Should Entrepreneurs Twitter? Uh, yes!

Posted on April 23, 2009 03:46 PM by Joel Comm

A recent question in USA Today by Steve Strauss in the "Ask the Expert" column asked the question, "Should Entrepreneur's Twitter?" Mr. Strauss answered the question with a definitive "No" and gave several reasons. One must wonder how someone who so clearly does not understand Twitter was able to speak as an "expert." As a true expert on the subject, I wish to set the record straight and dissuade entrepreneurs from acting on Mr. Strauss' uninformed and faulty conclusions.

1) Mr Strauss says "You are in business"

It is true that businesses exist to sell products or offer services that people want at prices they are willing to pay. However, many businesses have forgotten a key element of building their business, one which is facilitated by using Twitter. That key element is "relationship." The reason mom and pop shops succeeded or failed in the past was largely due to the relationships they formed with the people in their neighborhood. In an era when big business has alienated the customer by demonstrating lack of caring and only seeking a bigger bottom line, it is those businesses who get back to the basics and place value on relationship who will reap the results. Twitter offers opportunity to quickly and easily build relationship in a forum where social proof has great meaning.

2) Mr Strauss says "It offers just too much information"

While it is true that there are those who use Twitter for more mundane aspects of their lives, Mr. Strauss and others fail to realize that this so-called "minutiae" is often what leads customers to see a human face behind the business. Case in point is Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, whose Twitter account is ripe with personal tweets detailing the minutiae of his day. With nearly 400,000 followers, people are delighted to get close to Tony via his more mundane tweets. It helps them to identify with him as a human being, not just as CEO of a billion-dollar ecommerce site. In doing so, Zappos is building more raving fans. Mr. Strauss also misses a key point in assuming that individuals are the ones who should be paying attention to company tweets. On the contrary, it is the companies who should be paying attention to the tweets of their customers and prospects.

3) Mr Strauss says "It requires too much time"

Twitter takes very little time to learn. If people are stumped by the site, it's because they haven't grasped the simplicity of answering a simple question, "What are you doing?" in 140 characters or less. The fact is that social media is here to stay, and it is where people are gathering. I liken it to the water cooler of our time. Any savvy marketer would agree that wherever people are gathered there is opportunity. Just ask Frank Eliason of Comcast. Not known in the past as the poster child for customer service, Comcast has placed Mr. Eliason in charge of managing the company's Twitter account. Frank places a great deal of value on his interactions with customers and prospects, gladly answering customer support issues in a very public forum. Remember, whenever a customer is helped on Twitter, the entire membership has an opportunity to see how helpful the company has been. Due to Mr. Eliason's clear understanding of social media and proper use of Twitter, Comcast is slowly making headway as a company that actually cares about their customers.

4) Mr Strauss says "What can you say in 140 characters?"

It's said that "brevity is the soul of wit", something that Mr. Strauss was unable to grasp in his article that went on way to long to illustrate points that were not supportable. When one understands the concept of interacting with customers in a way that seeks to build relationship, its easy to see that it doesn't take many words to recognize that a customer inquiry is important. When he makes the assumption that a business tweet would need to be longer than 140 characters, he demonstrates that he totally misses the point of social media. Perhaps he should practice his elevator speech some more.

In rebuttal to Mr. Strauss, and with all due respect, I will provide the correct answer once more.

Should entrepreneurs use Twitter? Not only should they use it, but they should dive headfirst into social media in order to build relationship with their customers and prospects, enhance their brand by customizing a profile picture and background, and watch sales increase as proper use of this revolutionary tool that gets back to basics will draw people to their products and services like never before.

See Also

Twitter Stats - Dec 17, 2008

9 Comments For This Post

  1. Mindy Colvin Says:

    Hi Joel: Great article, as always! And having just spent an amazing hour today listening to a tele-seminar with David Riklan on the possibilities of using social media as a business tool, I couldn't agree with you more!!

    While I will admit to not having read Mr. Strauss' article, I find it interesting that he is working for a newspaper, which is an industry in crisis in this electronic age. I would expect anyone affiliated with a news outlet, particularly a newspaper, to be doing everything in their power to find new and more effective ways to market themselves before they get left behind. You're absolutely right, social media is here to stay, and it's going to continue to emerge as THE way to communicate with current customers and build a customer base.

    Thanks for continuing to educate those of us willing to learn!

  2. David Congreave Says:

    I sometimes get the impression that there is a whole generation of marketers that are completly out of their depth since the internet became mainstream. They can't relate it to what they've learnt in the past, and have no idea how to adapt.

  3. Sean McAlister Says:

    Ha!

