Gini Dietrich

12 Reasons You Should Use Twitter for Business

By: Gini Dietrich | December 14, 2010 | 

In April of 2009, I was scrolling through Twitter and found an article in USA Today, written by Steve Strauss in his “Ask An Expert” column, and was titled, “Should Entrepreneurs Twitter? Uh, No.

As you can imagine, I clicked on the article and, after reading it, took great offense to his advice, even though I’d been tweeting for work for only five or six months at that point (imagine if I read it now!). His points for not using Twitter as an entrepreneur were: You are in business, it offers just too much information, it requires too much time, and what can you say in 140 characters?

Well, as an entrepreneur who uses Twitter for business, I couldn’t let that sit. So  I spent, oh, about two hours creating a professional response pointing out the flaws in his argument.

My response was this:

Try to understand the true value of Twitter, which is not what someone had for lunch or when they’re taking a coffee break.

1. I run a business and I use Twitter to network daily with potential partners, clients, and talent. It’s like going to a networking event, but instead of for two hours once a month, I spend 30 minutes a day mining for information that is helping me grow my business.

2. I get all of my news from Twitter. By the time it reaches even the online news sites, I’ve know about it for a good hour or more. I also find tips, pointers, and tools from other CEOs that I haven’t yet considered. If I’m looking for an answer for something I’ve never encountered, I first ask my followers if they have experience. It’s an advisory board and focus groups rolled into one.

3. It takes as much time as you allow it. I’ve set up groups in TweetDeck that allow me to quickly scroll through information I want in as little as five minutes. I look at TweetDeck in the morning, at noon, and at night. I spend as much time as I see an ROI for my business.

4. The 140 character limit forces you to be concise, to write in headlines or soundbites, and to include only pertinent information. It also allows you to tease to your latest blog post, article, interview, or company information.

In a time that all business leaders need to look for ways to innovate, not using the Web for networking and prospecting for business will leave you in the cold. It’s time to join the 21st Century!

Plus, I found this article on Twitter…not in the paper or by reading your Web site.

My response prompted my dear friend Rieva Lesonsky to call me and say something like, “Hey. Steve Strauss was impressed with the comment you left on his article and wants to talk to you. May I make the introduction?”

Uh…the “Ask An Expert” columnist at USA Today wants to talk me? Heck, yes!

And so began a long and fruitful relationship. We talked that first time and we started off just by my educating him on the value of Twitter, from an entrepreneur’s perspective and then we went “on the record.” From that conversation, he wrote, “Twitter for Small Business…Reconsidered,” in which he called me “charming.” Even though I feel like that was a bit tongue-in-cheek, it endured me to him forever.

Since then he’s gotten on Twitter himself and he’s hired a CTO (chief Twitter officer). Yesterday he wrote, “Why I Was Wrong About Twitter” and included 12 reasons businesses should be using Twitter. They include:

  • Prospect
  • Generate word-of-mouth advertising
  • Learn new things
  • Get new ideas
  • Meet new people
  • Build a better brand
  • Turbocharge your customer service
  • Go viral
  • Get more business
  • Notify customers

Even though I don’t agree with “go viral,” I still say bravo, Steve! Bravo! You’ve come a long way and I love that you’re willing to open your mind, and even change it when you find value.

The lesson here is two-fold: Commenting professionally on other’s blogs and articles leads to a long and fruitful relationship where you learn from one another and Twitter still has not lost its ability to connect people, to build relationships, and yes, to grow your business.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • DebCE

    Gini, you are my Twitter Mentor/Coach! If not for your advice and help I would not have leaped into Twitterville (as @Justinthesouth calls it). My 8,800 tweets and 1747 followers doesn’t compare to your 49k+ tweets and 15k+ followers! But continue to lead the way and I may possibly catch up in a few years.

  • janbeery

    Amen to my dear friend whom I met through Twitter! 😉

  • JuliaS_PMA

    Twitter has turned out to be a great work tool for me, helping make my PR job in the fresh produce industry association world easier and faster. It has been a huge boon for us on so many fronts, including trade media relations, member relations and conference/event support. Thanks to Gini for pushing me into the pool!

