Lee Odden

Top 10 Uses of Twitter

The results of our poll on how Online Marketing Blog readers use Twitter are in. We had over 220 responses, which isn’t a bad sample considering this blog is fairly niche with a modest sized (and very smart) audience. Below I’ve listed the poll results and a few comments on each.

Follow Lee Odden on Twitter here.

  • (39%, 87 Votes) Sharing links to items of interest to your network – Not surprising since the speed of reach on Twitter is so fast. As soon as you find something interesting that’s linkable, you can drop it on Twitter and your network knows immediately. With the URL monitoring tools like the Techmeme-like Twitt(url)y and twitbuzz you can track items of interest before they ever hit the blogosphere and long before they hit mainstream media.
  • (28%, 63 Votes) Networking for new contacts – I don’t explicitly use Twitter for this reason, but it happens. Twitter is like a first stepping stone to Facebook then to LinkedIn and then to something offline. Well, not really, but with the search features of Summize you can find others with similar interests to follow and connect with. You can also use TwitterLocal to find Tweeple in your geo. While Twitter is hot amongst early adopters, it’s still new enough that finding people in your area can be reason enough to connect. There’s also whoshouldIfollow which looks at who your Twitter friends follow and makes suggestions.
  • (21%, 47 Votes) Reinforcing current network contacts – Definitely a good use of Twitter as a touchpoint between connecting in person or virtually. Social media savvy people I meet in person at events almost always connect (or are already connected) on Twitter before other networks. Direct messaging with contacts replaces IM in many cases and makes it easy to build relationships (assuming each has something to offer).
  • (10%, 22 Votes) Promoting specific content – I consider promotion and sharing very similar. ie, I wouldn’t promote something I wouldn’t want to share in the first place. In some cases this might be asking for votes or it might be promoting a specific event. Nothing wrong with that. Retweeting is a common goal for promoting content. Those 140 (and likely less than that) characters need to be very carefully crafted and the topic needs to be very unique in order to motivate others to pass along the Tweet to their followers with a “retweet”.
  • (9%, 21 Votes) Re-distribution of content from blog, web site – When this is done manually and in a customized way with some consideration towards what your Twitter network is interested in, it works well. When it’s done automatically using a blog plugin it can get old because many times, people following you on Twitter also read your blog. Although I wonder if there is a shift away from blog reading towards Twitter.
  • (8%, 17 Votes) Twitter cat posts: flight delays, eating habits, who knows what and why – These are the kinds of Tweets I saw when I first signed up for Twitter and really didn’t get what the attraction was. Individually, these Tweets seem pretty meaningless, but cumulatively, they paint a picture of the personality and character of your network. That can mean a lot when recruiting candidates, looking for prospective clients, vendors and marketing partners.
  • (5%, 11 Votes) Replacement for Facebook updates – A lot of search marketers are not using Facebook as much as they used to and I think the simplicity of Twitter is refreshing compared to the sheep throwing, zombie biting, “who’s sexy” environment on Facebook. Since this poll was launched Facebook added chat which is pretty useful but I’m not sure it will lure away from Twitter.
  • (5%, 11 Votes) Influencing your network to do and think what you want – This falls in line with promoting content and ideas. Anyone that knows me knows I’m a promoter. When I see something interesting, I have no problem promoting it and influencing my network to attend a specific event, contribute to a charity or check out a new Twitter tool seems perfectly natural. Your network expects you to be opinionated, that’s why they follow you.
  • (2%, 4 Votes) Group and project communications – As for group communications, several events I’ve been to such as a session at the Web 2.0 Expo that created Twitter accounts (@micromedia2) attendees can follow and use to interact with the panel. I’ve also seen some organizations create accounts that can be used at more than one event or as a distribution tool like blog updates via RSS – only limited to 140 characters. I’d love to hear of some project communication examples with Twitter in the comments.
  • (1%, 3 Votes) Microblogging conferences – Made famous by Twitter’s launch at SXSW last year and also this year, I think live tweeting events will become more and more popular as services like LiveTwitting gain traction. That’s what makes Twitter great, 3rd party tools.
  • (1%, 3 Votes) Shilling for Digg and other social news votes – Explicitly and frequently asking for social media votes (publicly) isn’t going to win friends. Plus the mods for the bookmarking, networking or news site may be following you so it’s not worth it to abuse. What does seem to work well is to make it humorous or just ask people to check out something you’re trying to draw attention to. The social voting widgets on-site will give visitors the opportunity to act if they like the content.
  • (0%, 1 Votes) Pitching journalists and bloggers – With Stowe Boyd’s recent promotion of Twitpitching and other echoes, you’d think there’d be more activity of this type. At least a direct message of a news/story idea to a journalist that is following you would be pretty easy and acceptable to do. If there are any journalists or bloggers on Twitter reading this that have seen an increase in Twitter pitches, please share.

