Is Twitter Stupid?

Every time we talk to colleagues, either casually or during some sort of formal conference, invariably someone will say: "Twitter is stupid. I don't get it." That was us six years ago, and we were wrong. Trust us, we joined Twitter kicking and screaming in 2008, when we couldn't really see the point. But the point is that all great ideas sound somewhat absurd in the beginning, think: the printing press, the wheel, the car, the internet, e-mail. Sometimes you just have to be an adapter of technologies and see where they take you, especially if they are free and help you promote your business.

So, dear Twitter users and haters, here are our top 10 reasons (in no particular order) why Twitter is not stupid.

  1. It's free promotion for your business. Don't constantly tweet things like: "Please hire me!" because that is annoying. Tweet about things that you think might be interesting to others. Share before you focus on getting business. Help others rather than trying to get business at all cost. Twitter is not unlike relationships: you get out of them what you put into it, and you shouldn't go into any relationship only expecting to take and not to give. One of our most grateful followers is a successful media executive who was hard-pressed for a creative appetizer recipe before having some big-shot clients over, and we sent her our secret recipe for _____ (it's secret). And no, we didn't get any business out of it, because that's not always the point. This takes us to point #2.
  2. You grow a business--any business--by increasing the amount of people who know that you and your services exist. If you only tell your circle of friends about your awesome services but don't widen your circle, it will be hard to grow your network. Twitter allows you to easily increase your network and to keep fresh in people's minds. This takes us to point #3.
  3. You stay fresh in potential client's minds. Just yesterday, a client asked us for a translator to work on some texts from English into Canadian French. We know plenty of linguists in that language combination, but one stands out, not because she's a great translator and absolutely lovely, but also because we see her on Twitter all the time, where she has insightful things to say. As clients, we also use Twitter to keep track of our industry and its most successful players. Sadly, we also make a mental note of those who like to pick fights and tend to badmouth their clients and we make sure to stay away from them, because nothing good can come out of it. 
  4. You learn to keep things short. Judy tends to be quite verbose, which results in lost productivity because every e-mail she used to write resembled a novella, and she's learned to keep things short thanks to Twitter. It's amazing that Twitter actually offers some writing lessons in keeping things to the point, to the tune of 140 characters. It's harder than you think.
  5. You learn about your specialization. It's fascinating to follow industry leaders in your specialization, and it's amazing how much you can learn. Interact with them with insightful comments and you just might develop some sort of online relationship you might not otherwise have.
  6. You keep your languages fresh. Between us, we follow users (journalists, thought leaders, politicians, businesspeople, etc.) in our five languages, and it's remarkable to read original content from actual country of origin. This is especially important for Spanish, and we try to follow users in regions that are relatively untouched by English, such as users in Argentina. We also follow a number of newspapers and leading radio and TV programs to keep our language skills fresh. We also want to keep current on the news, and Twitter is a great way to do it.
  7. You keep in touch with your source/target markets. See above. Knowing what's happening in both your source and target markets is crucial, because you can only live in one of them, but clients might want to make small talk about what's happening in their world. If you have clients in Austria, you better know who Conchita Wurst is and why Wolf Haas changed the German language forever. 
  8. You can help promote clients. Trust us: they love this. Pretty much all of our clients are on Twitter, and we make a point to retweet what they have to see. Retweeting is the equivalent of liking/sharing with your network. It does not cost us anything, but clients are very grateful for the promotion, especially because we have more Twitter followers than some of our smaller direct clients.
  9. You learn something new from others. There is so much collective wisdom if you get a few dozen people together for a translators' coffee get-together. Can you imagine what happens if you get millions of people together? Great things can happen. Of course not everything that everyone says is interesting or relevant, but that's also true for your offline interactions. Just because your friends don't always say interesting stuff doesn't mean you will stop hanging out with them, right? Keep that in mind for Twitter, too. Take the interesting stuff and ignore the rest.
  10. You don't need to leave the house. Making it out of the house to an in-person networking event can be painful and yes, occasionally boring. We are not saying you can replace all your in-person networking with Twitter, but it's all complementary and we think you need to do both (unless you live in a very remote area, of course). So there's no need to get our your suit, polish your shoes, and get your business cards ready: you can conquer the world, so to say, from the comfort of your home office.
We'd venture to say that in three years (or less), Twitter will the technology we can't live without. Facebook is still very  relevant, but it seems like Twitter is quickly overtaking it (at least for business purposes) because you can grow your network more quickly.

And yes, we've gotten work from Twitter. But don't go on Twitter with that end in mind. Approach Twitter just like you would approach any networking opportunity: enjoy the journey and the worl might come. However, just like with everything else in business, there's never a guarantee. 


Jesse Tomlinson on April 27, 2015 at 2:29 PM said...

Agree wholeheartedly on all fronts. Twitter can be an amazing business tool. I enjoy making lists and putting all the people/businesses, government agencies, etc. that I am following into categories. Then I work on categorizing the people who are following me. Actually that was a great tip that @LinguaGreca gave me and it's turned out to really have turned me on to some good organizational tactics. One category is for direct clients that I am researching and plan on contacting soon.

One useful tip on using Twitter that works for me is combing through people you are following from time to time to categorize them or unfollow if they aren't doing anything for you in terms of information, links, or inactivity. Thanks for the post.

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on April 29, 2015 at 8:57 AM said...

@Jesse: Many thanks for your insightful comment as always! We have to admit that we barely use lists, and it's a fantastic tip that we will steal from you and CC. We also love your tip about doing some spring cleaning once in a while. And this is what we adore about social media/online connections: we always learn so much from awesome colleagues like you. Have a great rest of the week.

Marco Diaz on September 19, 2016 at 6:52 PM said...

I must say that these are ten great reasons for using Twitter as a business. I've only used Twitter for about three months and I have already gotten to know many linguists from around the world. Twitter is also a helpful tool for getting insights into many different professional fields and, as you also mentioned, to stay connected with your languages of interest, as you can read a plethora of articles or interact with native speakers. This is important in order to maintain your language. Echoing what Jesse Tomlinson said in her comment, I also like Twitter lists because they help you keep your account organized. Twitter is by far one of the best social media tools that provides you with many networking opportunities and exposure to the world.

Join the conversation! Commenting is a great way to become part of the translation and interpretation community. Your comments don’t have to be overly academic to get published. We usually publish all comments that aren't spam, self-promotional or offensive to others. Agreeing or not agreeing with the issue at hand and stating why is a good way to start. Social media is all about interaction, so don’t limit yourself to reading and start commenting! We very much look forward to your comments and insight. Let's learn from each other and continue these important conversations.

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The entrepreneurial linguists and translating twins blog about the business of translation from Las Vegas and Vienna.

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