  • I advise my clients to have a very clear sense of purpose on Twitter – and then constantly reconsider it as they see the value of it. It’s far too easy to spend way too much time on it and say things that are not all that productive. However, it’s a valuable tool for business no matter what.

    That’s why I constantly harp on a well defined strategy. It’s not about twitter, it’s not even about social media – it’s about your entire media presence starting at the signboard out on the sidewalk and ending with a satisfied customer that tells all their friends what a good time they had. An enrepeneur has limited time to spend on any one tool, sure. That means that they have to use them wisely and build skills.

    I like to think of twitter as a news ticker first and foremost. It can be more if you really want it to be, but that image makes a great start to managing the hype and tendency to over-do it. There’s only so much time in the day – how do you most efficiently reach your customers (existing and potential!) using all the tools at your disposal? Always THE question, IMHO.

  • HowieSPM

    Great post Gini. Your post is such a bubbly of goodwill towards Twitter. Biz Tone had better save your post!

    In summer 2009 after hearing the hype about Twitter (I had an unused account) I decided to investigate Twitter to prove 1] the live feed is not a great place for traditional advertising and 2] see how Brands are using it, the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    After about a month of tracking I proved that the live feed is not a great place for traditional advertising (sponsored Tweets didn’t exist) where a brand hopes to reason millions virally via their followers (this is really a Social Media Urban legend). And during these 2 months it turned into the greatest networking and communication tool I have ever used, especially professionally. And once you understand the basic features it’s much easier keeping in touch with a lot of people one on one that via Facebook by far.Its much easier to find people of interest on Twitter than Facebook.

    Though I still curse Twitter every morning for connecting me with this Blog’s author every morning I wake up….”I’m Going To Get You For This Twitter” followed by my best Pirate’s Argh Imitation.

  • HowieSPM

    @DebCE @Justinthesouth I hope Gini told you that the person with the most tweets and followers wins. I think she is working on a Book called Tweet to Win. Which is why she tweets so much!

  • This is great and I have forwarded to a few of my entrepreneurial friends that ask me this same question constantly and continue to tell me “I just don’t get it”. I think really once you get on and really start using Twitter you being to “get it” and that’s something no one else can explain to you.

  • The word “viral” makes me want to puke. It can only be used after something has achieved the status of actually going viral. I hope folks reading his column don’t think that they will be instant stars or overnight millionaires as it just doesn’t work that way.

  • FollowtheLawyer

    @HowieSPM I’ll second that comment on Twitter’s unique ability to help participants quickly and efficiently locate and integrate with the people and conversations that mean the most to them. For niche marketers like me, who need multiple personae and content streams to engage with disparate segments, Twitter is far more agile and productive than Facebook, and certainly easier than generating content for multiple niche blogs.

  • Thanks for setting this out so neatly, and for tweeting it so I could find it!

  • FollowtheLawyer

    @jeffespo Planning for virality is like planning to win the lottery.

  • This is a great case study on how to effectively use Twitter for business and networking. If you keep it human and connect in meaningful ways with people on Twitter, it can lead to valuable relationships… Insightful post Gini : )

  • @FollowtheLawyer Or getting herpes

  • HowieSPM

    @FollowtheLawyer @jeffespo But I thought Viral was a Strategy! Only thing viral is the Flu!

  • @HowieSPM @FollowtheLawyer Exactly

  • Gini, I think this story is a perfect example of the power of Twitter and the apparent desire to bash it within the “business community” without prior research. I know a lot of people who say Twitter is useless and only about lunchtime updates, but rarely are those people actively engaged in the communities Twitter has to offer.

    Personally, I’ve grown myself and my company from no-names within the social media world to having quite an effective reach within the span of a year. I’ve created relationships with people like you, dannybrown , unmarketing , johnmorgan , erikdeckers and more simply by engaging in the conversations and using the tools in strategic ways.

    I love the anecdote here and hope we can convince more and more people to take it seriously by taking a deeper look.

