One of the best definitions I ever heard of Twitter is that it's a living Rolodex that responds to you. The other day I put this definition to the test.
We (flyte new media) finally gave up on a contractor we had been trying to work with. He had stopped returning calls and emails with any regularity and when he did respond it was in the dead of night so we couldn't ask any follow up questions. Two key projects were overdue and the clients were understandably frustrated.
To make matters worse, one of the two unfinished projects was a Cold Fusion job and we had no backup Cold Fusion programmer. So I jumped on Twitter.
12:12 PM Jan 29th from TweetDeck
That was the tweet that went out. Within half an hour I had about eight people responding to me and at least one person who had "retweeted" me, pushing my request to other groups of people who wouldn't have seen my initial request.
Some of these people followed me on Twitter, meaning that my tweets appear in their timeline, others probably had a search set up on "cold fusion" or "programmer" to be alerted every time someone tweeted on these topics.
Out of those eight programmers I followed up with a few, getting resumés and references. I chose one and she pounded out the job before the end of the weekend. Client was ecstatic, and bacon was saved.
Although I had a moment of hesitation--putting our already damaged reputation in the hands of a programmer I had never worked with--I only waivered for a moment.
That was because this programmer had her reputation to consider. Unlike my previous programmer, she couldn't hide behind unreturned phone calls and emails. She was out there on Twitter (and, as I discovered, Facebook and LinkedIn.) She had an online reputation that she had nurtured and built up. If she were to bail on this project it might come back to haunt her.
As I was sharing this story with a friend this weekend, the friend told me that this was similar to living in a small village where everyone knows everyone else. You can't shirk your responsibilities because there's no hiding.
And although the metaphor isn't exact, because you could always rebuild another "personality" on Twitter, that would take time and energy. It's easier to just maintain your reputation with solid work and good customer service.
Hopefully I won't have to turn to Twitter for help in another emergency like this, but it's nice to know it's there if I do.