One Twitter use that is definitely missing from this poll is, “Crowdsourcing your network” much like Stephen Baker did in this story on Twitter from yesterday’s BusinessWeek. Outside of sharing links to interesting things and networking, polling your network for answers to hard questions is probably the most productive thing about Twitter. In fact, I’m sure if we ran this poll again it would be the top answer.

The other use is one that’s more commercial, like how H&R Block, Comcast and Zappos have been using Twitter for customer service and customer outreach.

Wired’s Wiki has a list of some useful Twitter applications here.

What kinds of interesting or difficult problems have you been able to solve by crowdsourcing your Twitter network? What commercial examples have you been most impressed with and what companies/brands were behind them? Are you using Twitter as a marketing tool?

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (8 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. I gotta say, I have zero interest in getting DM pitches from PR people. I’m pitched enough by email and phone; the last thing I want is a new avenue, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter. It’s almost like how ad people see any new medium as a place to put ads. PR people tend to see anything as a new way to pitch the same old stuff. But it has happened. I direct them to my work email, which is where that stuff belongs in my opinion.

  2. That’s really good feedback Brian. So rather than trying a different channel like Twitter, are you saying do a better job in pitching with traditional formats?

  3. I use Twitter simply to touch base with folks who have my similar interests (entrepreneuring or momizing or coffee drinking etc.). It’s nice to say Hi! in the morning.

    It also inspired me to create an April Fools joke – http://www.TwitterBudgie.com . 🙂



  4. Avatar Albert Maruggi says

    nice work, and it’s a great sample. Minimum of 100 to be projectable, so this is excellent!

  5. Avatar Albert Maruggi says

    Brian Morrissey, that DM pitch is interesting, in order to pitch you would have to be following that person. So you raise an interesting situation. If I choose to follow a person, does that give them the right to DM me? According to the parameters of Twitter as a user I would not expect a person who is following me to be upset if I DM them.

    I hope to God that PR folks are not sending bolierplate DMs to journalists they troll for on Twitter. My skin is beginning to crawl.

  6. Avatar Ankit Garg says

    Hi Lee,

    Your post had my grey cells charged! Twitter is really great. I think people who view twitter as spam and waste have a myopic view. I have build up from providing customer support from twitter to ‘Engage customers’ in all aspects than just technical support in my blog post.

    Thanks for the useful survey!

  7. Albert, I don’t see implied consent at all. This is my big problem w PR and social media. They’re so inclinded to pitch that it’s the automatic use they see for it. Yes, it happens, and I politely ask fto keep pitches to my work email. That’s just the way I want to operate. Some people step over the line with all sorts of communications channels. For instance, PR people add me as “friends” on Facebook. I accept these for the most part, but I feel uneasy about it. Just b/c I accept a request, does that mean I want to get pitched through Fbook messaging and chat? No, absolutely not. Worse, I have meetings w people that PR people insist on also attending. Just because I gave them my cell phone in case something comes up doesn’t mean I want calls on it. I’m bombarded all day with pitches, follow-ups to pitches, follow-ups to the follow-ups. Yes, I’m frustrated b/c it keeps me from doing my job. And no, my job is not to answer emails and phone calls from PR people, despite what they might think.

