Social networking is a boon for small businesses and entrepreneurs, but it is not without its pitfalls, as Nikki Vlijoen discovered when she first experienced the information-rich streams of Twitter.

For the last couple of years now, I have been listening to all the hype about “Twitter” and “Tweeting” and “Tweets” and so on. Actually, now that I think about it, my technophobia aside – I really do love technology. I love the world that it opens up to me. The fact that I am not sure how the technical side of things works doesn’t really phase me at all. I do know that “Twitter” is another form of international communication and what I really love about it is that it allows me to put a one-liner up which will drive a considerable number of people to my website.

For example, on a daily basis I tweet “Today’s Blog” (and then the title of the blog), add the url address of my website and that’s it. Looking at the statistics afterwards shows me exactly how many people come and visit my website and they usually stay for a while and look around. How do I know this? Well, the stats show that the average time anyone spends on my website is in excess of 5 minutes. My website is very content-rich with loads of information that pertains mostly to SMME’s (small, medium, micro enterprise), entrepreneurs and start-ups, but actually in general to everyone. The information is presented in bite-sized chunks with my own brand of humour, and I know that many have not only learnt something but have also enjoyed a chuckle whilst doing so – and that’s always a bonus.

I also know that when I started the whole ‘twitter’ scenario, I was addicted. I couldn’t get enough of the site. I found myself standing in a queue and instead of reading my book (which is what I used to do), I would be logging onto the site via my phone to see who had posted what tweets – it was an exciting time of information overload. Back at the office, I found myself logging onto the site at every opportunity and found myself going from one site to the other as I devoured all the information that others had so thoughtfully found and shared with me.

Reality hit me really hard one day, when I got up and it was still dark outside. I did the daily things that are routine to me and immediately logged onto the site. During the course of the day, I felt hungry and thirsty but every time I wanted to get up and get something to eat or drink, I found myself caught up in whatever it was that I was reading and thought ‘As soon as I finish this article I will go and get (insert food or drink here)’. Of course I got so involved that getting something to eat or drink just never happened.

After what seemed like a couple of hours, not long at all, I suddenly realized that it had gone very dark and I thought it must be because there was going to be a Highveld storm. One of those that we are famous for, when suddenly the thick black clouds come over and then the rain comes down in sheets for about 10 minutes, and then the sun comes out to play again? Sadly it wasn’t! What it was, was the onset of night – in fact it was after 7pm. I had sat in front of my computer playing on twitter and going from site to side from around 5.30am to after 7pm without eating or drinking anything. Needless to say, no work had been done for the day either and I gave myself a helluva fright.

The solution to the problem was clear: I went out and bought myself one of those oven timer clocks and limited my use of twitter to 15 minutes a day. When the clock alarm goes off, it doesn’t matter where I am and what I am reading, I have to close the site down! Addictive it is, and I am not the only one to say this either!

Nikki is an Internal Auditor and Business Administration Specialist who can be contacted on 083 702 8849 or nikki@viljoenconsulting.co.za or http://www.viljoenconsulting.co.za

This article was published on Women Inc, the complete resource for the working woman. Women Inc offers articles on entrepreneurship, management, personal effectiveness and issues beyond the workplace (www.womeninc.co.za).

Small Business Forum

The Small Business Forum is an independent network of entrpreneurs and small business owners established to encourage and support the creation, growth and development of small business in South Africa.

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