Why Businesspeople Use Twitter: Tales From the Trenches


Share on LinkedIn

Are you Twittering? If not, don’t you know that it is the fastest growing social network with seven million people using it?

If you are like me, you may have thought: “What will it do for my business? How much time will it take?”

To get some answers, I decided to interview some business people I know and respect—people who are successful and yet find time to Twitter. Armed with the insights I got from them, I started Twittering last week (johntodor).

Here is what I learned.

Lesley Russell, VP of Direct Marketing and Sales, St Supery Winery
Twitter username: stsupery

Twittering personally about 8 months, for business about 4 months.

What motivated you and how did you get started?

I kept hearing from marketing gurus that consumer brands needed to monitor their online reputation and Twitter was mentioned as one way to do so.

I started by searching Twitter for mentions of St. Supery and almost immediately discovered that people were talking about us and it wasn’t all good. I came across a tweet by a woman in NYC saying she was disappointed in our Sauvignon. I responded by mentioning that I was sorry she was disappointed and offered to send her a different version of our Sauvignon Blanc. She was both surprised and pleased to hear from me. She loved the wine I sent her and said so on Twitter and in her blog. What I didn’t know was while she is a PR Professional in her day job, she is also an amateur wine blogger with a big following.

Wine bloggers have a tremendous influence, so we invited a group of them to spend a day with us at our winery. They were twittering away all day long. Tremendous word of mouth.

In addition to monitoring and responding to comments, I answer questions like “When will the 2004 vintage of our Elu wine be ready to drink?” or “Where can I buy your wine in Florida?” I try to help our customers have a better experience with our wines.

Pamela Swingley, President of Savvy Internet Marketing
Twitter username: pamelaley

Twittering about 8 weeks.

What motivated you and how did you get started?

I am developing software for personal healthcare management and will be looking for investors in the near future. My background has been in the technology sector. I wanted to learn about the investment and healthcare communities, fast. I also wanted to start building visibility and credibility within both communities.

I searched for active Twitters in both communities and started following them. I quickly got a feel for the culture of the communities and started asking questions and adding my insight about Internet Marketing. They must like something I am saying because twice as many people follow me than I follow. I am learning and building credibility in a new industry.

I get great results and it only takes 15 minutes per day.

Randy Saunders, Senior Marketing Manager, Cincom Systems
Twitter usernames: randysaunders and cincom

Started Twittering about 9 months ago but only got serious 3 months ago.

What motivated you and how did you get started?

More and more business people I know were using Twitter, so 3 months ago I decided to make a concerted effort to figure out what you could do with 140 characters.

I started with two goals. One, I wanted to connect with a wider range of business professionals and to learn from them. Two, I wanted to monitor and enhance Cincom’s online reputation.

In the first case, I was very pleasantly surprised to learn how accessible, open and personable many CEOs are on Twitter. I am also learning from people outside my core industry. Now I am educating others within Cincom of how to use Twitter.

One of the beauties of Twitter is that it is rapid fire and easy. People say what is on their mind. There is something very real about this type of communication.

Cincom’s online forum, Expert Access, provides thought leadership on Customer Relationship Strategies and Business Process Management. We now use Twitter to promote it.

We also use Twitter to monitor mentions of our Call Center products and learn directly from our customers. It is also a good way to monitor what our competitors are up to.

I get on Twitter 2-3 times per day and try to keep the total time to 15 minutes per day.

Bill Flitter, CEO and Founder of Pheedo
Twitter username: bflitter

Twittering about one year.

What motivated you and how did you get started?

Curiosity. Pheedo is in the business of syndicating and aggregating content for clients. I wanted to see if we could use Twitter to syndicate our own content. I also wanted to know what people were talking about.

I started by using search tools to find people who were Twittering about topics that interested me. I was surprised by the volume of people chiming in. People let loose with whatever is on their minds. They also tweet about what is happening right now. Once I discovered #hashtags, I realized you could follow the conversation about a give topic, often as it was happening. People twitter about events they are at, while they are at them. How else could you get insights from conferences you are not at or get multiple opinions, now? Events now post the #hashtag on their site, just paste in the search window to learn what people are saying.

We also use Twitter for brand monitoring. We quickly find out if a client is having a problem and can respond. We poll people to see how widespread a problem is and allocate resources accordingly. We want our customers to have a good experience with Pheedo.com and we want them to know we are responsive. Twitter is a good way to do so.

I must admit that I am also a little cynical about Twitter. There is a lot of noise, a lot of posting of things I am just not interested in. I actually seldom get directly on Twitter.com. Rather, I use friendfeed.com as an aggregator of all my social media sites. I find this to be much more productive.

My digital center is my blog. This is where I share ideas and content and use syndication tools to distribute it to Facebook, Twitter and so on. For example, Twitterfeed.com converts my blog to an rss feed to my Twitter account. It stays within the 140 character limit and links back to the actual blog.

Mark Ginnebaugh, President of DesignMind
Twitter username: markginnebaugh

What motivated you and how did you get started?

I run several professional groups and was looking for ways to raise awareness and increase attendance at meetings. I also have a blog and wanted to promote it.

I started promoting my events, and within a week got results. People who never heard of our groups started showing up—because they were interested in the topic.

In addition to gaining visibility, I am learning a lot by being on Twitter. I try to only spend about 15 to 20 minutes per day on Twitter but often spend much more. I must warn you that if can be addictive.

If this article motivates you to Twitter, you might want to start following these people (see their Twitter username). If you are already Twittering, please share your insights and stories.

Here is a list of resources to help you use Twitter for business.




