It has been one year since I activated my Twitter account. I had specific goals for using Twitter (that believe it or not had nothing to do with making money, getting clients or building a following just for the sake of it). So, for those wondering the value of Twitter, here is one story/perspective…
The back story –
In 2006, I took on a new role in my company to drive the acquisition marketing strategy in one of our B2B divisions. By 2008, social media and online marketing strategies began taking off in the marketplace in a bigger way (albeit less so in B2B and even less in my industry) — I was developing a lot of interest, ideas and philosophies on how the marketing world was changing and the implications for our business objectives.
So, I decided to ingrain myself in current marketing trends and “new school” opportunities; e.g. I got certified in Online Marketing and took various training courses. But by 2010, I was anxious to build more connections with people who shared my current marketing interests and philosophies, and to find more efficient ways to evolve my “new school” marketing capabilities.
A friend of mine had become an active blogger and Tweeter after starting a job in digital marketing; and said she quickly connected with influencers in the marketing world via these channels. She suggested that if I wanted an efficient means for both networking and learning, Twitter might be the way to go. I would not have thought of this on my own — like many, I had preconceived notions that Twitter was a place for celebs, celeb-wannabes and/or attention-seeking/promoter-types. She said in business, it was becoming more than that; and sold me on its benefit — so I decided to give it a try.
So off I went –
The first thing I did was start a marketing blog on the philosophies and interests for which I had developed a passion over the years – the intent being to use Twitter to share posts and find like-minded marketing connections. The 2nd goal was continuing ed—to find people who tweeted on current marketing trends, B2B best practices and cool ideas that would help me evolve in my job. I was hoping Twitter would “feed me” 2-3 nuggets of “great marketing learning” each week. I often received emails through various sources that could have accomplished the same thing, but they soon became clutter in an inbox with competing priorities. I needed a separate “place” for quick review of potential nuggets.
Like most newbies on Twitter, I started by searching for the best marketing tweeters and thought-leaders; and scanned their streams to see what value I could get from their content. To begin the networking part, I started retweeting content that was meaningful to me (and potentially to others).
Over the next couple of months, I found all kinds of marketing folks who tweeted great content each day that made me more aware and smarter. So much so, that when I went into the 2011 planning season — several research reports, articles and training resources found on Twitter informed my point-of-view and recommendations.
After a few more months, I was making more connections with people who posted interesting and relevant marketing tweets, and who shared my view of the new marketing world. I was also seeing links to great blogs, another easy and steady source for learning and ideas. To share how I had benefited from this activity, I wrote a blog post called What I’ve Learned From the Twitter Community – highlighting fave posts and learning tools uncovered through my Twitter feed that had directly benefited me.
I continued on this path into spring 2011 — building more connections, finding more great content to share, and getting smarter and more capable as a marketer in the process. But then I needed to scale, as I could allocate only small blocks of time to online networking and to sifting through marketing news and learning content. Now that I had a sense for Tweeps that shared my philosophies, and had a foundation for other learning sources (such as Content Management Institute, B2Bbloggers, Chris Koch’s Marketing Blog, B2B Marketing Insider, copyblogger, MarketingSherpa, Occam’s Razor, Business2Community, Social Media, Marketing & Musings, NuSpark Marketing Blog; as well as various Linkedin Groups) — I decided to step back to assess who I was following, as well as the content I was consuming and sharing.
Over the summer, I began to hone in on my most valuable partnerships and content contributors for learning and engagement purposes. Many of the thought leaders I had initially followed, or folks I had followed early on simply because they followed me, had streams that weren’t always relevant to me—so given my motivation for being on Twitter was to evolve as a marketer, I cleaned up my follow list to reduce my streams to the highest potential content (for my purposes anyway). Many I followed had admirable profiles; it just happened their Twitter stream did not contain the type of content I was seeking (although their blogs were often very helpful, so in those cases I added them to my Google Reader instead).
I then formed new lists to optimize — Pay It Forward Tweeters, Favorite Tweeters and New Tweeters. I now review my Pay It Forward stream first; as these are the folks I can count on not only for great marketing tweets and links, but who actively engage in the community of Twitter, which I appreciate. I then look at my Favorite Tweeters stream, which provides a steady flow of relevant content, but from folks for which I’ve not had direct engagement or contact. Then, I watch the new folks I’ve followed to make sure I don’t miss the potential “pay it forward” or “favorite” value of Tweeps that might otherwise be lost in the Home stream. Everyone else shows up in the Home stream, which I may or may not find time to review. Regardless of the stream, I try to Retweet 4-5 tweets/links each day that like-minded followers might find interesting. Sometimes when I’m feeling particularly ambitious, to honor the spirit of Twitter I will search for the headline of something I enjoyed on my Reader, and RT someone who posted it on Twitter, instead of tweeting directly from the Reader (whether I follow the person or not) – I figure it’s good to help someone else’s ‘mention count’ once in a while.
So, for me, Twitter serves as an efficient business networking and learning tool – and for me it’s been about quality and usefulness. In fact, some of the most useful content for me has come from Tweeps with small followings and an understated presence. I now have a pretty well oiled machine – with some fabulous and well-organized Tweeps, and a steady stream of helpful (and manageable) content. Hopefully I’ve also paid it forward.
In closing –
While there are many uses for Twitter in business, I personally recommend it for two things: 1) building connections in a niche for which you have an interest; and 2) a continuing ed resource. While Linkedin and Google+ offer a similar opportunity, I have big love for Twitter, and still prefer it for my goals of continuing ed and connection-building in the marketing world. I am a smarter marketer and a much more valuable employee as a result of the Twitter community – no doubt about it.