I'm self employed, should I be on Twitter?

This is a question I get asked a lot by my clients and people I meet at networking events.
There is usually some helpful friend who has told them they absolutely MUST sign up for Twitter, as it's great for getting new business, and after all, it's free so it's a no brainer - right?

But the self-employed person looks around guiltily and admits that actually they don't really want to, and in fact find the idea of twitter quite annoying. But so and so says they're not up-to-date if they don't and missing a golden opportunity!

To quote Mr Dylan Moran: 'How can I be any more up to date? I'm alive now. That's pretty current where I'm from.'

The problem is the kind of people who eagerly leapt at the chance of joining Twitter are exactly the kind of people who like to shout a lot about their opinions, whether or not anyone gives a monkey's, and with evidence and fact optional.

On the other hand, Twitter has stupendously improved the careers and exposure of many people and companies; just look at that Fry fellow.

So, to twitter or not?

The somewhat obvious answer is that you should look at it just as you should anything else in your business, with a critical eye and clear, specific objectives.

So the question 'Should I sign up?' is meaningless.

What you should be asking is, 'Will using this tool help me achieve my objectives?'

As with anything you need to look at Return on Investment - ROI (in simple terms this means that the amount you invest in some form of marketing should be less than the gains you get).

Many people say that social networking media is great because it's free. That's only true if you consider your time worthless. If you don't consider your time worthless, then utilising Twitter is most certainly not free.

The real cost of Twittering

To prove my point, let's look at the costs in a bit more detail:

How long does it take to think of a tweet?

This really depends on quality doesn't it? If you want to have something interesting to say, you might have to write an entire blog post to tweet, which could take around an hour, or you could trawl the internet for something useful and tweet that, perhaps getting down to about ten minutes if you're not too fussy about quality.

So let's say an average of 20 minutes per tweet if you're at all concerned about creating quality and not just 'noise' (pointless tweets that clog up people's streams and get on their nerves - usually involving sandwiches).

How often should you tweet?

Stagnant social media is worse than none at all.

If someone does visit your page and discovers that the last action was in 2009, it looks far worse than not having anything it all. It gives the impression you haven't done anything since then (although this is of course probably nonsense) and/or that you start things that you can't finish. Is that the impression you want out in the public domain?

So how many tweets is a good number?

The twitteratti says 'the sweet spot for tweets/day is between 10 and 20.'

If we take even around half of the lowest number and go for six tweets a day, at 20 mins per tweet, you're looking at TWO HOURS PER DAY of work. Would you like to multiply that by your hourly rate? Let's take a fairly modest hourly rate of £20 per hour. At that rate, Twitter would have to supply you with around £800 of work per month in order for you to just break even.

The summary for self employed Twitter virgins

The fact is you may find a way to Twitter without it infringing too much on your day - it depends what your day already consists of, but the principle is simple:

Work out how many new customers / contracts you need to get and monitor how long you spend Twittering (or predict how much you might). Do the sums and you'll be able to work out if Twitter is an asset or a drain.

Even if the maths works out, make sure you'll really be able to keep it up - if you're not going to be able to maintain a regular, quality presence, it's not worth giving yourself a headache trying to.

So don't be a twit, think it through and make an informed decision, don't just join the queue because there's already a load of people in it.

I welcome any feedback, particularly success stories of work and clients gained through Twitter, and an estimation of the amount of hours it took to pay off.

Sentiva are a Leeds Web Design company. Why not check out our website? We make websites, mobile apps, desktop applications and SEO miracles.