The longer I use Twitter I find more and more reasons to include it on my must-use list of social media sites. I got to thinking about my little love affair this week when Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends asked fifteen small business owners what their favorite social media site was and why. I was interviewed for the piece, as were other Unleashed speakers including Matt McGee. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Twitter just might be the best all-around social network for small business owners.

Anita's question to us was:

"If your goal is to grow a small business online, and you had time for only one social networking / social media site, which would you choose and why?"

If you've been following the site for awhile, you know Twitter was a no brainer for me. After all, I outlined my love of Twitter in a five part article series here at Search Engine Guide. Here's my response to Anita:

"I've likened Twitter to 'acceptable eavesdropping' and pointed out how easy it makes it to join the conversation. Twitter is one of the fastest ways to make inroads with other people in your industry. It also gives you some insight into who companies and bloggers are as people; their likes, their dislikes, their personalities. This can be invaluable when it comes to putting together pitches and building relationships both inside and outside of your industry."

If I wasn't forced to pick just one, I'd obviously tailor my answer a bit more based on the particular industry and how much time the small business owner had to invest. That said, I think my default choice would still be Twitter. Here are five reasons why.

1.) Twitter is about the conversation.

Sure, you can have conversation on blogs, on Facebook and on some other social media sites, but it's a different kind of conversation with Twitter. The best way I can think to describe it is to give real world analogies. With blogs, you're on stage speaking to a crowd. Sure, there's Q&A via your comments, but you run the show. With Facebook, you have insight into each person via their profiles, but you're mostly communicating one on one. Twitter is sort of like a giant dinner party. There are tons of conversations going on and you can easily join one, or you can start a new one. If you start a new one, others can easily join in. You can even carry on multiple conversations at once. It's total conversational freedom.

2.) You can use Twitter to promote your social bookmarking submissions.

Spend any amount of time on Twitter and you'll see folks asking for help voting up a submission at Digg, Sphinn, StumbleUpon and a variety of other sites. With Twitter, you can get a feel for who uses which sites, you can keep tabs on who tends to respond when you ask for votes and you can pitch in to help other people's submissions do better. Twitter can be a great way to promote your activity and accounts with social bookmarking sites.

3.) Twitter can boost your blog.

It's a no brainer that you can send out a tweet with a link to your latest blog post. (In fact, many Twitter users now claim they rely more heavily on tweets than RSS feeds for finding good content.) Using Twitter to boost your blog doesn't end there. Twitter is a great source of blog topics. You can pick up other posts and expand on them, get ideas from the conversations you're having and discover new authors to add to your feed reader.

4.) Twitter is networking gold.

Listen to anyone talk about building links, launching a viral campaign or getting bloggers to cover your products and you'll hear them mention the importance of relationships. PR firms are struggling to learn how to pitch people who aren't trained journalists. The truth is, it's quite simple. Respect them as a person and offer something of value. Make a connection. You don't have to be their best friend, but you do need to make an effort to build a relationship.

Since most Twitter users share a combo of business and personal information, it can be a great way to learn a little something about your pitch target. Besides, if you find someone new you like, you can quickly look them on up Facebook or LinkedIn, add them to your network and learn even more about them.

5.) The Power of the Re-Tweet equals Viral Gold

It's been said that blogs can take an idea and spread it from New York to Tokyo in minutes. If that's true, then it's also true Twitter can do it in seconds. It takes very little time to blog something. It takes less time to email something. It takes even less time to tweet it. Send something interesting out into Twitter and folks will pick it up and repost to their own list of followers in seconds. Suddenly your own network grows infinitely.

Time and time again, I've seen breaking news come across Twitter before I saw it anywhere else. I don't have to check my feed reader, don't have to wait for the news to break in on television, don't even have to wait for a phone call. The second one person on Twitter hears the news, it spreads like wild fire.

In an Ideal World...

Now I wouldn't really suggest someone rely ONLY on Twitter in terms of social media activities, but I do think there's value in dedicating time to it. I have accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, StumbleUpon, Flickr and a wide range of social bookmarking sites, but Twitter is the only one of those services I use daily. In fact, Twitter is generally what prompts me to go and use the other ones. It's sort of my central repository of social media activity.

Haven't tried Twitter yet? Using it now, but not convinced of the value? Take a read through my Twitter series and consider how you might be able to best leverage Twitter for your small business.

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


I guess I don't get it. I'm sure all your loyal readers are going to say how fabulous it is. So as a guy who's been reading "I think I love Twitter" posts from internet marketing people all week I still can't get on board.

I guess to me it seems like a phenomenal waste of time to follow the behavior of other people all day. There's SO much to do every day in the real world AND to maintain a blog. So, just like I don't easily take on watching a new TV show without seeing if I can fit it into my schedule, the idea of adding ANOTHER widget and thing to monitor all day seems like too much. Especially since none of the post I've read have indicated any clear, measurable, daily revenue increase or subscription increase.

Now granted I'm new to blogging but sometimes I watch all these sites and it's like a bunch of peanut vendors selling peanuts to other peanut vendors in a ballpark and forgetting about the huge number of spectators in the stands they're supposed to be selling to. You've got the numbers, so I'll defer to your enlightenment on this issue.

