This is why you must use Twitter

If you’re like me, you probably hated Twitter when you first tried it. The first tweet I ever received was “It’s 4 a.m.” — confirming this was the stupidest idea ever!

In fact, it took me months to “get” it and unless you’re immersed in this platform, it’s pretty difficult to explain to another person.  If I told you Twitter helped keep you safe, would you believe it? What if I told you it was an agent of peace and global connection? A way to help students?  Solve tech problems? Networking on steroids?

Instead of SAYING these things, I wanted to SHOW you. Here is a snippet of my life over the past few weeks as seen through the lens of Twitter …

Two weeks ago, we had a line of dangerous storm cells and tornadoes marching through our area. As the fierce winds arrived, we lost power and all communication … except for Twitter. I was able to see reports from local friends on the status of flooding and damage in the area. A tweet from my friend Katie Granju suggested an NOAA emergency weather center iPhone app which broadcast radio news during the storm, which I downloaded immediately.

Through Twitter I have connected to hundreds of inspiring people from around the world but none perhaps as loyal and dedicated as a young man named Muhammad Saad Khan, who is using Twitter and the social web to learn about social media from his home in Karachi, Pakistan. This week he tweeted along to a U.S. Youth Forum broadcast from Korea. He could not obtain a copy of my book in Pakistan, so I sent him one. When he received the book, he made this Facebook post (along with six photos of the book):

Twitter was essential to cutting through the chaos at SXSW. This is how I learned of impromptu events, met up with friends, and found the best parties and free food.  One of the best things that happened was meeting up with a long-time Twitter friend Nicole Fletcher of San Diego. We toured the trade show together and we learned from each other as I assessed the marketing potential of each new idea we saw and she evaluated it from a technical perspective.

Among my first Twitter friends were Billy Mitchell of Atlanta and Amy Howell of Memphis, who have become close personal friends in real life. At least once a month it seems we turn up some business opportunity for each other. This week I did a webinar on social influence for Billy and Amy invited me to do a blogging workshop with her clients in Memphis. Without Twitter, how would I have ever met these dear friends and business associates?

I had been struggling with a problem with my blog RSS feed for a week. I asked for help over Twitter and quickly found a resource that had the problem solved in an hour.

I created a national social media conference called Social Slam entirely through Twitter. Every single speaker (including Mitch Joel, Gini Dietrich, Jay Baer and Tom Webster), as well as event volunteers came together from Twitter. We attracted 600 people from as far away as Texas, Colorado and California. How did they hear about the event? Tweets, of course! We spent zero on advertising.

I have been really busy and overlooked the time that my favorite college basketball team was playing in the NCAA tournament. Luckily I saw a tweet about the game to remind me to turn on the TV.

Through Twitter this week, I received several requests from students for interviews that would help them with their end of the semester projects. I was happy to connect and help them.

I met a new Twitter friend a few weeks ago named Tony Dowling. He learned of my Tao of Twitter book, became a convert, and wrote an amazing blog post about his experience. He is gathering a powerful tribe in Wales and I suggested that he create a Welsh social media conference. Well, he’s done it and I will be on my way to Wales in September as their  keynote speaker! I’m also speaking in London in two weeks and will be meeting with dozens of great friends who have connected with me over the years. A Twitter connection asked me to speak to her class at Oxford while I’m there, which will be an awesome experience.

I could go on, but by now I hope you’re starting to see the diversity, usefulness and fun of Twitter.  If you’re just starting out, hang in there. It will work! And if you’ve been around awhile, what is your favorite Twitter connection story?

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  • Ok, I’ll bite. Sometimes it’s good to be first or am I the only guy with nothing better to do with my time? Don’t you even dare think troll.

    I don’t so much as have a story other that I have made some fast friends on twitter which have led me to some very amazing experiences and as a result are turning into real learning experiences as well. Twitter has been good for that and will continue to be as I navigate the social world.

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  • Thanks for breaking the ice Ralph! I’m glad you’ve had similar success with the platform.

  • Angel

    You bring up some great uses for Twitter that I hadn’t yet considered. Although I am a user, I’ve never considered how useful the application actually is. Thanks for the insight!

  • Great Angel. Hope you picked up a few ideas! 

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  • Totally agree. I went a few years believing that Twitter was an idiotic network with random tweets about what people were eating and doing but then finally decided to give it a chance. Now, I love it. I’ve learned so much from the people I follow and have connected with…it truly is an amazing resource. 

