Tom Mangan's twitter pageThis week I inked my first client directly attributable to Twitter, the mini-blogging service that mystifies pretty much everybody except those who know how to make it work for them. The trouble with Twitter is that its advantages are not intuitive until you start fiddling around with the service. Here’s what I did:

1) Went local: I built a list of people in the Piedmont Triad who are active Twitter users.

2) Kicked it up a notch: I built a Paper.Li page devoted to all the news those Twitter users generate. I set it up to generate a tweet every time the page is updated: this gets me noticed among many local Twitter users because the Paper.Li page “mentions” several people every day; and my page shows up in those users’ “mention” list, which let’s ’em know I’m out there.

3) Went hunting: I went looking for local writers, editors and people in the publicity game who might be in the market for my wares (editing, writing, blogging, etc) and started following all their Twitter streams.

4) Made a connection: One who followed me back was Lindsey Lohr Cox, who posts under the handle @thenormalmiddle. One day a couple months back she posted a tweet asking if anybody could do a quick WordPress site for her. I sent her a direct message saying “sure, let’s talk.”

5) Got it done: Somehow she missed the first message, but noticed it this week. We exchanged more e-mails, chatted on the phone, and I had her new site up and running in a couple days.

Twitter is so rampant with people trying to pitch stuff that most pitches get tuned out. In this case I made no pitch of any kind; I just said “hey let’s talk”; potential client looked at my blogs and figured I had the chops to deliver.

I’ll tell you about a promising pitch that didn’t pan out: One of my followers was the head of copywriting for a major outdoor-gear manufacturer (if you’ve bought anything at REI, you probably have some of their wares). I pitched an idea to write blog posts for the company and they were like, “sure, as long as you don’t expect to be paid.” Writing for free wasn’t happening, so I asked my contact if they needed any other writing chores done.

Turns out they had a big project coming up that was going to require freelance writing. They asked me to submit a proposal, which I dutifully turned in, and then, as I fully expected, they hired somebody local they’d worked with before.

I learned something critical from these two experiences: if you’re pitching on Twitter, your skills must be compatible with your pitchee, and you must have demonstrated proof that you can deliver. Somebody wants a basic blog built; I have ample proof I can do that. Outdoor Giant X had no proof I could deliver on their writing project.

Of course all pitches are this way, I suppose, but the key to Twitter is that it’s a social product — it’s about building personal connections with people. Pitching people whose needs aren’t compatible with what you give is a waste of a lot more than 140 keystrokes.

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