Business – Twitter: can it replace ‘real life’ business support?

Reading Twitter, it’s easy to imagine that the power of positive thinking is all you need to get you through tough times. There are so many life coaches, networking gurus, social media marketing experts and motivational speakers tweeting endlessly about how fabulous life is, I’m at a bit of a loss as to how all of them can be making a serious living! If in fact they are.

I say this as almost everyone ‘real’ that I know is still finding business extremely tough at the moment. My property colleagues (and me!)are still battling against the banks and feeling the squeeze tighter every day, with very little room for manoeuvring and zero other options out there; shops and traders are seeing even fewer pounds rolling out of shoppers’ purses; independents are just about getting through by forming new alliances and trying radical marketing, helped by more people, hearteningly, opting to buy from local traders and supporting small business, but basic cash flow remains very tight; and sole traders, well, could life be any more challenging, with people and companies cutting budgets on everything from alternative therapies to delivery guys, image consultants to outside catering, handymen services to hair styling.

I wonder whether the businesses and traders out there who make stuff, deliver stuff and sell stuff just too busy to Tweet, or is it simply irrelevant to them as they fight to maintain their businesses? Are the Twitterers who tweet every five minutes really, as one delegate at Raw2010 said, simply ’empty vessels making the most noise’?

On an anecdotal level, I know at least 2 people on Twitter who are absolute fruitcakes bordering on dangerous to know (you would avoid them like the plague in real life) but they’ve mastered the art of sounding proactive, enthusiastic and sparklingly positive in just 140 characters and are thriving in the Twitter community.

That said, I’ve also made some incredibly valuable and exciting contacts through Twitter, and talked to people I would never have talked to otherwise. Moreover real jobs have come from it, resulting in real money in the bank.

What’s sparked off this mini rant is that I was asked for help today from a young friend and the email made me feel simultaneously sad and angry:

Dear Sian
I was wondering if I could ask for your help on something?  ……. contracts will be ending this month……… I cannot afford to lose the money or the momentum that my business is now gaining.  If you hear of anything, will you let me know?
I have come too far to give up now, so if you hear of anything or think of anything, let me know.
I had a bit of a cry this morning…I am so passionate about this.  I can’t let it all go now!

Sad because I know how dedicated to success the person is, how passionate about her business, and it’s easy to read the fear in the words. Angry because it’s simple greed and negligence which has allowed our economy to crumble and fail hard working people like her.

So, a cry for help. Could she have put this on Twitter. No, I don’t think she or the majority of Twitter users would have dreamt of it. Why? Because being negative or showing weakness (i.e being honest!) isn’t considered good for business. Because most people building a new business or brand are worried about seeming weak or financially unstable. Because its maybe becoming a little too much about telling people how great you are so they want to be your follower, no-one wants to follow a whiney loser. Isn’t it daft. And this why  I can’t and Twitter shouldn’t be considered the be all and end all – people still need to foster, nurture and cherish solid contacts, people who know you and like you, people who will stand by you in good times or bad, who have seen you whoop with delight and cry in despair, and who will pick you up when you fall.

I don’t think you can be a true friend or a mentor on Twitter. It definitely requires a hot chocolate. Or a gin. And not a virtual one.

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