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.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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