Dec 19, 2008

The Twitter Experiment


Almost Everything I needed to know about Twitter I learned from Guy Kawasaki

Back in March I signed up for twitter. I don't even remember why. It may have been that one of my business partners pinged me. At any rate, I am fairly sure my story isn't uncommon. In the beginning, the only followers I had were followers of whomever invited me.

I didn't know what to write. ("Hi...uh is this thing on? Testing 1,2,3"). Pretty sure my first tweet touted a press release describing a partnership our company had completed with Top Producer. I had maybe 3 active followers and didn't yet understand how twitter worked. The tweet landed on no ears. The announcement was terrific for the company but nothing happened inside the twitter domain revealing to me twitter's potential as a marketing tool.

Between infrequent following and people randomly following me, I had roughly 70 followers as of December 12, 2008, one week ago today. That was the day I started the twitter experiment.

Things happen fast on twitter. About 2 months ago, I started following Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki), the marketing guru over at AllTop and formerly at Apple. He's legendary among startup junkies and spends a great deal of time helping starry-eyed idiots like myself who walk away from perfectly good, paying jobs to create "something" while running up credit-card debt. Idiots, because we tend to go off and start building without any idea how we'll generate profit, funding or market our product once it is completed.

Yes, you may detect some self-effacement, but God bless the idiots because we sometimes figure it out in time to go to market with our "better mouse traps." Yes, far more fail than succeed, but I remember Alta Vista as the top search engine and never foresaw Google.

My fascination with Guy Kawasaki began when I found a video of a presentation he gave instructing budding entrepreneurs to keep their "pitch deck" to 10 slides. The 10/20/30 rule of Powerpoint was the first Guy Kawasaki piece I read. I may even have been directed to it via retweet. (Tip: retweeting, is a great way to help others. On some web discussion forums this is called "bumping". It keeps interesting information in the public eye and also credits the original tweeter. This can earn you an appreciative follower).

On accident, I went looking to see if any of my old high-school chums were on twitter which resulted in a thorough scanning of my gmail address book. From 8 or so followers I now had 40, some of whom were inactive, but some who were old workmates. Neat!

Then somebody retweeted Guy's How to Use Twitter as a Twool. Guy's advice was to follow some of the SMORES (Social Media [Wh] ORES), send @replies to give the impression that you know them and attract followers (and then follow them back). One of the contacts pulled in from my gmail account was Rob Kall(@robkall from OpEd News. I had written several articles for Lew Rockwell and posted at least one at Rob's last year so Rob was in my contact list. Rob posted to twitter a lot, promoting new articles published at OpEd News. But Rob wasn't alone. Some of my other contacts were quite prolific! My browser was inundated with tweets! Help, I'm in an aviary and I can't get out!

I suddenly doubted Guy's sanity. Two friends is quite enough thank you. I can't even think in here much less say anything that will be heard over the din.

I then went and visited Guy's profile page. The dude has over thirty thousand followers. No way. Why in the world would you want all of that noise? Maybe twitter wasn't for me. I quickly un-followed Rob and a couple of others to get some peace and quiet. Whew! I clearly didn't understand. Something was missing. How can you possibly follow that many people and have any sort of meaningful interaction?

After a bit of investigation I discovered I hadn't paid close enough attention to Guy's advice. To be fair to myself, there was a good deal of it. Guy and others manage the din using something other than a web browser. Twitter has an API. You can download clients which help you filter, search and categorize tweets. You are suddenly in control. Minimize the window and it still dutifully checks tweets for you. Later, you can scan what you have missed. It also provides a far more user friendly tweet interface than the browser. Icons make it easy to reply and direct message other users. More importantly, you don't need 9 different browser windows open just to format a better tweet.

Before I discovered my new favorite twool, TweetDeck, (it even runs on linux!) I was trying to tweet with tinyurl open in one tab, google in another, a freshly opened window containing an interesting story in another.... If you haven't figured it out yet, part of my personality curse is to do things the hard way.

What a joy tweeting could be! Not to sound like a plug for tweetdeck but, it offers several options for shortening urls, terrific search functionality which refreshes results at an interval you choose, and plenty of columns to categorize your tweets.

Now with some power in my hands, I went off to execute fully, the Guy Kawasaki way. Since our company, DriveBuy Technologies provides a mobile marketing platform for Realtors®, I decided I would start by following every agent, broker and mortgage professional I could find. Those are the people my company can help, especially in today's market.

