The Twitter Experiment

Experiments rarely tell us what we expect. That's the dirty secret of science.  -Kevin Dunbar, Director of the Laboratory For Complex Thinking and Reasonsing, University of Toronto, Scarborough
I began using Twitter in late September of this year, largely as an experiment.  There were two primary motivators for the experiment.  First, my partners and I were curious about using social media for business development purposes.  Second, being quantitative people, we thought we might generate some interesting data - average tweets per day, click-through rates, and such.  I volunteered to head up the experiment, and set up Twitter accounts for myself and a colleague.  I searched for people I already knew who were using Twitter (only a handful), followed them, and began looking for interesting things to tweet.

I started the experiment with no clear idea of how Twitter could be used for business development.  My initial thought was that I could use Twitter to stay in touch with contacts I had already made (certainly an important aspect of business development).  But I didn't think it would be possible to develop new business relationships within the context of 140 characters.

My initial hypotheses proved to be incorrect.  I was developing new relationships and engaging people nationwide in conversation.  I broke 100 followers on November 17; at this time I began to recognize the networking potential of Twitter around this same time.  My efforts then became focused on building a large network of "real" followers whose areas of expertise overlapped with my own.

I began searching for tips and how-to ideas on building a Twitter network; there was no shortage of tips.  I came across an interesting link posted by one of my Twitter 'friends'- the link pointed to a networking system for Twitter that had been successful for her.  I decided to try it out as Phase II of my experiment.  I implemented it on December 7, and my 'quality followers' increased significantly.  The following graph shows the number of my followers for the last three months (through December 27).

The system - Genesis Rocket - was designed by Ashley Morgan.  I only use some of the suggestions in the system.  For example, one suggestion is to automate tweeting of relevant content.  I prefer not to automate my content, and I choose the content for every one of my tweets (@sthomas_eea).  But there are some excellent suggestions on fully utilizing the networking abilities of Twitter, and these suggestions have been effective for me.  If you're interested, more information about Genesis Rocket can be found here:

The Twitter Experiment has proven fruitful.  I have connected with a lot of interesting people whose areas of expertise overlap with mine.  I've never been more up-to-date on news items and recent developments in my field.  I'm engaging people in conversations about employment law, and sharing insights on how statistics can play a role.  I've even generated some new business leads from these conversations.  The upshot of the Twitter Experiment is that Twitter can be a very powerful networking tool; but like many things, you get out of it what you put in to it.