"I sometimes wonder what Twitter would have looked like on the morning of 9/11"

I've got a funny feeling that if the major news networks couldn't keep their sites up on that day, then Twitter, which doesn't have the best uptime record, would just have been down on 9/11

Twitter is indeed quite interesting and I think for businesses they can create a communication vehicle around it to reach customers via cell phone. However, to FOCUS on Twitter at this time is a bit far fetched I think.

Via feedblitz people who want to get my content on Twitter can do so, however, would I create a TWITTER channel at this time, for my small business audience - no. I am looking into Facebook as more and more people are using it.

Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist,

Now THAT sounds more realisitic to me. Twitter, being fun or interesting or even up and coming all sound appropriate.

But this constant chasing of new sites just seems weird to me. At one point it was Myspace and everybody ran over there. Then StumbleUpon, then Digg, then Sphere, then Squidoo, then Facebook, etc. I may have the order wrong, but all of these require time and input to build relationships-so switching to the latest leaves less time for anything you're currently involved with.

What many bloggers who praise Twitter fail you realise is that 90% of their followers are just following them for a simple reason: They already knew their blog and they liked it.
If you don't already have a strong social media profile or blog outside Twitter to promote your new Twitter profile it will be very hard and time-consuming to get things going for you on Twitter.

Twitter is going to be the next facebook in no time. Soon every magazine will print a twitter cover.
but I think there is much more in twitter then just an hipe.
It will bring another change to the printed media and it can change internal communication and be an amazing tool for Enterprise 2.0

Sooo, what terms do you track Ms. Laycock? Or are you one of those people who simply follow lots of people and later have to sift chaff from wheat?

Jennifer, The Power of the Re-Tweet equals Viral Gold, that really turns the light on
about Twitter. It's my #1 Social Networking
site also. Grace and Peace be multiplied.

Don't know why I thought that just because we were following someone's Micro- Blogging Post that everyone else was getting the same updates also that were following our tweets.

Thank You for mentioning that because some great content is shared via Twitter. Like following some of our great content producers at Twitter more so than our Feed Reader.Building Quality Relationships is much enhanced with this dawn. Thanks again!

I've been "playing" with twitter for a few months now. I can say, it has been a great way to build traffic to my blog, but I have also connected with more people than any other social networking site.

I teach Realtors how to increase business using social media marketing concepts, and twitter is slowly making it's way into my presentations.

Thanks for the informative posts and insight.


Dave Winer, father of RSS says “Twitter, as it was conceived, was never meant to live.”

“It’s very possible with better engineering its architecture might have gone on for a few more years, but eventually it would have hit this wall, where there were too many people posting too many twits to too many followers. The scale of the system as conceived rises exponentially.”

So is the end of Twitter getting near? I hope not. Twitter I hope that you are listening and you better start taking things more seriously.

Here's my two cents.

For instance there are about 100m users of yahoo messenger and usually 2-3 of them talk at a time that means scalability of 300m conversations. On the other hand with 100m twitter users who usually send messages to 100-10,000 other users the scalability required is 10,000m to 10^6m I have never known any current architecture based on webservers to handle such a scale. So according to me Twitter was never meant to live. It is like a concept car that will never see production. Users of twitter don't understand this and they don't care.
They don't know whats happening when the website is down. The sad part is that the best analysts claim that Twitter is a billion dollar company in one year of operations. There is an old saying before the days of when people understood permutation combinations. One peasant asked a king to give him rice equal to the total amount gotten by placing double the number of rice grains on a chess square than the previous square, starting with one rice grain. There are 8x8=64 squares. We seriously need to visit grade 7 mathematics.

I know of only one News/Messaging system that supports around 1 billion users sending messages to all 1 billion users each. Thats a scalability of 10^12m. It is not Web based but rather on a massively scalable serverless P2P architecture based. The team is soft spoken and when I last talked to them I was told that they don't care about money or hype or fame but rather for just the passion of next generation global systems that will stand the test of worldwide use. Its called Mermaid News Mermaid

They have other softwares too but this post is about Twitter and Messaging. Once everyone comprehends basic mathematics that goes behind scalable algorithms they would go past the flashy screen and hype to actually want a system they can trust. To the analysts I would say it is easy to create a business plan, create a hype and raise $20m funding it is far more difficult to create something of use.

Thanks for the great blog post Jennifer. I absolutely love Twitter. Your tip about retweeting = viral gold is something I would like to say "Amen" to. Everyone on twitter is there to put their message out. So what better way to start a quality relationship built on trust than by helping them spread their message? I use this strategy by looking for quality tweets to retweet. Even if the person you retweeted doesn't aknolwege it, someone else may notice that you retweet stuff and then they'll retweet your tweets to get your attention.

Brian Campbell

Quite an extensive list of the pro's of Twitter. And I must say I agree to all of them. Just like you, I only discovered the power of Twitter only a few months ago, but it totally rocks!

Twitter can be pretty easy to use in getting customers engaged. Although at first it can be daunting to make your list of followers burgeon with your target market, when you get the ball rolling, your effort will pay off. The key is to use it regularly and avoid tweeting 'only promotional' updates. Respect your followers. There are also a variety of automation tools that can make syncing your other social networks and updating your Twitter account less cumbersome.

Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Five Reasons Twitter is an Essential Social Media Tool