  8. Avatar Scott Hepburn says

    Thanks for the survey and post, Lee. Most comprehensive I’ve seen so far.

    Albert, I tend to agree with you that a person I choose to follow has the right to DM me. It’s one reason I’m selective in who I chose to follow — even if that means a smaller pool of followers for me.

    Brian, Mack Collier had a nice post this week about Laura Fitton’s Twitter landing page on her blog. Seems to me a Twitter landing page is a good place to alert PR guys (like me) and other Twitterers to your news pitch policy.

  9. Avatar Eric Brown says

    Great list! I enjoy the fact that the list is based on user votes, not on just one opinion. Thanks for sharing.

    Microblogging in general is a fast growing marketing venue. And if you can link up multiple accounts across various platforms you can get crazy exposure.

  10. Compete.com has a very good post on the Twitter Traffic explosion: http://tinyurl.com/6bborp

    Over the past week or so, Twitter has become the top link source of traffic for this blog.

  11. Brian, again thank you for the insight.

    Can you share what your preferred method/format of contact would be from a story suggestion standpoint?

    I understand you want contact via your corp email, but I am curious if there is a certain format to the message: Subject line and structure of the email that would make your life easier when dealing with pitches.

    Many PR and media relations folks are simply hacks and will never change. But I am certain many would jump at the chance to change how they communicate with journalists in a way that would be more helpful.

  12. Avatar Scott Hepburn says

    Don’t worry, Brian…we’ll give you a free pass for a hectic week 😉

    I do think you’re right to some extent. One thing in the survey that intrigues me, Lee, is the one about “Sharing links to items of interest…” We PR guys are usually guilty of assuming items of interest to US (i.e., news about our clients, news about ourselves) are of interest to YOU. I suspect a big chunk of those who voted for that item are actually forwarding PR stuff, not because it’s interesting but because it pads our wallets.

  13. FlyOnl suggests in a post that Twitter is not only effective as a customer service tool, but a customer engagement tool and I agree.

    Using Twitter as a customer engagement tool is exactly what Zappos, H&R Block and Comcast as well as other brands are doing. In fact, @Zappos has nearly 200 of their employees on Twitter, each being a potential touchpoint for customer engagement.

  14. Lee,
    I get an estimated 200 PR emails a day, probably 90% of which is irrelevant. I ignore 95% of it. There’s the problem: I’m missing the 5% that’s relevant b/c the signal-to-noise ratio is off the charts. I wish there was more thought put into whether I should get an email and particularly a phone call. Why? When I’m called, that’s a tax on my time. It interupts what I’m doing. Think of whether you really want to impose that tax, seeing as PR is supposedly a relationship business. As for format, short, simple and free of worthless jargon and sales. If PR people want to write long ledes, they’re in the wrong biz. Simple facts. Why it matters. Above all, I get so many pitches that are just companies looking for free marketing. I feel like PR people have convinced their clients that “free media” is a substitute for advertising. Maybe, but not w me. I don’t do vendor product launch stuff. That should be clear if people read what I write. Another thing is I don’t want “a story.” I come up w those on my own. Maybe journalists are lazy, but I don’t write things ginned up by PR people. Nothing against them, but it’s not what I do. So, simple facts, why its noteworthy, contacts to the relevant execs. I don’t want to exchange 20 emails about call-in numbers and the rest of that. I just want to talk to who I need to get some information, then move on. PR needs to move from a message control business to a connections business. Just make the connection, that’s all. I’m sure it’s different for every journalist, of course.

  15. I definetly think that Twitter can be a great tool for sharing links with friends and networking. As with every website especially a social networking site they can be abused. So a small few ruin it for the rest of us, but this shouldn’t shy anyone away from using the tool.

