To Tweet or Not to Tweet? That is the Question.....

I got some great questions from a reader about Twitter, and I thought I'd share my answers to her (expanded answers I should say, after giving it quite a bit more thought writing this blog post). Because a lot of people do ask these questions about Twitter. The value of Facebook and LinkedIn are obvious to anyone who's using them (I'm still reserving judgment on Google+), but Twitter's value is a bit less obvious to non-users.

So the questions asked were:
  • Is someone that does not tweet irrelevant?
  • If so, why? What is the real goal of tweeting?
So let me explain why I tweet, both professionally and personally, and we'll see how far down the path that takes us.

I tweet multiple times a day as IBM Accessibility to continue to build and maintain our thought leadership in the Information Technology industry. It's an open, two-way communication channel available to our clients and prospective clients, partners, advocates, colleagues, plus anyone who has a stake in or passion for accessibility. It's also an amazing way to follow industry happenings — initiatives, market trends, worldwide legislation, conferences, white papers, new technology and much more. I easily scan 400 to 500 news items a day to sift out the nuggets of value (if you've ever been gold panning in the California gold country, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about, lol). Twitter is just one tool of many in our communications toolbox.

So I strongly believe businesses, whether they're B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer) that do not tweet (regularly and relevantly of course, otherwise don't bother) are missing a huge opportunity to communicate with their current and potential clients, partners and stakeholders, and are being left out of the conversations that are taking place about them and around them.

Now tweeting personally — that's another story. I opened my Twitter account before I opened the IBM account over 2 years ago, so I could test it out, then left it alone for over a year, not really seeing the value for me at the time while I was spending my time establishing IBM Accessibility in the social media channels.

I've only restarted tweeting personally recently, as I decided to start sharing what I've learned about social media and also follow and learn something new daily about this fast-paced and daily changing business. I have a lot of information to share — I've taught classes, meet with friends and former colleagues for one-on-one coaching about personal branding and social networking, and present within IBM on the topic. Twitter is one way for me to quickly scan and follow the leaders in the social media space, stay up on the latest info, and share my opinion. It's very slow to gain ground (and followers) when you're not Guy Kawasaki, especially when you already have a demanding, full-time day job. :-)

So with that background filled in, let's look at question #1: Are you irrelevant if you don't tweet?
My answer: No. Twitter is one of many social media channels, and it may not be the best way for you to build your network. You need to ask yourself what your goals are with Twitter. What do you want to accomplish? It's a lot of time and hard work to keep these hungry social media channels full of the content they devour (in a previous blog post I compared them to starving chicks, always squawking for food/content), so if staying current on LinkedIn or Facebook works for you, then that may very well be the way for you to go.

So to answer question #2: What is the real goal of tweeting?
I believe the real goal of tweeting is opening and maintaining a dialog with your clients and prospects, your colleagues, partners, and counterparts in your industry. It's again, not the only way, but just one of many social media channels, and one of many communication strategies available to you. So if you personally don't feel it will advance your career to participate, then tweeting is probably not worth the investment of your time. But, with a caveat — I'd recommend opening a Twitter account and following experts in your field and news media channels — you can learn a lot, and you'll answer your own question of whether or not Twitter will work for you.

I think ultimately what I'd like to leave you with is this thought: Social media has changed the way we communicate, and will continue to do so. You need to keep yourself current on the trends, so that if at some point a channel such as Twitter starts to make sense for your personal branding strategy, then go for it. Nothing is carved in stone, and these are not forever missed opportunities if you don't take advantage of them now.