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Twitter: Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Mark Frauenfelder (up!) and Seth Godin (down!) weigh in.
May 14, 2010
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/206666

To the Twitter holdouts: You're not alone. Only one in five small-business owners actively uses social media, reveals a recent survey by the University of Maryland's Smith School of Business. And although Twitter is growing, the pace is slowing.

So should you sign on or stay off? Here's what two experts have to say about tweeting and business.

Sign On
Mark Frauenfelder, founder of the popular blog boingboing.net, says Twitter is valuable for every small business: "It's a way to connect directly with people in an informal atmosphere where they're not afraid to provide feedback. You can float ideas you can't anywhere else."

And that means you won't need to spend on a market research firm or focus group, since you start with people who want a conversation with you, who ask interesting questions and who can make you think about what you're doing with your company.

Entrepreneurs have a natural advantage on Twitter, he says. "People with entrepreneurial spirit are so interested in creating a fascinating life for themselves, they would have less trouble creating a compelling story than someone who's a cog in a machine."

But like anything, you'll get back what you put into it. If you spend 30 seconds to write, "Look at my new product," that won't work. What you tweet will be judged by the number of times you're re-tweeted and the number of people who follow you. If what you're doing is worthwhile, your appropriate audience will find you. Says Frauenfelder, "It's a very meritocratic form of media."

He would know.

His recent friends-to-followers ratio on @Frauenfelder is 150 to 9,391. And @BoingBoing's is 12 to 39,708.

Mark Frauenfelder's top 10 Twitter feeds

@xenijardin No surprise here--Jardin is a friend and business partner. "She captures the zeitgeist of the online world like no one else."

@jackshafer Slate's editor at large is "a must-read for media hounds."

@stevesilberman The longtime Wired journalist, for articles and ideas.

@billbarol For a seasoned journalist's take on the news.

@gretchenrubin The author of The Happiness Project offers links to research on mood and well-being.

@timoreilly The most popular noncelebrity on Twitter and a rapid-fire retweeter of sci-tech links.

@KBAndersen Kurt Andersen for a clever take on politics and entertainment.

@chr1sa Chris Anderson, Wired's editor in chief, for interesting people and tech-related news.

@bruces Bruce Sterling, sci-fi writer and futurist, for curmudgeonly observations.

@klustout Kristie Lu Stout, the CNN International anchor, sends bursts of interesting world news.



Sign Off
"Don't even get me started on Twitter," marketing expert Seth Godin writes in his latest book, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? Some--or rather, a few--use Twitter in a way that amplifies their work, but the rest of us? "It's perfect resistance, because it's never done. There's always a few hundred more tweets to keep up with," he says. "It can become a very unhealthy and distracting addiction."

Twitter isn't good or bad, but it's a tool that takes more skill and time than most people have. Godin counts himself among them. "The time I'd have to invest and the amplification of anonymous feedback I receive would both detract from my goal to use the tools I currently have as well as I can," Godin says in an interview. "I don't see a way to use Twitter properly and still do the work I do at the level I'd like to do it. So rather than use it halfway, I decided not to use it at all."

He's not kidding. His personal account-- @sethgodin --is a placeholder to deter copycats from assuming his name. His @ThisIsSethsBlog account isn't much more than a feed with links to his latest blog posts. No, he doesn't follow anyone, but he doesn't have to. He's got more than 30,000 followers.

Seth Godin, on anything but Twitter To hear more of Godin on business and entrepreneurship, check out Entrepreneur.com's exclusive video at entm.ag/dDkfdv.