Ask not what Twitter can do for you, but what you can do for Twitter. Actually, don’t ask that at all, be selfish and think what Twitter can do for you. People often ask me why I tweet, sometimes I respond with ‘I tweet therefore I am’, but that only serves to make me sound like a total plonker. In this post, I’m going to break-down what I have received and achieved over the six years I’ve been tweeting. If you currently doubt the benefits of using Twitter on a personal basis, then hopefully I will be able to help you see the light.

1- Given me an education

I started tweeting in 2008. It was around that time I started to take notice of social media and its potential as a marketing and communications tool and saw Twitter, coupled with writing a blog (the currently resting Social Penguin) as a great way of learning more about the channel. I started to follow people such as Mitch Joel, Mark Schaefer, the late Trey Pennington, Danny Brown and Gini Dietrich in order to hear what they had to say, read what they were linking to and of course, reach out to them. Back then, a whole lot of tripe was being spoken about social media (it still is) and those people (among others) struck me as sense talking, smart people. Their thoughts and opinions helped me to form my own, which I then started to document and tweet into the ether, with the hope that someone would read it and challenge my thoughts (see point 2). Twitter has been an essential tool in my education around social media and many more areas and it can be for you too, regardless of your niche.

2 – Given me an audience

When you start blogging, you kind of hope that people are going to read it. When I started, I was using it as a learning tool, however, after a few posts, I felt that I maybe had something valuable to say and would like people to cast their retinas over my work. Twitter allowed this to happen. Back in those heady old days, it was easier to grab some attention – people got more involved, help you spread your word more widely and opinions were far more forthcoming. After a while, my blog was building a solid audience from across the world and that was utterly staggering to me. An audience would have been built through search eventually, but Twitter was the catalyst. On the education point again, writing a blog has taught me more about SEO (search engine optimisation) than anything else, ever. You still can build an audience via Twitter and it is an essential part of that mix, it’s just harder to do so due to saturation. You need an edge.

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3 – It helped me build credibility

This section is hard to write without sounding like some sort of horrible swine, but I’ll try not to sound like some kind of ego-maniac. Without Twitter, I’d never have been able to communicate my opinions (often quite strong ones), give my advice or challenge others. That activity helped me to build a voice and reputation. It’s very important that I say here that while I was doing all of this tweeting and blogging, I was actually putting into practice in behalf of brands etc everything that I was preaching – that gave me the rigour and experience to back up everything I was talking about. At the time, there were hundreds of ‘gurus’ who saw social media as the next snake oil, selling various services and shouting from the rooftops with zero experience to pin their badge to. It was hard to get your head above them and they were affecting the perception of social media in business. Real-life experience, sharing that via a blog and Twitter have helped my build credibility in my field. Sounds big-headed but it is true. It is an brilliant platform to make a name for yourself via. Various thoughts on gurus here.

4 – It has given me a career boost

Since 2008, social media has been a big part of any job I’ve had, and is of course a huge part of what we do at Velocity. When I wanted to leave the job I had in 2008, my Twitter presence and blog opened the door to a great opportunity. While in that job, I was approached to take a brilliant position via someone who had only been alerted to me via my Twitter and blogging work (thanks Allan). When I took the plunge to start Velocity Digital, I knew that there would be a market for my services due to encouragement I received from people on Twitter (not the only test of the opportunity I carried out I hasten to add!). Since starting Velocity, Twitter has directly generated business for the agency through personal connections I’ve built over time. Those relationships have been created based on being helpful first, and ‘salesy’ last. It doesn’t stop there though.

Every single media request I received across the Scottish Independence Referendum came via Twitter first (BBC, Sky News and Channel 5 among others), all because I wrote some blog posts about social media use in the campaigns and used Twitter to spread the word. As I type, I’m travelling to London to chair a conference for people in the mobile telecoms industry, again the organiser noticed my tweets and made contact. Twitter has made many things happen for me in the real world, things that would not have happened without it.

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5 – It has created a sounding board

I’ll often chuck ideas out there on Twitter and see what sticks, it’s an incredible sounding board and that has been hugely valuable to me over the years. Just be sure to thank people when they help. I also think Twitter can give you an amazing perspective on life outside of your tiny little slice of the world.

6 – It has made me friends

There are a number of people who I have initially ‘met’ via Twitter that I now regard as good friends in ‘real’ life. That’s pretty cool.

How to make the most of Twitter

I’ve learnt along the way that there are some things you must do in order to become a welcome and valued member of the Twitter community, here’s a quick summary:

  • Be helpful
  • Share wisely
  • Be responsive
  • Leave no (bone fide) tweet unanswered
  • Give credit where credit is due
  • Let your personality shine through
  • And most of all, be authentic

I hope this has helped you understand the potential that Twitter holds and hasn’t come across as ‘me, me, me’ – I just find things are much more credible when they relate to something real.

Image credits – Goose – https://www.flickr.com/photos/mister_tee Audience – https://www.flickr.com/photos/leweb3 Rocket – https://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc all  all used under creative commons.

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