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Are Twitter Holdouts Missing Out? An Interview With Jason Falls

More times than I can count, I find myself yakking about social media with friends. I talk about all that I love and appreciate about it, and invariably we wind up going down the list of the obvious candidates of popular networks. When I start chirping about Twitter, I get what’s come to be the expected argument:

What a waste of time… Who cares what you’re eating… How could anyone say anything meaningful with 140 characters?

Sometimes I rebut. Sometimes I move on down the list.

But, recently, I found myself in the Twitter convo with a client—a client, mind you, who had just finished telling me he wanted to learn more about sharing his content with a larger audience and reaching out to prospects.

Client: “I don’t have time for Twitter. It’s trivial. I want to get into serious social media.”

I gave Jason Falls a call to help me out.

jason falls
Jason Falls likes Twitter this much.

Jason founded Social Media Explorer and co-wrote the popular book No Bullshit Social Media, and he has consulted a long list of clients on how to get serious about social media. I present some nuggets from our conversation.

Barry: I feel people have the wrong impression of Twitter. Why do you think so many neglect Twitter and are ignorant of its capabilities?

Jason: First of all, they haven’t taken the time to explore the tool. It’s another communications tool that people think is for the kids or it’s for updating people to tell them you’ve eaten a sandwich or whatever.

And then, of course, the media sort of amplifies this sort of nonsensical use of Twitter by constantly promoting and bringing attention to celebrity tweets that are as innocuous as those early tweets… So you see tweets from Snoop Dog or the Kardashians and they are just senseless dribble.

So when people are exposed to Twitter—the mainstream folks who don’t use it—they see it as this nonsensical platform where people are just wasting time. What they’ve not done yet is sat down and said, “Wait a minute. I can build an audience of people here just like I can with an email marketing list, just like I can with a customer acquisition list. I can communicate relevant information to them in a format that they’re accustomed to receiving messages in, and if I’m delivering good content and good information they will respond to it.”

Barry: It’s almost like other media have minimized the role of this medium we call Twitter, maybe on purpose. I’m thinking one of the major reasons you watch TV is for news, and one of the best benefits of Twitter is news.

Jason: Yeah. I think the mainstream folks who are not necessarily active Twitter users might sign up for an account because they see it on CNN or whatever, and they realize “Oh, this is a great way to get news updates throughout the day on my mobile device.”

What’s funny is you’ll have the CEOs of large corporations say “Wait a minute. CNN Financial has a Twitter feed and I can get updates on my stocks or what’s going on in the business world, so I’m going to sign up for Twitter.” But these same CEOs never make the connection and think “Wait a minute, I could communicate to MY audiences using Twitter, too.” So you have to have that “ah hah” moment, when the individual in question goes, “Wait, I not only can pull information, I can push information.

Barry: The reason I wanted to do this story is I love Twitter, but far too many times I get pushback from clients. What are people who are ignoring Twitter missing out on?

Jason: A few things. First, sort of real-time updates on what’s going on in any world—and not just yours. Let’s say you run a pet shop. There are lots of Twitter accounts out there that are updating their streams and their audiences with information and news from the pet-care world. So it helps you stay up on your industry and the topic of interest for you—quicker, faster, and more efficiently than you could probably keep up with otherwise. So having that real-time advantage over the competition, etc. —it is certainly something that you’re missing out on if you’re not on Twitter. You’re also probably missing out on the opportunity to not only engage with your customers, but perhaps even proactively seek them out and find new customers.

Barry: I think the list has to include influence, too.

Jason: Absolutely. Whenever it was I got on Twitter, I think it was in 2007, I was able to see that I could quickly build an audience of people interested in public relations, online marketing, social media marketing, etc., and that I had ideas and thoughts about this industry that they would appreciate and would spark conversation.

So I would write a blog post and I would drop a link to it on Twitter, and then I would use Twitter to share other interesting pieces of content that I found from around the Web. Because I was being a resource, I was sharing interesting content that I found. I built up a really big audience relatively quickly so that now, when I drop a link to someone’s website, several hundred people click on it and go there. And that’s not insignificant.

When I started on Twitter, I was an experienced PR account manager. I was not an influencer. I had not written a book. I was not a social media expert. I was just someone with an opinion who was relatively smart. And so, Twitter gave me a sounding board and a platform to build an audience of people who said, “Hey, we not only think this guy’s smart, but we’re going to proactively seek information from him because he’s helping. He can lead and guide us through understanding this whole new social media, digital marketing world,” and so I became an “Influencer” or whatever you want to call me.

So, yeah, there are a lot of people who have made climbs up the ladder from a professional standpoint. Some of them have done it quicker than I have, but I didn’t have any special insight. And I don’t have an MBA. So Twitter had a lot to do with me building influence and becoming something that I probably could never have been otherwise.

Barry: I had a conversation the other day with a friend, a copywriter who’s not recognizing the need to join. He said something like, “If I go on Twitter and start putting stuff there, the assumption is people care about what I have to say, you know, like I’m some sort of business muckety-muck.”

I think he’s wrong.

Jason: You know, the magic of Twitter is it’s completely opt-in for the audience, right? So, if I think you’re a dolt, I’m not going to follow you. If you think I’m a dolt, you don’t have to follow me, either. So each person can carve out their own standing as an influencer, an expert, entertainer, you know.

The ones who really understand how to dial-in that content so that it delivers consistently over time are going to build huge audiences.

Barry: Now to wrap it up, I want to hear your thought on this. If someone pins me down with “What is Twitter for,” I say it’s for building relationships.

Jason: True. And I think any of these special channels really are that. It’s about building relationships, and those relationships might be two-way, but they might be one-way. There’s a lot of people out there who have grown large followings on Twitter.

Barry: So, great conversation Jason. Now, I want a short list to overcome people’s objections. Why should the Twignorant get it in the first place? They are going to learn Twitter has value as defined by whatever it is they consider valuable.

Jason: Right. I think the short list is there’s something there for everyone and the communications is fast, simple, and ultimately mobile. And in the world we live in today, if you can communicate with a lot of people in a quick, efficient, and easy way, you’ve got to do it.