How do you explain Twitter to someone who has little idea of how to use social media in a business to business context? Someone who may even be hesitant about the whole concept of networking.
I often get asked about Twitter and whether it really can be a tool that anyone can use to grow business through networking. I believe that it is.
Don’t mention Facebook
When faced with this sort of question, the last thing I do is to start comparing Twitter to Facebook or using “social media” jargon. Although major consumer brands now use Facebook as an alternative homepage, many business people know Facebook as the place where friends and acquaintances leave embarrassing photos and comments. Or they see others’ Facebook accounts that show a complete lack of any sort of understanding of the limits between family, personal or business personae.
So social media “à la Facebook” can be viewed as a place to boast and to try to make yourself look important – often with the quite opposite result. This is not a good starting point if you want to promote social media as a tool to successfully grow a business network.
So how do you explain Twitter?
I like to start in the context of professional seminars or conferences as it is here that many people I work with mingle with their fellow professionals.
Coming out of a plenary session or keynote speech and grateful for some fresh air, you want to get full value from the event. It is not so much the speeches and presentations that are important at these events, it is about making new contacts and getting into interesting conversations with new people. Perhaps catching up with the person you had a great conversation with last time, and regret not having connected with since.
Sometimes, coming out of the main meeting room into the cocktail reception area you are all alone and need to find a way to make that initial connection. Well it’s the same starting out on Twitter, you are in a big virtual room with too many people and no idea where to start.
For extroverts, walking into a room like that in real life may not be a problem. For introverts, it is not so easy. And in the digital world, on Twitter, it is just the same.
What do you say first? Do you approach someone on their own, or try to engage with a small group? Do you talk about you, or them, or about the last presentation you just saw? It is not easy and many Twitter virgins will no doubt be hesitant when starting out.
Twitter is great for introverts
The good news is that Twitter helps you out with all these problems and is great for introverts. Faced with this big virtual room, full of people, Twitter has an easy-to-grasp etiquette, signposts (hashtags) and guidance posted throughout. You can start engaging with confidence.
And the best thing is that, before you start a conversation, you can make decisions about who to engage with and be pretty sure they are your type of people. With Twitter you can check out the virtual room and everyone in it in advance. You are not walking blind into the room.
With a little Twitter research you will find the right people. Just start by searching a keyword or hashtag close to your heart. You can find like-minded individuals and see what they are already saying and who they are saying it to. That gives you clues to the topics and vocabulary to use. And by seeing who they talk to you can already work out who to talk to next.
So, as you walk into this room full of people, they are no longer strangers. They are people you already know. You know what to say and how to say it.
Once you have crossed that bridge, you have to make sure you have something to say to keep your new followers interested. That’s another story but should be the easy part now.
So what are you waiting for?
If major corporations can “produce engaging content” then I’m sure you can. You know your subject, you know how to get your ideas across. And with a little Twitter research you now know who to engage with.
Find the people and communities that are close to you and start tweeting. Get involved in conversations, become recognized as an expert on a particular topic. You will be surprised how quickly you become noticed and start seeing the benefits.
Originally published by Robin Young on LinkedIn Pulse (in September 2014)
The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® tells us that, among other traits:
Extroverts “feel comfortable in groups and like working in them” and “have a wide range of friends and know lots of people.”
Introverts “feel comfortable being alone and like things they can do on their own” and “prefer to know just a few people well”.Check here for the full Myers & Briggs Foundation explanation of introvert and extrovert: http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/mbti-basics/extraversion-or-introversion.htm