  16. I’ve probably been too negative. It’s the effect of a long, hectic week. I see Twitter as a tool to develop empathy with different consituencies in what I do. The most important to me is readers. They’re my “clients,” not businesses, PR people or even agencies. (The odd part is my readers all have affiliations in those camps.) I’ve found Twitter a great way to connect with lots of different people, including PR people, who I realize have a role to play. I only hope it doesn’t become just another outlet for sales, whether it’s me selling my stories, PR people selling their clients or agencies selling themselves.

  17. Brilliant!

    The Twitter community is making it easier for others to join and enjoy!

  18. Brian, I think everyone will appreciate your preferences because if they can be more effective at communicating with you and other journalists, then it’s a win for all.

  19. This is great stuff! Love to see how everyone uses such a cool tool. It seems every day there are new uses with such a simplistic tool such as Twitter.

  20. I’ve gotten on the Twitter bandwagon in the last couple months and I am enjoying it immensely, for two main reasons:
    -it keeps me plugged in with what marketing/PR people are talking about
    -it gives me an opportunity to connect with journalists/bloggers on non-work-related topics, such as where to get good pizza in NYC, dog pictures, etc.

    I was a journalist before I was in PR, so I know about wanting to stab the flacks with a red pencil. There’s one company in Boston I particularly loathe…but that’s another topic. I do appreciate Brian’s willingness not only to vent on a public forum but also to say what works with him. I’ll add that info to our files, Brian – thanks!

  21. Avatar reddknight says

    I think Twitter and probably social networking in general works best if you use it the same was as you might network at a party (at least before they *called* it networking). If you meet someone new, you should get to know them and add to the conversation. If there is a connection, you can probably pitch to them at some point (later) and they might actually welcome it. Start the connection by talking about yourself or thrusting out your business card and you will quickly get “unfollowed”.

  22. Keep hearing all this talk about twitter….but they have less then 200,000 unqiue users on their site…..that means there are around 12,000 websites that get more traffic. Can we stop talking about it now…so boring and its a useless service…totally useless.

  23. Avatar Nate Nead says

    Well put together and super beneficial. I wish I saw more posts like this in more places. And Reggie…you should really go to Mashable and read their article on Adpoting New Technologies. The early bird get the worm in this case. I think Mashable was right.

  24. Another important use is “get feedback”. When you have a couple of hundred followers (all of them involved in your niche) it is amazing how much feedback you can get when asking a simple question (an later integrate the answers in a blog post).

  25. Great conference!
    It is more personal, even when sharing professional discussion. Thanks for the insight on Twitter. Sounds like a sure thing to add to the marketing mix.

  26. Excellent blog post, Lee.

    I’m wondering if you (or others) can expand on “Twitpitching.” As a PR person, I can definitely see the value. You mention, however, that it’s appropriate to DM someone who is following you. What about publications or editors who you follow, but are not following you? What’s the etiquette/protocol? When does it just become annoying stalking?

  27. Hi there Lee,

    I’m beginning to notice some significant traffic from

    twitter to my forum as well.

    It wasn’t intentional but a by product of networking and connecting.

    Great post as usual.

  28. Hi Lee,

    I’ve found twitter helps increase traffic to my blog and website when I’ve posted links. I’ve met so many interesting and helpful people on twitter. If I wake up during the night, I find myself checking to see what’s on twitter. I even got suggestions to get back to sleep. 🙂

    I read an article by Guy Kawasaki this morning on the AlwaysOn network about how he finds twitter to be a valuable marketing tool. It inspired me to write a blog post about it. Everybody seems to be talking about twitter!

    Thanks for posting the results of your poll about uses for twitter. Great insights!

  29. I’ve found that at its simplest, twitter allows me to blog about stories or items that I would have trouble turning into a fully fledged blog post. Instead of have a blog updated perhaps twice a week, I can update the twitter feed continuously and then expand on any interesting items when I update the blog.


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