Ask an Expert: Should entrepreneurs Twitter? Uh, no

BySteve Strauss for USA TODAY
April 6, 2009, 3:21 AM

— -- Q: Should I Twitter? — Zoe

A: To quote my favorite law school teacher, the cranky and brilliant Judge James Adams — "The answer is ... No!"

Yes, I know, Twitter is all the rage. Everyone is either tweeting or talking about it or following someone, and so yes, I get that Twitter is the flavor of the month. But know what else I know? Sometimes you don't want or don't need the flavor of the month; sometimes you need chocolate or vanilla. Sometimes newer isn't better.

Here are four reasons why your small business should not Twitter:

1. You are in business:Yours is not a club, or a group, or a sorority, or a party. Yours is a business. And the business of your business is to sell products or offer services that people want at prices they are willing to pay. You have to impress them, offer them value (especially today), and deliver on your promises.

But what you don't have to do is be their friend. Sure, some customers are friends. That's great. But that is not the purpose of your business.

Now, I am not saying Tweeting is wrong for every business. For the right type of business it is probably great. But for many, probably most small businesses, it is a little too much, a little too friendly, in fact

2. It offers just too much information:Do people really want to know what you are doing at 3:47 tomorrow afternoon, what you are thinking, who you are meeting?

Excuse me, but is this not incredibly self-indulgent?

Since when did the rules of business change to dictate that your customers have to be so incredibly engaged in your business?

I recently read that Twitter is great for business because it allows people to keep in close touch with what is really going on with Company X.

Who cares? Do you? I know I don't.

Look, I came too late to the whole blogging thing, thinking it was a passing fad. OK, I missed that one. And no one loves the potential of the online world more than me. But that said, there is a limit, or should be, to how much people should know about your business. Do people really want to follow the minutiae of your business? Do you want to know the trivia of some other small business?

And that leads to another problem, namely

3. It requires too much time:When you tweet, or follow someone's tweets, that means you are not doing something else. If you are on Twitter for fun, great, but if you are on there to drum up business you better be darn sure that it is going to pay off, because it is not a quick indulgence.

• Twitter takes time to learn, and to learn how to make it work

• It takes time to for trial and error to play out

• It takes time to build a following

Most of all, it takes time to tweet and post as you have to do it consistently to make any splash at all.

Of course all of these new e-tools are fantastic, but it is equally true that you need not embrace every new one that comes along. Sometimes, in times like these especially, you need to focus on what is tried and true.

I often tell new entrepreneurs that, while the wild new idea can be great and can make you a category killer, for the vast majority of new small businesses, it is better to follow than to lead. That is, starting a business that has been successfully started before often makes more sense than trying something altogether new. People know what to expect from a florist; they don't know what a Flemish design consultant does. Be safe, not sorry.

The same idea may be true here. Your time and money are precious assets right now. Use them wisely.

And that leads to the final point

4. What can you say in 140 characters? That's the Twitter limit, and that pretty much means any tweet will be personal. A business tweet would necessarily have to be longer than that to be of any use, so what's the use?

Embrace technology sure, but keep your eye on the ball.

Today's tip:Want to save those trips to the post office for stamps, Express Mail, etc.? Then check out, a great site that allows you to load funds and print postage, as well as mailing and shipping labels, for any mail class offered by the Postal Service — all from your own computer and printer.

Ask an Expert appears Mondays. You can e-mail Steve Strauss at: you can click here to see previous columns. Steven D. Strauss is a lawyer, author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship. His latest book is The Small Business Bible. You can sign up for his free newsletter, "Small Business Success Secrets!" at his website —

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