    I would also prefer if we did it while wearing costumes and refer to each other with superhero names in the process. Just saying.

  • HowieSPM

    @joey_strawn dannybrown unmarketing johnmorgan erikdeckers Actually fuggggiittttttaboooooot Twitter. I forge my new connections on Spin Sucks. Its where only the coolest of the cool hang out and swap stories around Gini’s Campfire while drinking Bartles and James Wine Coolers with Jaegermeister Shot Chasers.

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  • Wow ginidietrich what a story! This is amazing on many levels. First of all:

    “Plus, I found this article on Twitter…not in the paper or by reading your Web site.”

    HAHAHA!!! Loved reading this and definitely laughed out loud!

    Secondly, what an incredible example of the power of comments (can you imagine if it was on the livefyre comment platform? That would have been an epic back-and-forth battle for sure!). Not only did it start a long-lasting relationship, but it gave you both credibility and exposure. Not to mention it caused a usatoday columnist to publicly change his opinion with two follow-up articles on Twitter in business.

    Thanks stevestrauss (now following) for being humble and open-minded, and for sharing your changes in opinion with your readers. I am glad you and Gini took advantage of a unique situation and forged a meaningful relationship.

    Thanks again Gini for your original comment on Steve’s story; it led to something that I can only assume you probably never saw coming. I hope that by sharing this story you have caused more people to speak up and start a dialogue. You have proven that you never know where that dialogue may lead you to

  • ginidietrich

    @JonHearty I’m a big fan of Steve’s now because of his willingness to listen and observe. He’s a smart, smart man!

  • ginidietrich

    @joey_strawn You’d better call your superhero costume now…before someone beats you to the punch! I call Wonder Woman!

  • ginidietrich

    @GACConsultants Thanks! And I agree…it’s about relationships, not about what you had for lunch or what color your snot is (though, admittedly, that is my FB status today…for a reason).

  • ginidietrich

    @hgpr I keep meaning to comment on your previous comment about PR pros wanting to work with bloggers. REALLY great comment!

  • ginidietrich

    @hgpr I keep meaning to comment on your previous comment about PR pros wanting to work with bloggers. REALLY great comment!

  • ginidietrich

    @jeffespo @HowieSPM @FollowtheLawyer I have nothing to add to this, except LMAO!

  • ginidietrich

    @rachaelseda Totally agree…you figure out how it works for you after you use it. No one can teach it.

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM Sigh…

  • ginidietrich

    @wabbitoid What I want to know is how many clients you put the sandwich board on for and parade up and down the street?! This might be worth a visit to MSP to see!

  • ginidietrich

    @JuliaS_PMA And you know what else I like about it? Even though we’ve known each other a long time, we stay connected via Twitter!

  • ginidietrich

    @janbeery EXACTLY!

  • ginidietrich

    @HowieSPM @DebCE Howie, please leave Deb alone. It’s bad enough I have to deal with you every day!

  • ginidietrich

    @DebCE I have 49,000 tweets? Sigh…I need a life.

  • @ginidietrich Ooh, ooh. I call Hawkeye!

  • ShennandoahDiaz

    I agree with you. Frankly I do most of my business on twitter. I even met my business partner on twitter, secured referral sources for myself and for clients, funneled people from prospect to conversion through twitter, get news in real time (especially technology and business news), and get media coverage through twitter. It’s cheaper (and more effective) than a chamber luncheon and more targeted than most seminars. It’s my personal favorite among the social media tools.

  • @ginidietrich @HowieSPM @FollowtheLawyer Was too easy not to

  • HowieSPM

    @ginidietrich @wabbitoid Sandwich Boards have limited reach but incredibly high ROI. One of the highest out there. Trumps the Plane+Banner flying at the beach trust me!

  • @HowieSPM @ginidietrich Absolutely. It’s a must have for any small urban business that runs any kind of specials, daily menu, or other event driven business. A simple sign on the sidewalk is all it is, but it can say a lot. Twitter is very much the same kind of thing in practice, so the image is a powerful one for an understanding of how to use SM tools without overplaying the hype over “tech”.

