Twitter for Personal Use

Yesterday, I made a presentation to the MGTD06 Marketing in the Information Age class at the University of Toronto. Since most of my peers don’t understand the benefits of Twitter, my goal was to show them the benefits, and to persuade them to join the conversation. This post is for students who missed the presentation, or for anyone else interested.

Why I joined

Two years ago, I was looking for a summer job, and I asked my friend Satish Kanwar to connect me with a web agency, because that’s where I wanted to work. Satish replied, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Sure, I’ll connect you, but you should really get on Twitter.” I read that and thought, “WTF?! What does Twitter have to do with my job search?” But since I respect Satish, I listened to him, and I made an account.

Follow anyone you’re interested in

First, I followed people I knew, friends, acquaintances, and some interesting people I had never met. And that’s the first lesson:

Facebook is for strong ties; best friends you went to high school with. Twitter is for weak ties; people you want to be connected to.

There is this joke: “Facebook is for people you went to high school with. Twitter is for people you wish you went to high school with.” A Facebook friend request is not the equivalent of a Twitter follow. You can follow anyone you want; anyone you’re interested in.

Listen and interact

Then, I listened and interacted with people I was following. I had conversations with people. And that’s the second lesson:

Twitter is not a diary. Twitter is about conversation.

My first tweets

After creating an account, following people, listening and interacting, I was ready to tweet. I started tweeting about projects I was working on, technologies I was working with. By doing that, I caught the attention of Verne Ho and Dev Basu. Verne invited me to coffee and he ended up offering me a summer job, which I gladly accepted. Dev and I became good friends.


One day, I saw I had a new follower, Puleen Patel. He turned out to be a cool guy and we share a common interest in Android. Puleen suggested that I follow Alkarim Nasser, Partner at BNOTIONS, a web agency in Toronto. One day, Alkarim tweeted about an open house hosted by his company. I was busy with exams, so I replied to his tweet saying, “Hey Alkarim, nice to meet you. Super busy with exams, could we chat on the phone instead?” Sure enough, we had the phone convo, he liked me (I think), and he told me to contact him after I graduate to discuss full-time opportunities.

Discovering a new event

Another day, I saw a tweet about Startup Weekend Toronto. I checked out the website, and it sounded really cool: a three-day event where entrepreneurs pitch ideas, form teams, and launch a business; all in a weekend. So I signed up, and guess what? Everyone had Twitter. I met a ton of people, we all started following each other, and I’m still in touch with those people today. Karthik and I have phone/gtalk chats, Alyssa tweeted me yesterday to ask how I’m doing, and Gabriel and I talked business on the phone last week.

Twitter is great for events. While you’re at the event, you can follow the hashtag to see commentary. Even if you’re not at the event, you can follow the hashtag to keep tab on what’s going on. To follow a hashtag, simply search for it on Google Updates or Twitter Search. For Startup Weekend Toronto, the hashtag was #SWToronto (the event organizers told us the hashtag). Use hashtags before, during, and after events to see what’s going on. If you’re organizing an event, let your audience know what the hashtag is.

Landing a new client

Then there’s Mike Fraietta. I met Mike by creeping around Twitter. Creeping on Twitter is way better than creeping on Facebook. When you creep on Facebook, you waste 30-60min looking at someone else’s photos and reading stupid wall comments. But when you creep on Twitter, you can meet someone really cool! And that was the case with Mike. I checked out his profile, he just moved to Toronto, and I checked out his website, which I liked. So I tweeted him saying, “Hey Mike, nice to meet you. I like your website!” That’s it. Simple. No ulterior motive. As luck would have it, he replied saying he likes my website and he’s interested in my services. I ended up landing him as a client, and we even hung out at Sprout Up September and Startup Weekend.

The tally

Okay, if we tally everything up, because of Twitter, I’ve gotten:

  • A job
  • A job opportunity after graduation
  • Went to an awesome event
  • Made lots of friends
  • Landed a new client

…and that’s just a few things I’ve decided to share with you guys. There’s lots more. Pretty sweet eh? I hope you’re starting to get picture.

Points to remember

  1. Follow anyone that interests you. Think about your career goals. What do you want to do after you graduate? If you want to work in advertising, you can follow ad agencies, partners at those agencies, advertising meetups and conferences, and other people interested in the ad business. If you can develop a relationship with these people before you get out of school, you have a much better chance of landing a job than the traditional methods.
  2. Listen and interact. Twitter is not a diary. Twitter is about conversation. Don’t underestimate the power of listening and having a conversation with someone. Don’t say you don’t want to join Twitter because you don’t know what to say. That’s like saying you don’t want to go to that house party because you don’t know what to talk about. When you get to the house party, you’ll know what to say. And when you join the Twitter party, you’ll know what to say.
  3. Tweets: quality over quantity. Don’t get caught up over how often you tweet. It’s all about quality.
  4. Followers: quality over quantity. Having a super engaged following of 200 people is way better than having a distant following of 1000 whom you’ve never met or spoken to.
  5. Use it at events. Use hashtags before, during, and after events.
  6. Be yourself. No one likes someone who’s artificial.

For the experts reading this, how has Twitter helped you? What advice can you offer?