I like to eat – both for sustenance and for pleasure. As such, I have found it necessary to earn an income so I can purchase yummy food stuffs that keep me nourished and content. The type of work I do to earn said income, however, has changed significantly over the years.
When I first started out as a freelance writer, my focus was entirely on print—magazines, newsletters, brochures and the like. Occasionally, I would venture out into direct mail or press releases, but for the most part, my text appeared on glossy stock next to fancy pictures that made the words look extra special.
Then along came the Internet. By the end of the 1990s, I was writing mainly for the Web, with only occasional magazine assignments to keep me grounded. Since then, I have continued to hone my craft online, learning the ins and outs of SEO content and how to navigate WordPress. I still do plenty of newsletters and brochures, but I also frequently take on work ghostwriting blogs or crafting clever meta tags.
I never understood exactly what Twitter had to offer. What can you really say in 140 characters or less?
Although I enjoy writing for the Web, I have been reluctant to fully embrace one component of the online environment: social media. Sure, I have a Facebook account. I use it to keep abreast of viral YouTube videos and prayer chains and cute things my nieces are doing in Dayton, Ohio. I do not, however, use it to grow my business.
I also have a Twitter account, which I created last year when my husband created his and then promptly ignored. I never understood exactly what Twitter had to offer. What can you really say in 140 characters or less? Is the sole purpose of Twitter to keep bit.ly in business with shortened hyperlinks to longer articles?
Then I heard the gospel according to Scott Stratten, and it all became clear.
Stratten is a social media expert and was the keynote speaker at PubCon Dallas earlier this year. He is funny, self-effacing and insightful. He has studied social media since Twitter first built its nest on the Web, and he understands the intricacies of marketing in a Web 2.0 world. In short, he gets it.
Now I get it. I get that Twitter is a way to connect with people in your own industry—colleagues, clients, and prospects—to share information and have a casual chat. I get that it’s like a cocktail party where you might overhear an interesting conversation, introduce yourself to one of the speakers, and strike up a new friendship. I get that it takes time to get to know people—just like in real life—but once you do, they might have need of your services, or recommend you to someone else, or give you an idea that can help you with your business.
Twitter is fun. It’s addictive. It’s frustrating. Using Twitter well requires patience and discipline. It can be a powerful tool to help you grow your company and engage with customers, but you have to commit. Most importantly, you have to be generous. You don’t want a complete stranger walking up to you at a party to tell you what they’re selling, so don’t do it to your tweet peeps. Find out what they need. Point them toward useful resources. Be a solution provider, and soon enough, your followers will come to you for solutions.