Online training for ambitious entrepreneurs

Do not use Twitter for business

This guest post by the always excellent Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist, was originally published on 2 July 2010. Like many of Graham’s posts it is thought provoking and rang a bell with me. He has kindly agreed that we can share it with you here:

Yesterday I sent out a simple “tweet” saying I was off to give a presentation that would warn people that Twitter should not be used for business. Within moments the broadcaster and communications consultant James Lush had replied saying he’d be fascinated to know why on earth I was saying such a thing. Well, this morning I delivered my suggestions to the Business Leaders Group where several CEOs and Managing Directors had gathered to find out whether or not social networking could help their business.

So, I rose to my feet, took a deep breath and suggested the un-suggestible. In fact, James Lush was not the only person who wanted to know why I was daring to say Twitter is not for business. Several people I met this morning at the Business Leaders Group said the same thing. They want to know how could I say such a thing when there are plenty of examples of companies making money using Twitter.

But therein lies the twist in my tale. The companies making money from Twitter are not using it as a business tool. Far from it; they are using it as a social tool.

Consider life before Twitter – if you can remember back far enough, before the internet. How did you go about getting new business in those days? And how did you go about getting more business out of existing clients? Unless you are in the fast moving consumer goods industry, business has always been about relationships. You got more business from existing clients by socialising with them – having lunch, playing golf, going down the pub, even, perhaps, going to their daughter’s wedding. But whatever you did, you didn’t discuss business – politics, yes, other people, certainly and “putting the world to rights”, of course. But business – pah! Who wants to talk about that? Yet, despite no talking about business you got more of it from these people.

And, in the past, when it came to getting new customers, what did  you do? You took every opportunity to get to know them. Instead of filling their minds with “buy this” messages you sat down with them, chatted to them, asked them questions about themselves. You were trying to extract as much information out of them as possible to see where you could “fit”. But the encounter with potential clients was always social, not “salesy”. Indeed, if it were focused on sales, what happened? You were accused of being a “hard seller” using …tactics”. In other words, as soon as the conversation turned to business, that’s exactly what you lost. When the conversation was social, you gained business.

Now, fast forward to Twitter. What happens when you see a tweet that is a business conversation, when it is sales focused? Almost certainly you ignore it; you might even get angry and stop following the individual. You will, of course, find an endless array of “social networking gurus” forcing social networking guff at you on Twitter, which makes it seem that these “experts” know a thing or two and therefore if your business does the same thing you’ll be OK. Wrong. Come back in a year and see how many of the “gurus” are still in business….mmmm….I wonder?

The successful businesses on Twitter are not using their tweets to focus on business. Instead, they are simply being social; chatting, holding conversations, being friendly, even showing altruistic kindness. When you see Twitter merely as a system to hold conversations, as a social tool, your business will do well out of it. All the time you see it as a business tool it will fail you. So, don’t “do business” on Twitter, simply socialise – just like you used to do before the web came along.

Please share your thoughts and add your questions to the comments below. I’ll try to provide as many answers as possible in my future online videos, seminars, workshops, masterclasses and blog posts.

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