John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


  1. John, I always appreciate not just your observations and pinpointing specific elements of communication styles and behaviors on the social web, but these interviews and your helping extract lessons and resources that are of practical benefit from by applying them, will be a great stimulus to business leaders. This is a fine example! Thanks and I look forward to reading your new book.

    Tim Moore

  2. Hey John – this is what the world really needs. Real stories from real people with meaningful “how to” guidance. I trust you started a new wave in the social media space. I hope many will come out and follow your example.

  3. Tim,

    Thanks for your comments. For someone interested in Social Media, my book “Get with it! The Hands-on Guide to Using Web 2.0 in Your Business” is probably a more relevant read. The link is now in my bio.

    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  4. Mike,

    Thanks for the comment. I know you specialize in regional markets. Maybe the humm’ maybe will be come yes when you realize that you can connect directly with people in a local geographical area.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  5. Thanks for a great real-life look at not just why but how business can use Twitter. These stories from actual business users will be very helpful in demonstrating the value of Twitter to all of our clients, I’m sure, and provide yet another endorsement when savvy PR pros include new media in their overall communications strategies.

  6. Gina,

    I am glad you find it useful, that’s the intent. Please add examples of how you use it so the story grows.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  7. Hi John,
    I learned a lot from reading these accounts of real experiences and was heartened to see how the relationship with customers is being deepened …. surprising and absolutely refreshing! One of my clients, RBC, just announced they’re looking at social media (facebook, twitter) to transform the way customers engage with their bank: http://www.itworldcanada.com/Pages/Docbase/ViewArticle.aspx?id=idgml-d3babd65-b6ea-45d7&Portal=4fb7319b-aa7c-423a-822d-2f6e24698c71&sub=1523033

    We’re just peeking the tip of the proverbial iceberg and it’s very exciting to realize there is so much more to come. Thanks so much for this and I’m looking forward to more stories, insights.

  8. Del,

    Thanks for the comments and the link to RBC. I had a problem with the link so track one down with the interview video of Colin McKay. Very nice to see a major bank take such a strong customer experience perspective.


    In my opinion, the main reason businesses should use Twitter and other social media vehicles is to improve customer relationships. Even when they are doing reputation monitoring it should be to improve the customer experience.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  9. I’m in B2B publishing. My readers are busy execs who blast through, and delete mercilessy, any non-essential emails. isn’t twitter really just for end user consumers who want the latest deals on shoes online? btw, i’ve subscribed to a few twitters of my own, none of which, in the weeks I’ve been following them, have provided anything of content or value.

    HELP: What am I missing here?

  10. John:

    Thanks for the post. Great information provided.

    I just got started on Twitter ( http://www.twitter.com/fuzedigital ) and I have a couple questions.

    1. There sure seems to be a lot of mindless tweets from people with tons of followers. For instance: Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, has over 400,000 followers and perpetually makes tweets about absolutely nothing. Seinfeld could make a theme about nothing in particular work, but won’t people eventually lose interest and figure out their time is worth more?

    2. When using an image background, what is the best method to deal with the many resolutions people must be using? Is it best to create an image for a particular resolution?

    Twitter clearly has lots of attention currently and some of it is warranted. I see lots of potential, but I also see tons of time being wasted. Twitter’s reliability, user interface and functionality also leave lots to be desired. It sure would make things a lot easier if our customers had such low expectations 😉

    Enterprise-grade customer care and knowledge sharing without the enterprise price.

  11. M and Cvancourt.

    Think of Twitter like the dial on a radio. There is a lot of noise if you don’t tune into a station. At this point, tuning in on Twitter is as much art as it is science. It can be worth it since you can harness the intelligence of some smart and connected people to feed you new ideas, insights and links. Here are a couple of suggestion.

    Use Tweetdeck (tweetdeck.com) as a dashboard. It let you organize tweets into groups or categories. For example, if there are people you always want to read, put them in one category. Put new people in another until you decide the warrant more than a scan. Organize other groups topically.

    Don’t follow everyone who follows you. I know this goes against the advice that is commonly given. Look at their tweets and if they don’t seem interesting, don’t follow them.

    Focus on finding quality people to follow. When you find someone who tweets on a topic of interest, check through the people he or she follows and select people from that list.

    Check out exectweets.com. This is a fairly new site but is growing. The concept is simple. People nominate executives tweeters to be included. This means that few people are tweeting about hang nails or fur balls.

    People who figure out how to work the system (Twitter)can get a lot out of it without becoming a slave to it.

    Hope this helps.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  12. John:

    Thanks for the tips on filtering tweets. However, you did not answer either of my questions. Do you have any suggestions for me?

    Thanks, Chuck

    Enterprise-grade customer care and knowledge sharing without the enterprise price.

  13. Chuck,

    Yes, people will lose interest in mindless tweets. My suggestion is to use filters to deliberate figure out who you should lose interest in. Quit following people that don’t have anything interesting to say. On the other hand, keep adding people who might. I have 4-5 topics that I want to learn more about and actively find people to follow in those spaces.

    Regarding backgrounds. As yet, I have not set up a custom one but am planning to do so. Here is a link to a site that will get you started: http://www.twitterbacks.com/ . I am going to download one of his psd files to check the resolution and then create my own.

    Hope this helps.


    John I. Todor, Ph.D.

  14. Here’s a humorous piece from NYT interview of Twitter inventors Biz Stone and Evan Williams. One exchange:

    MAUREEN DOWD: I would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account. Is there anything you can say to change my mind?

    BIZ: Well, when you do find yourself in that position, you’re gonna want Twitter. You might want to type out the message “Help.”

    Read the complete interview here.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here