    Bravo Joel. To say that the entrepreneur should steer clear of connecting at a level where the consumers are at is like telling someone that they should hand their money over to the government.

    It just doesn't make sense.

    The power of Twitter and other social media outlets has a profound impact on the entrepreneur's bottom line. From organic search rankings to viral attributes and capabilities Twitter is a Rapid Action Message Delivery System.

    It is surprising that a contributor for the USA Today would not understand this. Look at the other major networks such as Fox News. They have a Twitter profile, Facebook profile and openly promote them. Not to mention the majority of their anchors have their own personal profiles.

    The Federal Emergency Management Agency recently announced their addition of a Twitter addy as well as a Facebook Page.

    Why?

    Because Twitter is proving to be the quickest way people receive Important News.

    When used properly, and as you pointed out Joel...harnessed by those who "Get It" Social Media Marketing will quantify a businesses revenues. The corporate mentality is the limitation and distinction between successful entrepreneurs and opinionated observers.

    Highest Regards,
    Sean McAlister
    JV Broker-Integrated Marketing Consultant
    JVProductlaunch.com

  4. Chad Flick Says:

    What a great article Joel I can't wait to share this one! It sure is a mystery how these "experts" come up with their opinions rather than factual advice. Ah well when you have to beat a deadline for a story that's what we get. :-)

  5. Steve Sponseller Says:

    Fantastic response Joel. I work with entrepreneurs and innovators every day, yet many of them refuse to take advantage of Twitter. Your Comcast example is great - and there are many more. I'm forwarding a link to this posting to several "innovators" that don't want to use the latest Internet tools - crazy!

    Steve Sponseller
    Intellectual Property Strategist

  6. JohniLouise Says:

    Fabulous Joel!
    I have been an Entrepreneur for 3 years and now thanks to Twitter I'm teaching my past clients to "get with it" and my new ones too. ALL Of Whom are now avid Twitterholics and promote it to their clients! It's an incredible way to meet NEW CLIENTS too. I've added several to my portfolio and see nothing but blue skies and little Blue Birds of Happiness flitting around Twitter. This IS the best Social Media site out there! Esp. For BIZ!
    @JohniLouise

  7. Jack Weinzierl Says:

    Joel, great responses and I like that fact that it focuses someone on their personal brand first and then on being brief. Connecting sharing about one's life, challenges and how you overcome can inspire many others who are on the verge of quitting their dream or giving up in general. As with any tool, it will be abused and also shunned by those who don't understand it---like me just a few short months ago. Thanks for your leadership and wisdom.

  8. John Ritz Says:

    Yeah, I read Strauss' article. I didn't place too much credence in his answers. Remember it was not THAT long ago when so-called "experts" were telling businesses that they shouldn't waste time with this new-fangled Internet thing.

    I guess companies like Zappos, JetBlue, Southwest, Comcast, Dell, MSNBC, Dunkin' Donuts, and tons of others are just wasting their time with Twitter.

    Cheers,

    John

  9. Valentin Says:

    1) Mr Strauss says "You are in business" ...
    ... there for you are suposed to make money no matter if you have to scam your mother, cheat best friends and/or steal ideas ...

    2) Mr Strauss says "It offers just too much information" ...
    ... and where is much information peoples start to use judgement, start being creative, start getting a closer look at what you do and who you are and eventually dump you in your attempt to make money (see '1)' above) ...

    3) Mr Strauss says "It requires too much time" ...
    ... and while you must make money (see '1)' above), you'll have to eventually outsource presence on twitter or any other social site, which will increase your expenses ...

    4) Mr Strauss says "What can you say in 140 characters?" ...
    ... is to bloody short and no room for tons of fake (mean 'allways superpositive') testimonials and even less room for "words tricks" and subliminal messages. Not good while you must ... (see '1)' above)

    ........

    Well .. there's just another guy on "peoples I can live without it"'s list of George Carlin (RIP), worth to be "smashed repeatedly in face with a piece of heavy mining equipment" ..
    This mr. strass (no use of capital letter on purpose) is for me just another name on the list of "gurus".

    Nice work, Joel !

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Joel Comm is an Internet entrepreneur who has been online for over 20 years. In 1995, Joel launched WorldVillage.com, a family-friendly portal to the web which enjoys thousands of visitors each day. Joel is the co-creator of ClassicGames.com, which was acquired by Yahoo! in 1997, and now goes by the name Yahoo! Games. Since then, Joel's company, InfoMedia, Inc., has launched dozens of web sites which offer online shopping, free stuff, website reviews and more. Joel is the author of many popular books, including the NY Times Best-Seller, The AdSense Code. He regularly makes appearances at Internet marketing conferences and seminars.