  • Although many entrepreneurial minded bloggers have championed the importance Twitter, blogging, & other social media play in driving sales, connecting with clients and potential business partners, and as an invaluable marketing resource, I think the support it provides gets greatly overlooked. Setting out on your own equipped with little more than an idea is a very scary experience especially when the failure rate of start up businesses is so high (a well documented fact). Once the euphoria of ‘being your own boss’ begins to wane, and the realities of running a business set in, being an entrepreneur can become very, very lonely. Friends are out partying while you’re running numbers, revising marketing content, improving product value propositions, reading blogs, researching, etc then laying in bed staring at the ceiling thinking of all the incomplete tasks that await you on your desk [kitchen table] the following morning. Sure, scan the shelves in the business motivation section at Barnes & Nobel and you’ll discover countless books that detail the successes [and sometimes failures] of entrepreneurs, but most of these are iconic business personas, not ‘real people’ like you or me. Insert Twitter. Suddenly, I’m connected with hundreds of like minded people and the feeling of being alone on my quest fades away. My successes are celebrated, hardships shared. I draw inspiration from other people’s perseverance. I gain perspective from their stories. I’m emboldened by their success., and my resolve on my quest is reaffirmed by their support. Twitter clearly only takes on the value we give it, but its importance cannot be ignored; it’s a great marketing medium, but it’s also much, much more.

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  • Puneet_Dutt

    I really enjoyed reading this entry, and your well thought out response. I am amazed, but not because I did not expect this from you, but because it is so rare to have the ‘other side’ ever admit to being wrong about something, and actively change and progress forward in the right direction. Have you ever considered entering politcs in the international arena? In an ideal world, your approach is what brokering peace deals and diplomacy is supposed to be all about. Maybe you could teach those big-guns in the White House a thing or two. But then I think nahh, because I like reading your blog, and because…ahem, I actually learn a lot from it.

  • ginidietrich

    @ShennandoahDiaz And not as boring as a Chamber lunch!

  • ginidietrich

    @JamesDBurrell2 What? You’re doing something wrong. I run a business and I go out partying every night.


    I was just telling justinthesouth it’s very lonely at the top. And you’re right! Twitter gives you a way to stay engaged, gain knowledge, and bounce ideas…all from your kitchen table.

    Really, really great insight!

  • ginidietrich

    @Puneet_Dutt Oh heck no! I love your confidence in me, but I think I’ll stick with making friends with people like you and reporters like stevestrauss instead of trying to broker peace deals. 🙂

  • @ginidietrich justinthesouth Who needs to go out partying at night when happy hour starts at… wait, it just started. Just kidding (it’s not even Noon), but seriously, I find afternoon conference calls are much more entertaining when complimented with a smooth gin & tonic.

  • adrianseeley

    Absolutely a fantastic article. Thanks, Gini!
    Couldn’t agree more.

  • Gini, I’m slow on keeping up with you but as always, I love your content. I just closed another client today who found me on Twitter. I have been on Twitter since October 2008 and after overcoming the learning curve and following leaders like Jim Connolly and Danny Brown, (sorry it took me until this year to find you) I learned.

    I agree with Howie when he said: “it turned into the greatest networking and communication tool I have ever used” I doubt that I could go Twitter-free for long.

    I love that your comment changed the story and the writer. We all are growing, who knows where we will be in 2011.

  • ed_han

    Gini, what a great tale! I found this thanks to my friend Julie Walraven, who RTed a link to this blog entry–which I think does a lovely job of bringing home the lesson full-circle!

  • ginidietrich

    @ed_han AH! I LOVE @JulieWalraven !! And it’s great seeing you here, too!

  • ginidietrich

    @JulieWalraven Twitter free?! I would die!

  • ginidietrich

    @adrianseeley Thanks!

  • @ginidietrich @ed_han Thank you, Gini! You’ll love Ed too… He is a wordsmith who has been working tirelessly to help other jobseekers find their way. Teaching seminars and just being there to encourage.

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