In my role as a professional speaker and social media consultant, I still get asked a version of the following when I tell people about the value of using Twitter for business: “Isn’t Twitter just a bunch of people talking about what they had for breakfast?”
Setting aside my answer to that question for the moment, consider that most networking associations meet once a week over breakfast and that the promise of bacon and eggs is still used as an effective recruiting tool for new members…
Now, back to the question about “tweeting” about your breakfast. The answer is “Yes!” Twitter is about people tweeting about their breakfast (and a whole lot more). But here’s how that can be good for your business.
Mmm … Coffee
I love coffee. I’m not ashamed to admit that some mornings, that’s all I have for breakfast. And sometimes I tweet about it. One morning, after tweeting about having a particularly satisfying coffee for breakfast, I got a reply from a guy named Aaron Lee (or “@AskAaronLee” as he is known on Twitter).
Aaron saw my tweet and asked if I’d ever tried a variety of coffee popular in his country known as “Malaysian white coffee” (I hadn’t). We struck up a chat about our mutual love of coffee, and like many conversations on Twitter, it meandered into other topics—from Plato, to Shakespeare, to social media. After a while we went back to whatever it was we were doing before we discovered each other on Twitter.
Knock-Knock. Who’s There? Opportunity!
A few weeks later, a package arrived at my door postmarked with what looked to be about 20 Malaysian dollars worth of stamps. It was a box of Malaysian coffee, sent to me from my new friend from the other side of the world, Aaron Lee!
That would be cool enough if the story ended there, confirming that Twitter is a great way to meet interesting people and get free stuff! But I promised an example of the business benefits of Twitter (even if you’re just tweeting about your breakfast), and here it is.
In the weeks after Aaron and I first tweeted about coffee, I noticed that occasionally, we’d get big spikes in traffic on the social media blog I wrote for at the time. After some investigation, I tracked down the source of the traffic.
It turned out that these spikes in new visitors coincided with Aaron Lee tweeting out links to my articles to his 300,000* followers on Twitter (*Aaron has over 700,000 followers today!). In the professional blogging world, traffic is currency. The more traffic you get, the easier it is to get found in search, the more visitors you attract, and the more you can charge for advertising on your blog. In this case, Aaron figured that because I was an interesting guy on Twitter, then the stuff that I do in my day job would probably be interesting too.
Because I’d effectively co-branded my personal Twitter profile with links to my professional profile, Aaron made these connections back to my business blog, read some of my stuff, and was generous enough to share some of these articles with his Twitter followers.
I never asked Aaron to tweet my blog articles. In fact, I never even mentioned to Aaron that I worked for a marketing blog. He discovered my professional persona as a result of interacting with me first in a personal capacity on Twitter. Although it may sound counterintuitive, the takeaway here is that if you want to use Twitter effectively for business, you don’t always need to tweet about your business.
People on social media, and Twitter in particular, are there because they want to get to know you! If you are interesting and engaging (and you’ve properly branded your social media profiles), people will make their own way back to your business and engage you there once you’ve established a basis of familiarity and trust. After all, wouldn’t you rather do business with an individual whom you know something about rather than some nameless, faceless, impersonal corporation that’s accessible only through a website?
So, tweet about your breakfast, movies, quantum physics—and whatever else strikes your fancy. When the time is right, you can tweet about your business and how it can help the folks you’re engaging with. In the meantime, I’ll be brewing up another cuppa and you’re always welcome to join me in tweeting about it on Twitter.