By Brendon Sinclair

Have I Got A (140 character) Story For You!

By Brendon Sinclair

The following is reprinted from the SitePoint Tribune, Issue #423

I’ve just started using Twitter, the microblogging service, as a way to help build my online brand. So far I have 32 followers. One of them is the Prime Minister of Australia.

Hmmmmm. Now I’m a little nervous.

I’m about to write my business’s online newsletter, and the fact that the Prime Minister is following me on Twitter will earn a mention. I plan to include that story because it will do a couple of things:

  • grab the reader’s interest, and
  • impact positively on my branding (the reader will think it’s pretty impressive).

I use stories a lot in my life. When I’m with a client making a pitch for a web development job, I’ll employ stories to weave in our expertise, experience, and ability to complete the project.

For example: “We’ve had this issue previously; how we got around it was by doing A, B, and C. Then the client’s site exploded with sales as a result. The client was delighted, and he actually went out and bought himself a new sports car that very weekend!”

Stories work because people can relate to them. Barack Obama does it all the time in his speeches. My mum does it when she’s talking over the back fence to her neighbor.

Smart business people use stories to connect with the prospect — while at the same time demonstrating their expertise and suitability for the task at hand.

Note: Follow SitePoint on Twitter at @sitepointdotcom. Check out Matthew Magain’s writeup of how SitePoint built its own Twitter following using a cleverly marketed giveaway—an offer that is still valid!

  • Are you suggesting that we use Twitter to simply tell our business story? I see lots of website design firms using Twitter to state something like “Just launched client X’s website at http://www.insert-url-here.com. Have a peak.” I’ve even done this myself. Do you have some recommendations of better ways to use Twitter in a marketing sense? I don’t really understand the capabilities of the system.

  • luciano991

    I followed a tweet that said I could sign up to win Sitepoint books. Instead I got an opportunity to buy tickets to something. It’s a credibility thing. Twitter shouldn’t be used just to pimp what you’re selling although that’s certainly appropriate from time to time. Blogs, even mini-blogs like Twitter, are about content. Otherwise it’s just a lot of SPAM. Don’t think you thought this through.

  • @luciano991

    My assessment is similar to what you mention – a SPAM generating tool. It seems to have a short shelf life for the typical user – like me. I could be way wrong. It’s likely that my mental model of the tool is skewed. It seems like a competing technology to other social mediums, and as a result, I’m having difficulty adapting a different vision of what the tool can bring to my business. How is it different, or better, than MySpace, or Facebook, or LinkedIn? What are the benefits of creating yet another layer of social complexity for me or my business? What would Twitter allow me to accomplish that other “social” tools wouldn’t?

    I realize this may be better suited for a forum, and perhaps such a discussion would be better suited in that area of the site.

  • LotusBlossom

    Twitter quality is based on the quality of the tweeters you follow. If you follow people who are community-minded, you get to participate in the community. If you follow a bunch of marketers who just push their goods, that’s what you get.

    Currently, the discussion among the twitterrati is that Twitter should be about community and not about marketing. The discussions include ways to cut down on spam produced by marketers.

    If all you want to do is push your product and you do not participate in the community discussions, this may not be the best forum. If you are used to participating in your community and are willing to take the time to do so, having your product information available to followers and posting tweets about your products on occasion is not out of line.
    If you are a large company and you really, truly want to reach out to help customers, you might find it valuable to have a customer service presence on Twitter. However, the tweeters are very good at smelling out a fake or a scam. If you really don’t help your customers or if you do not have a 24/7 presence to address customer needs or concerns or if you don’t have the rest of the company supporting the Twitter presence, the fallout will probably hurt you more than not having a presence at all.

  • I know from experience that facts tell and stories sell. The average person will come to the meeting selling the features of the pen, but that’s not what people want to buy they want to write a story and that’s what they are buying. So when selling a pen you paint the picture of the experience of writing. Relate and validate to them their core need, which is to write a story. Then once you have them hooked on the picture you’re painting about writing that awesome story you go for the kill and say, “You know what will help you write that story, is this pen and here’s why.”

    – Tony

  • luciano991

    I guess it should also be pointed out that while we cannot always turn off SPAM in our email, if we don’t like what someone’s doing in our Twitter account we can always stop following them. I think this is a legitimate control on what we might see as SPAM in Twitter.

    I also would like to point out as others have in indirect ways, that this is still a very new thing and we are learning about the best and worst ways to use it. Like a lot of Web 2.0 applications this will take time.

    Finally to get back to Sitepoint specifically, I think I was misled in one case, but I still choose to follow. I did download the free book on CSS for which I thank you. I will continue to be interested in being alerted to articles of interest. In this respect Twitter kind of acts like an RSS feed. Pushing content at me, content I want to see.


  • Silver Firefly

    How do you know the Prime Minster of Australia really follows you on Twitter? I mean, anyone could sign up at Twitter as the Prime Mister of Australia.

    As for spam, well if someone you follow starts spamming, you have the option to stop following them.

    I follow SitePoint on Twitter. I got the free book offer but I already had a PDF copy of that book.

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