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?