The rap star, 50 Cent, is a lot richer this week, thanks to Twitter. Indeed, he is almost $10m better off just because he sent out a single Tweet. All he did was say that a company in which he has a substantial share investment was worth buying stock in. Over 9m shares were traded in the firm within the next 24 hours. One Tweet, one massive rise in the value of a business from 4 cents a share to a closing price of 39 cents a share. Not bad for less than 140 characters.

Rap star 50 CentSetting aside whether or not this is acceptable practice within the rules of stock exchanges, it does demonstrate the immense power of Twitter. Many business owners doubt the value of this social network; all they see is people saying they’ve just eaten a cheese sandwich, or that they are on a train. Hardly seems the stuff of business. And a pop icon simply saying he reckons buying shares in a headphone manufacturer seems like a good idea, is also not what many business people see as valuable. It is after all only the opinion of someone who is not a financial expert; it is a financial tip from a former drug dealer.

But it clearly had an impact. The reason is simple; it was social. The Tweet was not business-like – it was merely the kind of thing you’d say to your mates down the pub. And this is the problem many business owners appear to have with Twitter. It’s biggest impact on business is when you are NOT talking about business. The companies and organisations making money via Twitter are the ones who are not using it in a business-like way. Strange but true.

Over the last few weeks I’ve been conducting my own personal experiment on Twitter. Here’s what I did. For the past month or so, I’ve not been using Twitter for anything other than automated Tweets announcing my blog posts and other content on this website. I stopped doing anything social; chit-chat ended, so did conversations and statements, like “I’m in Birmingham”. Then I sat, watched and monitored my web traffic and looked closely at my analytics.

Compared with the same period of time a year ago, when I did use Twitter in a conversational and social way, my website traffic fell significantly. Remember, I changed nothing else. I still blogged, I still added to forums, I still used other social networks and I still promoted my website as usual. The only difference was my reduction in the social side of the use of Twitter. I was still present on Twitter, but as a “business” rather than as a person. That one change affected my ranking on Alexa, it reduced the number of website visitors I received and at the same time the number of phone calls I got also went down. As they say in the USA, “do the math”.

My web traffic was almost half of what it was in the same few weeks a year ago. The traffic from Twitter plummeted – even though my blog posts were Tweeted, I got significantly fewer clicks to my blog when I stopped being social and personal.

I’ve chatted this through with some other social media users, like Ant Hodges and Nigel Morgan. They agreed that their own website traffic gets a boost when they are social and conversational on Twitter. They added that when businesses focus on being business-like on Twitter the impact of the social network is significantly reduced in terms of traffic.

My little bit of evidence suggests that using Twitter to simply send out routine, automated Tweets is the way to failure. Meanwhile, success with Twitter is achieved by using it to have pub-like chats. Do that – just like Rap Star 50 Cent did – and you could be a whole lot better off, both in terms of website traffic and cash.

But what my personal study also shows is that using Twitter socially is actually ESSENTIAL to getting traffic to my websites – and then on to buy things from me,

It’s about time you started Tweeting about the sandwiches you are eating…!


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