If you’d asked me at the beginning of this year – what do you think of Twitter? My answer would have been… “Twitter, Twatter, Schmitter, Schmatter – what a complete waste of time!” I thought it was just for kids or people that wanted to play at business, had too much time on their hands and nothing better to do – I was seriously cynical to put it mildly.

Through all I’ve discovered and experienced in the last few months, I’ve had a complete change of heart and mind. When I ask many business owners if they’re using social media as part of their marketing mix and they’ll reply… “Oh yes, we’re on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, but we don’t get much from it”. They’ve recognized that social networking is an area they should be involved in. They know there are lots of people joining in… and so they’ve signed up… at that’s it.

Recently Whilst I was talking with Mark Shaw an internationally recognized Twitter expert he mentioned Costa Coffee as a company that highlights why turning up is simply not enough… Intrigued, I searched for them on Twitter.

Here’s a screen shot I took on 22nd August 2010. At 3.23pm on Oct 11th 2008 – they proudly announce, “We’ve finally arrived on Twitter”. And that’s it – not another word, no effort, no conversation.

You can see from the screen shot, they have over 1300 people that have actively found them and want to follow them.They wanted to hear from them, maybe buy from them.

What an opportunity wasted. Come on Costa Coffee… there are literally millions of people each and every day talking about Coffee, you should be a part of that conversation. They should be listening to their customers, and then looking for ways to add value, answering questions, and generally engaging with them… building relationships.

This is not the lottery; buy a ticket and cross your fingers.

Twitter like so many other social media platforms is content driven. Nothing will happen by just having an account and that’s where many business fail with social networking. You need to “listen” and join in conversations. But who has time to sit and “tweet” all day long? That was always my hang up… I certainly didn’t have time.

However, I’ve learnt to tame the beast. There are so many “tools” most of them free, that can really make this technology work for you. But it’s not about the technology – it’s about the people.

Consider this; People use Google to find information. Nowadays they use social networking to find the people with the knowledge. What specialist knowledge do you have about your product or service that you should be sharing? Remember – this is social networking – not social selling. Get this right and all you need to do is allow people to buy from you.

Over the last few months I’ve been running free courses called “what’s all the fuss about”, to introduce businesses owners to the incredible power of this phenomena that is social networking. I’ve also put together a “hands on” follow up course where we take people from zero to… well… almost hero, in a day. Are you using Social Media effectively for your business? If you know you should be, but don’t know where to start or have just not got your head around it yet – call me.