I remember the day I decided to sign up for Twitter. Like many other people at the time, I wondered why anyone would want to publicly broadcast their lives via 140 characters. It was early 2008, Twitter was about to skyrocket in growth, and I definitely wanted to get involved.
Once I joined, it didn’t take long for me to understand how powerful Twitter could be. I was hooked and jumped in full blast. Now, nearly five years—and 25K tweets—later, I figured it would be a good time to reflect on my time tweeting, consuming content, and connecting with others on Twitter.
A quick disclaimer: I’m not writing this because I think 25K tweets is some amazing milestone. It’s just a logical point at which to look back on my time on Twitter. 4.5 years is a long time (in digital terms), and 25K tweets is lot of content. It’s been an amazing ride so far, and I believe there are some important insights I’ve gleaned based on my time on Twitter. Let’s get started.
First, here’s the short version. If you want to learn more about the following bullets, then read the rest of my post.
- Fighting Through the Black Hole of Twitter
- The People I’ve Met
- The Doors Twitter Can Open
- Managing the Stream of Information
- The Business Impact of Twitter
- The Impact on Virality and SEO
- Twitter Compared to Other Social Networks
- The Advertising Obstacles
As with any social effort, you don’t gain traction overnight. This is critically important to understand for anyone jumping into Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. I wrote about the Black Hole of Blogging and Twitter a few years back, and the main concept holds true today.
When you start on Twitter (or any social network), you will have no followers, no traction, and no influence. The hard reality is that nobody will care when you post an update. You are tweeting to a black hole, and you need to fight through the black hole in order to start gaining traction.
Unfortunately, many people don’t sustain their efforts and then claim that Twitter doesn’t work for them. In my opinion, and based on my experience with Twitter, I believe you can start gaining traction at a few hundred (real) followers. But you still won’t gain a lot of traction (and experience a lot of engagement) until you build a larger and stronger following within your niche. That takes time, and there’s no way around it.
I cannot emphasize enough how amazing it has been to connect with smart people on Twitter from across the country, and from around the world.
Whenever I speak about Twitter with people that haven’t jumped in yet (or that haven’t jumped in full blast), I notice they tend to talk about the social network and not the people on the social network. That always seemed weird to me, since social networks are all about people. That’s the foundation of Twitter, and it cannot be overlooked.
So, what can happen when you find and engage smart people across a number of targeted interests? Amazing things can happen. Let me explain further based on my own experience.
I’ve connected with @hollisthomases, who has proven to be an important mentor of mine as I launched and grew G-Squared Interactive. I’ve had dinner with @thelostagency, a smart Aussie digital marketer who I first met in 2010 on Twitter. I connected with @eric_andersen from IBM, a prolific Twitter user who reminds me of the FourSquare mayorships I’m missing across the Princeton area. I connected with @seosmarty, who asked if I wanted to write for Search Engine Journal in 2009. And that worked out pretty well.
I’ve chatted with @mblumenthal about local SEO quite a few times. I’ve read patents by Google, with a little help from @bill_slawski. I ran into the @bingads folks and started writing for their official blog. I’ve met some cool Canadians like @ruudhein and explained that there’s always American football if the NHL hockey season won’t be around this year.
Oh, and I ended up writing for Search Engine People several times. I connected with @johnhdenny, another digital marketer from New Jersey, and met him in person at one of my presentations. I’ve got a Tel Aviv connection in @avinio, a smart digital marketer from Israel. I haven’t met him in person yet, but I’m confident I will some day.
And, I’ve had the opportunity to connect with other incredibly sharp marketers from around the country (and world) like @szetela, @schachin, @justin_fried, @steveplunkett, @steveakinsseo, @si1very, @aaranged, @leeodden, and many others. I can keep going here, but the post would be entirely too long. I think you get the picture.
What I just explained above is the true power of Twitter. I think the main takeaway is that Twitter enables you to connect with a targeted audience from all over the world. You can teleport from New York to Chicago to San Francisco to Sydney to London to Paris to Tel Aviv, and all within minutes.
And by the way, many of the people you connect with will be interested in similar topics. These are people that will inherently be interested about the updates you share, and they can amplify your own efforts (without you ever asking to do so). And at a time when tweets and retweets can lead to greater exposure, which can lead to increased traffic, and new customers, that’s darn powerful.
Finding and Then Engaging The Right People is What Twitter is All About
Twitter Tip: Like many in the industry, I believe follower count is overrated. My recommendation is to not focus on that number, but instead, focus on connecting with a smart group of people in a specific niche. I don’t care if that’s 1K, 5K, or 20K people. You’ll know when it makes sense.
I wouldn’t advocate the power of Twitter to my clients unless I knew it could work for them. Twitter can absolutely open a ton of doors for professionals at any level. But, and this is an important point, you must build up respect in the community.