The Information Age

The Business of Twitter


(by )

Recently, a friend of mine, who is a personal trainer, approached me about using Twitter to gain clients. He wants to expand his reach, but he also has a genuine concern for the health of his friends. He’d like to use his Twitter page to give tips and potentially find people willing to workout with him. He is not currently on any social networks. Like many business owners, he didn’t see the value in social networks initially. Now that he sees the value, he has to work to carve out the necessary time to learn how to use the social tools. For many business owners who aren’t on the Twittersphere, the entry point into social networks can be challenging. My friend asked me for some tips from me. I figured that I’d share them with everyone else as well.

Clean avi and a clear name

These components are very simple, yet very important. When entering the Twittersphere, you have to be clearly identifiable. The word “avi” is a shortened version of the word “avatar”. That is your profile pic. You want people to see a clean photo of you. This takes away any confusion on who the page belongs to. As you begin to follow and reach out to people, they are more comfortable engaging you if the pic is clean.

You also want to have a username that clearly states who you are. These tips are angled at people who are using Twitter for business or for networking. In business, you must have intention. And with intention comes clarity. Create a username that clearly states who you are. Take the personal trainer occupation for example. If your name is John Baker, you could use @JohnBaker (if that is available to use) or @FitnessByJohnBaker. Those are just examples, but you get the idea.

Focus on photos

Early in your tweeting experience, focus on tweeting photos to build your photo album. If you offer a service, focus on photos that show you in action. When you reach out to people in the Twittersphere, initially, you wont have a lot of tweets. But if you load photos early in your experience, it gives potential “followers” content to look at. The longer a person stays on your page, the more likely they are to consider “following” you. If they “follow” you, then you can get the message out about your service.

Ride the wave

Ten times out of ten, you know people in your personal life that are already active on Twitter. I’d guarantee that you have at least one family member, friend, or colleague that has 500-1000 “followers”, if not more. Your friends with big followings are the biggest assets to building your presence online. Engage with them online. If others see them tweeting you, those other people will at least click on your page. Now that you have a clean avi, a clear name and a decent amount of photos, you have a chance of persuading your friends’ “followers” to consider you as well. Lastly, scroll through your friends’ pages and look at who they “follow” and the folks who “follow” them. If you find any of them to be interesting, by all means “follow” them.

Twitter commitment

A lot of people begin the Twitter experience for business purposes and then quit. The biggest obstacle is that the new user doesn’t get how Twitter works. Early on, you dont have many “followers” and you aren’t “following” enough people. So the experience dies out pretty quickly. The only way to have a good experience is to commit to consistently tweeting and reading your timeline on Twitter. Now, every business owner or service provider has to determine whether or not a Twitter page is necessary for expanding their business. That’s up to the person in question to decide. Once you’ve decided that this platform is for you, it’s your job to set the pace for the frequency in your tweets. Figure out what works for you. But stick to the plan. If you are getting responses from people who are interested in what you offer, you may be required to commit to a higher volume of tweets. At the least, you may have to spend more time reading tweets on your timeline. Remember, people want real time responses. Your ability to do that will determine your relevance online.

People buy you before they buy your service

Unless you run a major company, who you are is as important as the service that you provide. As I mentioned earlier, when you initally begin tweeting, you will have to “ride the wave” that your friends have created prior to you entering the Twittersphere. It is good to establish yourself prior to establishing that you have a service that you want to offer. Even if you are John Baker the fitness guy, it doesn’t stop you from tweeting about your favorite sports teams or television shows. People who tweet are always looking to connect with others who have interesting personalities. Again, this is angled toward people with small businesses. If you have a stand alone product and a separate page for that product, then don’t mix in personal tweets on that business Twitter page.

Seth Godin is a well-respected writer and public speaker. He focuses on the change from the industrial age to the entrepreneurial revolution that we’re seeing today.  where he illustrates the importance of people buying into you before they buy into your service. In case you didn’t watch the video, let me explain. He says that in times past, people with a service would interrupt your day to offer that service to you. That would include cold calls, random walk up sales pitches on the street, and interrupting family dinners to have your family buy your product. Maybe you would sponsor a little league baseball team and put your company name on the back of the jerseys. In today’s world, your job is not to sell your product. Initially you must create a space for yourself in your community. Being a deacon at your church, a volunteer at the soup kitchen, or instead of sponsoring the little league team, you now coach the team. You are basically earning your keep in your community. So much so that in casual conversation, people will ask you what you do for a living and THEN you can make your pitch. People are more open to responding and buying into your service once you’ve created that space and made yourself reliable and responsible for your community. This is what you have to do online as well.

Secondary attractions

One day at lunch, I rode my bicycle to Union Station. I saw this big yellow “cheese” bus parked out front. Outside of the bus, there was this vintage photo booth. I saw people taking pictures in the booth and then walking onto the bus. I was curious. I walked over and discovered Warby Parker. This company sells glasses and shades (mostly in the Wayfarer style). They took a “cheese” bus and went on tour selling their product. They refined the interior of the bus with hardwood floors and glass cases. And they primed and repainted the bus. The photo booth attracted me to the bus. It was then that I was exposed to their foundational product. They charged a few dollars to take the pic, but it was the glasses that they were selling.

On Twitter, it is good to have a secondary attraction that lures in “followers”. I have a little more than 1,400 “followers” on Twitter. It’s not a grand number, but it’s a good amount for a person whose never sold a product online (prior to pitching this site). My mission is to help people be better and to live out their dreams. However, I use humor as my secondary attraction. I talk about current events and society as a whole. And I find creative ways to say things in a humorous manner. That is how I’ve attracted a number of “followers”. I’ve also organized a in D.C., turkey giveaways for Thanksgiving and other community events. I’ve attracted people based on humor. But once I lure them in, they see my real mission and the laughs least momentarily..for a good cause.

Industry Friends

If you are looking for direction, content or other professionals to connect with, search for those that are in the same profession. The search option in Twitter is very helpful. Using the personal trainer example again, type in “fitness”, “health”, “working out” or other related terms. Those searches will help you find people that are interested in and/or working in that field.

Your reach

Sometimes, I hate talking about the amount of “followers” that a person has. I almost cringed when I used myself as an example in the last section. I don’t get caught up in the raw number of people who have made a connection with me online. Your reach is not always determined by that. The people who you connect with also connect with others. Through retweets and curious people looking at your interactions with the people that they “follow”, the word about your product or service will get to the masses. It’s a cascading effect.


Take your time when learning the Twittersphere. If you are confused, Google is your best friend. There is no centralized tutorial that will introduce you to Twitter. But if you think that your business/service needs to have a presence in that arena, by all means, jump in and start tweeting.