I was taking actions I wouldn't have considered 3 weeks earlier. I was also encouraged by another twitterer who posted an article describing how dumb it is for employees not in the marketing department, to avoid marketing. I run the operations at DriveBuy - the hosting, deployments and I even code occasionally, so it never occurred to me until that tweet, that I was performing a disservice by refusing to involve myself in the marketing side of the business.

But I'm a political junkie and a cage-monkey. I couldn't transform myself into Joe-annoying-radio-announcer-phone-voice-guy. I'm still just me. Politically, I am closer to Murray Rothbard than Brack Obama. I would love to see the government's size reduced by 2/3 as that would give a better view into what government programs to keep or cut loose. That's just me. I do not begrudge anyone who doesn't agree, I just cannot keep my mouth shut or my fingers away from the keyboard if somebody mentions politics. To my surprise, there are other twitterers who either feel the same way, or are far more tolerant of contrary views than is promoted by the media. I was picking up followers in spite of my controversial opinions, and maybe even because of them.

Neat. But my main goal is to help the people I follow and who follow me. My life depends on it. Really. Guy Kawasaki led me to believe that I could change the world using twitter. When my partners and I started this company, that's what we intended. We wanted to bring mobile marketing into broad use by Realtors® across the country. We also wanted to feed our families and control our own destinies. We can't do that if we offer nothing of value to our customers.

By the third day, traffic to our website was heading upward though I had only added about 200 more followers and hadn't tweeted much about DriveBuy. I did discover that some of my followers were already customers. But I also started getting followers who weren't in real estate at all. Some were part of the #tcot group(Top Conservatives on Twitter), some were followers of followers and by Thursday, I had 500 followers from a start of around 70.

Sometimes creativity is overrated. Copying people who have found a success formula is far better than "figuring it out" by trial and error. Guy's power adapter story is a great example of Twitter's utility.

I'll try and remember to bring my power adapter on my next business trip, but knowing that I could get a loaner in a pinch, or that I could help somebody out is heartwarming. Maybe we're not alone. I mean, let's face it, the government is not going to turn this economy around and they won't be rushing out to do anything helpful next business trip (unless you consider an unsolicited full-cavity search helpful). They still haven't discovered, or admitted, that it was their policies which caused the crises. If there is any economic recovery it will be people like you and me who do all of the working and wealth creation, not Secretary Paulson and his treasury poppin' daddies. We'll fix the economy, we'll help each other figure out how, and we'll have a blast doing it.

I just wanted to share this and let you know that a newbie twitter can greatly increase followers and increase traffic while doing it. I followed Guy's advice, and it worked. I really appreciate advice that works. I've had enough bad advice to last a lifetime and frankly, most of that bad advice was given to me by me....

I'll be following you next.

PS @SandeepVizEdu turned Guy's presentation into a really neat animated slide show. Fun to watch and educational too.

PPS I am still learning. Two weeks after writing this my article was retweeted and an astute couple of tweeters wondered what my id was on twitter. Doh! @rfisk


Viral Marketing Consultant Expert said...

Beautiful!. People really do buy from PEOPLE not COMPANIES. If more companies understood that.. they wouldn't try to use social media as if it were an Amway party. @journik

SheTech and Company said...

Great article; now what's your twitter handle? I have a couple of Realtor(c) clients who could use the help> :)

@LStacey said...

Guy is genuinely one of the most helpful and honest people you will find on Twitter.

Glad to hear Twitter is working for you. Lets hope it continues to do so.

Just be yourself. People are starting to see through the phoneys now. The new age of Twitter is beginning.

Adria Richards, said...

Wow, this could be my Twitter experience, word for word. I have been thinking about sharing my Twitter experience but thought, like many folks entering into social networking and blogging, that no one would want to read about my clumsy entry and discoveries.


Thanks for sharing what worked for you.

Travis said...

This is a fantastic article, thanks for it!

Travis Fitzwater

Tante Waileka said...

It isn't difficult to get thousands of twitter followers, just follow them first. You can do that automatically too. What do you think Guy Kawasaki did? Furthermore, do you actually think he reads any of those following him? His twitter is most likely auto-updated. Come on now, none of this is "rocket science".

twitter person said...

What's your twitter acct? It's frustrating that you didn't link to it.

Rick Fisk said...

Oh gosh. Worst marketing ever :) Not once did I mention my twitter account LOL. twitter account is

Rick Fisk said...

Hey.... I blew it by not including my twitter ID.


Don't make the same mistake I did. Leave yours and I'll follow.

Ricardo said...

You are right about Twitter and Guy's advice. He is one of my favorite authors.

Brooke said...

thank you so much - this is genuinely useful article and gives me an enhanced perspective on the tweet community.