. My Rotary club supported the event to the tune of $400. Through Twitter – by talking about the event on Twitter – I raised another $400. So my active network of Rotarians, which is strong, was matched by the ongoing concern of my Twitter followers. It shows how powerful the medium is for networking. It’s on par with more traditional networks such as Rotary.
Trevor: For me it’s hard to pick just one moment. Honestly, I think that the biggest moment is yet to come. It’s like the waves keep cresting. Like the lineup of people after the show keeps getting longer and longer.
Jace: Because there’s buy-in. People feel comfortable with your brand, your personality. They want to come up and talk to you about it. They want to meet you. So again, from a marketing standpoint, it differentiates you from the crowd. It makes you more human.
Trevor: Exactly, people are more engaged with me as a performer. They’ve been watching on Twitter. They’re waiting for that trick I’ve been talking about, and then they comment about it afterward. They’re excited. They’re part of the show. They feel like they know me.
Jace: Twitter is a cocktail party. It’s a chance to mingle and move around the room. Conversations are happening and there is an expectation that whatever you have to add to the conversation, just go ahead and do it. Go ahead and add your voice. You have a voice, use it.
Me: Thanks guys.