I know that many readers of Trafcom News are already on Twitter, but after writing a version of this article for my client newsletter, I decided to share it more widely on the blog. Feel free to skip this post if you're a major Twitterati.

When I first heard about Twitter two years ago, I instantly judged it to be an utter waste of time. Now, I've changed my tune. What is Twitter? This free micro-blogging platform is a powerful marketing and community-building tool, which can help you strengthen your brand and nourish your online relationships.

Twitter lets you share your status ("What are you doing?") in 140 characters or less. However, few successful Twitter users limit themselves to messages (called tweets) describing the ham and Swiss sandwich they're consuming for lunch. Rather, they use this quick medium to share important news and links, broadcast their presence at a conference, make wry observations (OK, not everyone does this well!), and gently promote their services.

Here's why Twitter won me over 18 months ago, and why I continue to use it today:

  • Twitter drives traffic to my blog, podcast and Web sites.
  • Twitter helps me meet people around the world who share my passion for communicating.
  • My Twitter community helps me ferret out information.
  • Business referrals come my way via Twitter.
  • Twitter often functions as my virtual water cooler – a place to meet friends during a busy day.

Overall, Twitter has helped me to increase the audience for my own online presence while introducing me to some very interesting people and ideas.

Each Twitter user has her own way of using it. I don't forward Twitter messages to my phone, for example, because this would drive me batty. However, I have installed the Twitterific app on my iPhone, which provides me with an endless supply of reading material when I'm standing in line at the bank, on a train, or having an episode of insomnia at midnight!

Here are my tips for getting the most out of your Twitter experience.

  • Sign up at http://twitter.com and add your photo and bio info, with a link to your Web site or blog. Use your own name – or a variation of it -  as your Twitter name. Post a few tweets before you follow anyone. (Why would they follow you back if they don't know what you have to say?)
  • Find people to follow. Start with your real-life colleagues who are Twitter users, then check out the people they are following. You can also visit Twitterpacks to find people in your field.
  • Be judicious in the people you choose to follow back. (Unlike friends on Facebook, these are followers; consider this distinction.) What's their value to you? You'll quickly discover that multi-level marketers and quasi-spammers will start to track you. Obviously you don't want to give them the honour of a follow-back.
  • Add value to your Twitter stream by posting links to sites and articles you find interesting, linking to your colleagues and their content, and promoting your organization's events.
  • Learn to use the @reply, direct message (DM) and re-tweet (RT) features to keep the conversations moving forward.

For instructions in all of this, check out The Newbie's Guide to Twitter.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/DonnaPapacosta.

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Writer, speaker, podcaster, communications and social media consultant, workshop leader and part-time university instructor. As a consultant, I emphasize the importance of storytelling and relationship-building, and enjoy helping people understand how today’s technology, combined with tried-and-true tactics, can help them communicate better with employees, customers and prospects.


  1. I just joined Twitter last week, and am feeling my way around. I also stayed away from it because I didn’t believe that I had time to “waste” sending Tweets. I changed my mind after reading comments about how Twitterers used the service to gather or spread information quickly–while making new professional and personal acquaintances. I just limit myself when I have to focus on other important things, like reading your blog, Donna.


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