The Pros & Cons of Twitter

Over the past few weeks, I chatted with quite a few RBI editors to understand how they use Twitter. So today, I want to talk honestly about two things:

  • Why Twitter is a Challenge
  • Why Twitter is an Opportunity

Okay, let’s get started! I’ll present this as a pro/con format, starting off with con (because it’s more fun!)

Twitter is a Waste of Precious Time and Our Core Audience Isn’t Following Us

Editorial & marketing responsibilities are different for a business media brand than they are for a broad-based consumer outlet. The New York Times wants to reach anyone to inform them about the Toyota recall. Chicken Farmers Daily just wants to reach chicken farmers (and those who love them.)

So when a chicken farmer editor sets up their Twitter account and tries it out for a few weeks, they could come back with these two pieces of feedback:

  1. I need to be on the farm, talking to chicken farmers, not updating Twitter.
  2. Actual chicken farmers are maybe 2% of the people following me on Twitter.

For editors in 2010, their day might be filled with responsibilities for print, web, blogs, webinars, in-person events, etc. Adding social media to the mix can seem like that last straw breaking the camel’s back – and a straw that has the least direct effect on revenue. But that’s just the start – here are some more fun reasons why Twitter is a total waste of your time:

  • It’s hard to find the balance editorial voice with personal voice. How is a journalist to remain objective?
  • For small brands, it’s hard to manage more than one Twitter account (eg: brand & personal accounts)
  • Many in media are managing their tasks with fewer resources, and high priority tasks on tight deadlines.

And on top of that, there are two things that Twitter doesn’t do at all:

  • Threaded conversations
  • Properly archiving content & conversations

Wow, Twitter seems like a real drag, doesn’t it? But don’t give up yet, please read on.

Twitter is a Critical Link to Engaging Your Market and Listening to Their Needs

When I chatted with editors about their use of Twitter, I was really surprised at some of the stories about how valuable it is to them. (And I’ve already drank the Twitter Kool-Aid!)

So here are some benefits of using Twitter – even if you are an overworked B2B editor:

  • Brand Awareness
    Think you are already reaching 100% of your target audience in exactly the manner they want to receive information & connect with their industry? Likely, not. Twitter is a really powerful (and fun) way to extend your brand, and to use it to connect people with ideas and each other. Even if you feel that Twitter is not mature in your market yet, social media will clearly be a big part of the media equation in the future. Do you want to be the last holdout, while your competitors build their presence and find new ways to engage your audience?
  • Connection
    Twitter is more porous than email. There are few social barriers on Twitter that prevent someone in your market to reach out to you with a compliment, comment or question. As an editor covering a niche market – this is a CRITICAL part of your role. Likewise, Twitter allows you direct connection to folks that are hard to reach: either at high levels, or embedded deep within a company.
  • Research
    Instead of quarterly surveys that aren’t well integrated into editorial strategy, you can get a moment by moment sentiment reading of what is important to your audience. This keeps you in tune with your audience in small ways each day, slowly shaping how you integrate this information into your editorial strategy.
  • Product Improvement
    Twitter allows you to promote small parts of your overall product strategy, and gives you an immediate way to collaborate and get feedback from those in your audience. Want to A/B test two different layouts of a newsletter that you sketched out – ask your Twitter followers. Even if only 5 people respond, that could double the number of opinions you had weighing in already.

  • Brand Differentiation
    As information becomes more commoditized (even in niche markets), one thing your competitors can’t easily replicate is the personalities & expertise of your staff. Twitter allows all staff members, even designers and sales people and interns to gain stature in the online world, in small simple ways each day.
  • Events
    Twitter extends value of events before, during and after. It is an incredible opportunity to connect people not just with information, but with each other during industry events. Passing that up opens the door for your competitors to do so.

  • Word-of-Mouth Marketing
    What is interesting about Twitter is not that it delivers 50 page views to an article, but that 10 other people ReTweeted and shared your link with their followers. It is thrilling to see people become advocates for your brand and your work.
  • Reporting
    In mature social media markets, editors say they couldn’t do their jobs without it. It offers an immediate glimpse into the lives of those in your market, and gives you an entirely new communication platform to connect with them. News and analysis comes in a constant stream on Twitter, and is an opportunity for journalists to extend their reach.
  • Build Your Personal Brand
    With consumer and business magazines shutting down, and newspapers laying off big portions of their staff, there is little reason to believe that all of these positions will be filled again when the economy recovers. Twitter is a critical way to build your personal brand online, make connections with people you respect, and learn a new skill that is becoming a core part of journalism in the 21st century.

How to Leverage Twitter When You Have Little Time

The fact of the matter is, even if you buy into Twitter – you ‘get it’ – that doesn’t change the fact that you may have a print deadline each Friday, 4 web articles due this week, a blog, and a big industry event coming up in 2 weeks that includes a panel you are moderating. And just for kicks: let’s not forget that maybe you have a couple of kids at home, your car needs some engine work, and you are planning a Disney vacation for early March and need to find a dog-sitter. Sound familiar?

Here are a few tips on ways you can leverage Twitter without overwhelming yourself:

  • Have a presence
    Just go Twitter and create a profile. Right now, no big deal. Make sure your brand has one, make sure you have one. Post an update once a day. Or once a week if that is all you can handle. Just start – don’t think about it.
  • Share the load & share the password
    For your brand, don’t put the load on a single person. Get everyone on board, even if each has their own way of doing it. Likewise, for the brand account, ensure the password is shared between a few employees and the email address linked to it is a business address.

  • Create a strategy for your brand
    Once a month, chat about a Twitter strategy for your brand in a regular editorial meeting. Don’t go nuts, just bring it up, and encourage folks to use it. Don’t create a strategy that wouldn’t fit on the back of a business card. Keep it simple.

  • Stand out by being useful
    In your updates, try to share one piece of information or advice that is unique and helpful to your readers. Even if you Tweet infrequently, make it count. Doesn’t have to be earth shattering, just some insight you had to a piece of recent news, or your impression of the floor at a recent tradeshow.
  • Connect with your audience
    Follow someone on Twitter. Follow 5 people. Read their Tweets. Considering responding to things that pique your interest.

  • Manage the process
    As Twitter grows for you and your brand, create a process that works for you. Tell yourself you will post an update each day, while drinking your coffee. Set aside 15 minutes at lunch to read Tweets. Small, simple stuff. Consider using a tool like Tweetdeck.

  • Integrate & promote
    Promote your brand account everywhere that you reach your market – print, web, newsletters, events.

  • Leverage events
    Events are such an opportunity to have fun connections with people you met via Twitter. It is also a great place to find people you want to follow and pick up followers yourself.

Follow me on Twitter: @DanBlank.


  1. This article is targeted to larger companies. As a one-man show, Twitter is at first puzzling, then info-plus motherload, then exciting, then wearying, then disappointing, because, indeed, reaching the “right” target audience is hit and miss, i.e. time consuming. After eight months at Twitter as an independent publisher, (copy + creative)-writer, video maker and performing, fewer people click through my posts. Following the wrong people or wrong people following me? It takes more research, more time, to target. Still wondering whether Twitter has mostly become info-packets being shifted for, increasingly, purely business reasons. It is still finding its usefulness, and to each his own usefulness, or lack thereof.

Leave a comment