  • Same thing happened with me when I first created my account about 2 years back, I couldn’t understand what this thing is and why people are so much crazy about it. I think it takes me almost 2 weeks to completely understand it functioning. 🙂 

  • Thanks Mark. An encouraging and inspirational post, the more you give the more you get in return! Thanks for your posts I find them encouraging, fun and educational. I’m learning heaps.

  • True! When I started tweeting I actually left the network within few days. If it was not for work I wouldn’t have even considered coming back. But now I am glad to be on twitter, having helpful friends, finding quick answers and meeting lots of twinspirational people. See I cane to your post via twitter,proof enough:) 
    Funny but true even I have written a similar post

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  • Well, it didn;t take me a couple years, but it was a long, frustrating time! Probably number one reason i wrote Tao of twitter — so others would not have to go through that learning curve! Thanks Anand!

  • You’re welcome Chris. Thanks for caring enough to comment. Appreciated!

  • Well done Sneha.  Thanks for adding your story!

  • Well I must say being featured in this article (as well as having gotten to write the guest post referred to) have been Twitter highlights for me!
    On a more serious note, the conference in Wales that Mark mentions, and was his idea (credit where its due) is also entirely concieved and ‘marketed’, if thats the correct word, on Twitter. Hundreds of people are talking about it, and dozens have come forward to offer help. Speaking as a media owner myself, I have never seen buzz like it built so quickly, or spread so completely.
    Today I met a Wales Government official that wanted to talk about how they can help with our conference, and guess what? they’ve come directly through to me – again through Twitter
    And tomorrow I’ll be meeting for the first time some of the amazing people I’ve connected with to discuss our conference in more detail, and continue the conversations I’m having with new friends ever day.
    There are loads more stories about offers of help and connections that have come from this event, so much so I can’t begin to tell you! And I have also seen first hand the power of a ‘Mark Schaefer’ as a ‘citizen Influencer’. There is no doubt Marks ‘social proof’ has lifted the event into the stratosphere.
    (If you dont understand what I am talking about with this last point, do us all a favour and buy the book! Return on Influence will blow your mind, sorry Mark!)

  • Great examples of how Twitter can change your life, and the world. I have found that many people active on Twitter are givers by nature. Thus, their success with it, and in life.

  • Without Twitter, I never would have met you, or Gini, or Margie or any of the other people who have added so much to my life. When I talk about the connections I have made through Twitter, it astounds people. 

    I remember joining Twitter and not knowing what to do. I was lucky enough to make friends with you and a few others early on who showed me the ropes. I may never have a huge following, I may never reach my goals of speaking anywhere, but Twitter has shown me that I can be heard.

    Twitter has changed how I think about things. I realize now that every connection I make I can help in some small way.

    When things were at their worst a few months ago, it was my friends on Twitter who reached out to me. That is something I will never forget.

  • Totally agree Mark.  Last week, I dropped by precious iPhone and smashed the front glass.  Within 30 minutes after posting to Twitter, I had multiple recommendations and references to try to resolve my problem.  My ultimate solution came from a company someone suggested and they tweeted me directly to offer help.  This was a company that I didn’t originally see when I Googled online.  After about 15 months now of regular Twitter attention, I’m definitely a believer!

  • You really hit the nail on the head. I wish I could remember my first tweets, or maybe it’s better that I can’t because I’m fairly sure they were awkward. Oh who am I kidding? My tweets are still probably awkward. But at least I’ve grown from just retweeting Ad Age articles. I think one of the coolest things is getting to stay in touch with folks I might meet once, such as you, and be able to keep in touch casually. 

    And, because I’ve got the maturity of a 13 year old girl, I ran around the house squealing when Jeff Goodby tweeted me. JEFF GOODBY. (or, @jeffbadby:disqus as it may be.) 
    My favorite thing, though, is when something newsworthy is happening, my husband (who is not on twitter) always says, “Can’t you get on twitter and find out what’s going on?” Even he knows the power of the tweet, and he doesn’t even use it. 

    Great post, Mark!

  • You are a true inspiration Tony. I can tell you are a natural connector and your patience and tenacity with Twitter will take you far! Excited to meet all my new friends in Wales! 

  • Good point Sandra.  Although much has been written about the anonimity surrounding social media, at the end of the day you can’t fake it. I truly believe that. Thanks so much for your great comment!

  • Great story!  It’s great to keep in touch with you too Jen. I always say the business case of the social web is “You just never know!” : ) 

  • Outstanding Nancy. Great to hear how powerful this has been for you and of course we had the wonderful opportunity to meet IRL out of our Twitter experience!  

