Some time over the weekend, I hit a significant milestone in my use of social networks. I sent my 12000th public tweet on Twitter!

Twitter _ trib-1.jpg This marks a pretty significant point. My 18 months of steady Twitter use, and nearly two years of membership (I joined in November ’06) accompanies the birth and emergence of this site in its current incarnation and of acidlabs as a business entity in its own right. So, as a logical next step (at least in my mind), let’s look at how I’m deriving value from Twitter. It must be fulfilling some need, as I’ve obviously invested some time in it.

I’ve covered some of this before, but I’ll not let that stop me:

  • Twitter has connected me to literally hundreds of people around the world whom I otherwise would have never met (virtually or physically). A somewhat larger group choose to listen in on what I have to say.
  • I have physically met well over one hundred of those in my Twitter network at various conferences around Australia and in the USA.
  • I have found and been offered speaking opportunities at a number of events (some of them paid. Real money, even!).
  • I have generated a significant amount of income for acidlabs through leads that have come from Twitter. My last three clients have come directly from leads on Twitter and nowhere else.
  • I have advertised for, located and hired staff for clients through Twitter, just ask Scott and the guys at Happener!
  • As someone who is naturally introverted, Twitter affords me the opportunity to engage in small talk that might challenge me in a face-to-face situation. It’s a very comfortable medium for me.
  • As a solo consultant, I often work alone. Twitter connects me to a vast water cooler of colleagues I would otherwise not have the chance to talk to. These people are those I bounce ideas off, ask questions of and answer their questions in return.
  • Twitter is a far more powerful and reliable search engine than Google or Mahalo can ever be. Why? Trust. I trust implicitly any person who chooses to @ answer a question I pose. I filter, of course, but the trust is still there.

I’m not convinced of the value of Twitter as a tool for internal, business use. There’s too much potential risk for exposure of sensitive information (even in 140 characters). However, I do think that an equivalent like Laconica or Yammer provide equivalent value for internal functions.

On the other hand, as one of several channels for reaching out to and listening to your public, brands, businesses, politicians and other public entities should be using Twitter. Now.

This approach is already working for several notable brands including Comcast through Frank Eliason, DELL, Southwest Airlines, Zappos and others. It’s also working for an increasing number of politicians using Twitter to make announcement and even to listen to their constituents – leading lights include Number 10 Downing Street (which uses social media in a number of interesting ways), Tom Watson from the UK, Texas Republican, John Culberson and Australia’s Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

If you’re not convinced, read my friend Laura Fitton’s great post, Twitter is my Village. And if you want some psychological backing, check out another friend’s work – Matthew Hodgson.

Twitter is a key tool in my daily work. I rely on it as much as or more than my phone. How about you? How are you using Twitter? Where’s the value in it for you?