  • Yes, this could have been a VERY LONG article as I undoubtedly receive some benefit from Twitter nearly every hour of the day. Thanks so much for commenting Brian! 

  • Well Mark, I’m not going to lie, I was tickled nuts when you reached out, wanted to talk on email, and helped expose me to your audience by allowing me to guest post! But to some degree each time, I’me excited when I find myself in conversation with someone because it’s a constant & happy reminder what Twitter has done. What it can and will do.  One pretty swell story is that when I launched the eyeChallenge (my collaborative project in social media sign language/gestures) I met @Ty_Sullivan:twitterand he was so compelled by the project that he started teaching himself actual American Sign Language and creates short and inspirational messages on video for me and his audience. 

    After our post on {grow} there was a conference in Chicago but we couldn’t get ahold of a translator.  But I still went to the happy hour portion.  It went SO well I was blown away. And what do I have to thank? The people’s willingness & character to be inclusive and work with my communication style….and, honestly, Twitter. It was like we were old friends! 

    Keep on inspiring others about the power of Twitter! 

    Can’t wait for our turn in IRL Mark


  • I know I need to get to Chicago Anne!  It’s weird. I think this is the first time in at least 25 years I have not been to the city (other than the airport!)> Look forward to meeting you too,

  • Thank you Mark!  Your inspirational, and motivational message is what makes Twitter a must for every body — including me 😉  ~Rae

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  • On what other platform can I speak directly to (and get responses from) Neil Finn, Kevin Sorbo, Jeri Ryan, Levar Burton and George Takei?

  • Hey Mark… Rush is touring again this fall, and the new album hits near the end of May.

    You in?

    (One more connection made via Twitter…)

  • Angelica vidarte

    Totally agree at the beginning it is really difficult to understand but its amazing how much you can learn from it! Its really hard to explain to others you have to experience it by yourself its the only way to understand it! I learn a lot from your posts thanks!

  • Many thanks Angelica! 

  • Now that was FUN!  So grateful to have a friend like you through Twitter Ike. I’m IN! 

  • Thanks for always being there for the {grow} community Dr. Rae! 

  • Hi Mark,

    I say, tweet till your fingers turn blue! 😉

    When I first started on this blogging venture. Well, actually before I even started building a blog last summer, I re-booted my Twitter account, so I could spread the word and just get social.

    Funny thing is, I remember back when I had, say three followers. Well, you followed me back, Sir. And that kind of made this rookie’s day.

    Twitter was indeed my weapon of choice early on, and a fine addition to any greenhorn’s arsenal. 

    Like Nancy said, without it I would not have met other great people, like, well, Nancy and you and many, many others. Still learning how to use it, but I have a pretty good handle on it, thanks to you 🙂

  • Twitter has helped to shrink the world and provided one more window into the lives of others I wouldn’t otherwise have met.

    More importantly it has been the source of more than a few friendships and that is priceless.

  • Well, you just made my day, so we’re even!! I am in such a very blessed position to be able to help people like this. In fact I have been reflecting on ways I can do this even more. I used to spend a lot more time “chatting” than I do now and I used to be a bigger supporter of the community blogs. Trying to do better!

  • Agree. I’ve made more friends in the last two years that in the last 10, at least! Thanks for commenting Jack! 

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  • Mark,

    It didn’t take following you for long to learn that you blog and tweet about more than just business. Whatever you write about, you make it interesting. And you also make it inviting to comment, retweet or reply.

    All of us that are part of the {grow} community, can’t help but learn from the example you set. You deserve great rewards from Twitter because you are such a prolific contributor. Thanks for that!

  • Thanks for the support and kind words Billy! 

  • Well, it’s no surprise I also love Twitter. As in, I want to ask it to marry me. It’s helped us compete globally, which never would have happened, just based on our small size, five years ago. In fact, I’ll speak internationally three times this year. All through Twitter. It really flattens out the world.

  • Great post! I’m going to steer not a few people this way to read it. Of course, posting the link on twitter probably isn;t the best method to reach these people. So expect to see a bump in your “direct referral” stats! Really enjoyed it!

  • Great examples, Mark!!! Without Twitter I wouldnt have found your blog or @ginidietrich over at Spin Sucks.  Without Twitter, I wouldnt have learned many new marketing & PR tips from professionals with proven track records who are willing to share.   Without Twitter I would never have met @skypulsemedia and bantered with about hockey! Oh and so many others.

  • You crack me up. And it makes me smile just to see you show up here Gini!!!

  • Good point! : ) 

  • Why? Because I want to marry Twitter? Wait til you meet George, my iPad. I married him. And my Westone earphones, too. You’ll meet them both in a few weeks.

  • Mark:  thanks for writing this! I was a Twitter skeptic for quite some time. I’m now glad I ‘hung in there’ (but can see why people don’t: in general, the ‘Twitter illuminati’ are too busy to be truly welcoming/engaging, not following back, etc. and it can be very hard to get established in conversations or relationships of interest.)  But if you persist through that discouraging early period, there is much benefit. To discipline myself to find the business purpose for Twitter for me (I design educational conferences for clients), I used it exclusively to discover/source new and interesting thinkers for a (non-SM) educational conference I was designing last year. I followed chats & hashtags, listening for people who were offering interesting perspective on small business issues beyond social media. I tried to engage them (some successfully – I remain amazed at the # of people who do not follow back or reply when they are mentioned). As a result, I spent more than $25,000 (speaking fees & travel expenses) on about 7 otherwise-unknown-to-my-industry speakers who all did fantastically at that conference and now have additional business and a whole new vertical industry that they’re connected with.  Success! 

  • Before I forget, I need your RSS solution or expert; mine is just wonky. 

    Some really good examples like Angel said, different ways of using Twitter. One thread I see in a lot of these – mobile. Think that’s why platforms like FB and Twitter grew – they took real-time connectivity, untethered it from the desktop and put it in our pockets and purses. 

    I wish I had more time to discuss, more confidence to jump in more conversations, participate more, all of that. Not sure I have a favorite connection story Mark; the fact that ‘someone on Twitter said …’ has become a regular part of my vocabulary, I think that’s telling that these relationships are having an impact.

    Like @twitter-117500958:disqus one of the things I like most about Twitter is that when I do talk about it offline, the breadth of connections is so different, unique. I ‘know’ people all around the world, am exposed to so many other stories about work, life, play that it just makes things fun and interesting; keeps me on my toes. FWIW.

  • Andrew Healey

    Like you, I originally hated the idea of Twitter. But as I’ve become used to it, I have found it to be a valuable source of information. The key is to follow people with something worthwhile to say.

  • Great examples Jennifer! Thanks for sharing!

  • Wow! Quite a lesson there! Good job Kellee.

  • Email me a reminder and I will get that name to you. A magician. Thanks for the great comment friend!

  • Absolutely. Thanks for connecting Andrew!

  • Just keep George away from Lola my iPod. Don’t need any Nanos running around!

  • I was sceptical about Twitter, but thought I had better join the club. Within a few week I was offered a radio interview about my new novel from a follower. 

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  • Twitter is a great way to connect with people and find the inspiration and motivation to be the best we can be. I have connected with some fabulous people. And I hope I get to meet some of them one day. Without Twitter I would not have found this blog. Started my own blog or be focused on moving my work to the next level. 

    Thanks Mark. 

  • … and that stuff happens ALL the time! Thanks Steve!

  • That’s a great story Kenny! Thanks! 

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  • Hi Mark, good point.  

    For me Twitter is like tonic; first taste it’s bitter, step by step becomes a taste you need and enjoy. Congratulations for the post, really nice to read your opinion!

  • Chaparral Andrew Hodges

    Twitter? I don’t even have a mobile phone ! But then I do have Time………

  • Twitter has become a great platform for breaking news, interacting with people (celebs and politicians) we once upon a time could never even get a hold of via mail. I love this article because it’s filled with actual “accounts and testimonials” of what Twitter has done for you. Great stuff : )

  • Anonymous

    I love this post, Mark!

    I actually just finished reading ROI this past weekend, and then I stumbled upon this post randomly through (you guessed it) Twitter.

    Your perspective is dead on, and I love it!

  • Guest

    I created a Twitter account a few months back but was turned off by the # commands and learning curve which I felt was a bit of a put off considering the coverage it was receiving. I havnt really bothered to try it since. Maybe its the male in me that is kind of put off by sharing stuff of yourself. Had a facebook account and deleted it after less then a year. The only reason im considering putting the effort into Twitter is for a business venture Im looking into atm.

  • John Bottom

    I can remember thinking how strange it was to be talking to no one in particular at first. “Hello, is anybody out there?” may well have been my first tweet. Truth was, there weren’t many out there because it only works once you build up a few contacts. That’s why so many give up after a few days.

    And I really think it is about meeting new people, not connecting with one’s existing network. Out of choice, I would email personal friends. But Twitter is my medium of choice for the community of new contacts that has developed over the last couple of years.

    And of course I would not have got to know Mark without it…!

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  • This article is quite useful for increasing
    more awareness and knowledge.

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