Home Marketing & Media Tweet me, don’t sheet me: Anthill’s Twitter feed has more followers than...

Tweet me, don’t sheet me: Anthill’s Twitter feed has more followers than the UK’s Guardian Newspaper


I am occasionally criticised for not injecting more of my daily life into Anthill’s Twitter feed. But I’ve never felt that any of my personal moments would offer any real value to our readers (despite my many narcissistic tendencies).

For example, on the weekend, my wife asked if I could purchase some flowers for the house, as she was expecting guests. I dutifully picked up an orange bunch from a local florist that I thought mirrored the aesthetics of our humble abode.

Buoyed with the expectation loving gratitude, I bounded into the living room, only to be abruptly stopped in my tracks by the following remark:

“What!? Gerberas… They are so 1990s”

While I should have felt insulted (I’d gone out well out of my way to buy the things), my anger was, instead, almost instantaneously replaced by an uncontrollable desire to ‘laugh my arse off’ (to quote our visiting Canadian friends), coupled with an almost equally compulsive need to tweet about it.

Yet, I didn’t.

Today, I discovered that my restraint was most probably worth the effort.

Twitter as a news feed

At Anthill, we’re big fans of US blogger Mark Potts and his site Recovering Journalist. It’s not for everyone, but it keeps us informed about the changing expectations around media’s role in a digital world.

Potts describes the use of Twitter as a news feed as an obvious “slamdunk” for most media organisations (“it’s just a great headline distribution medium”), yet notes that some are not are using Twitter well, citing the following list:

New York Times: 1,993,474
Time: 1,670,519
NPR Politics: 1,585,066
Breaking News Online: 1,325,832
CBS News: 1,286,393
Newsweek: 925,910
ABCNews: 787,833
CNN: 547,785
HuffingtonPost: 247,841
ESPN: 180,473
NPR News: 130,433
Fox News: 107,818
Wall Street Journal: 99,291
Reuters: 43,886
MSNBC Breaking: 36,228
WashingtonPost: 34,556
Google News: 24,576
Politico: 22,089
YahooNews: 4,004
Guardian: 2,729
AP: 1,552

This list, featuring a random choice of market leaders, triggers two observations:

  1. Anthill has more Twitter followers than YahooNews, the Guardian and AP (Yipee! Or they each might have multiple Twitter feeds?)
  2. The leading media brands have been infiltrated by a startup

With respect to my second observation, I’m not talking about Anthill (we’re not on his list). Rather, check out number four, Breaking News Online.

According to Potts, Breaking News Online is an:

“…upstart Twitter-only news headline service that has muscled its way near the top of this list, with more than 1.3 million followers.

Run by a 19-year-old Dutch entrepreneur, Michael van Poppel, BNO has become an invaluable neutral source for news headlines as soon as they happen.”

He also references a news article by PaidContent, with the headline, “Hey Media Company. Buy BNO News. Now. Really.” (for obvious reasons) and commends Poppel’s crew for their seemingly “pitch-perfect news sense, which is essential for any good headline service”.

There’s obviously a big lesson in this for any business owner or marketer wanting to use Twitter for business.

Twitter as a business tool

Much has been written about using Twitter for business purposes. Most of it is nonsense, focusing on unsolicited DMs, product messages and a gazillion tools to artificially inflate your followers. (Did someone say inflate? It’s Viagra all over again!)

Of course, why would anyone sign up for an information feed simply created to blast advertisements at them all day long?

Well, some people do. And quite happily.

In a mashable article posted earlier today, Jennifer Van Grove cites the hyper-tweeting, multi-account-managing Guy Kawasaki as someone who might be able to explain why.

According to Kawasaki, Twitter is moving away from just the personal, “we chatter,” and becoming heavily used by brands. But not as you might expect, or indeed, as the Twitter founders could ever have conceived.

He references kogiBBQ, California-based Korean BBQ Taco Truck, which stays connected with its dedicated customers by dispatching constant tweets to its followers about its location, traffic conditions and funny customer experiences.

To its followers (its passionate customers), these tweets aren’t unwelcome spam but items of helpful information.

In another example (perhaps more closer to home), a business consultant, brand agent, PR professional or any other form of knowledge provider might wish to embrace a similar approach (as many already have), devising items of interest to their target audiences, tweeting these alongside third-party articles, selectively chosen from other media outlets, equally likely to excite prospective customers.

These ‘tweeters for business’ have adopted the marketing philosophy of ‘teach, don’t preach’, ‘tell, don’t sell’, ‘itch, don’t pitch’.

We can now safely add, ‘Tweet, don’t sheet’.

And that’s the golden rule, the difference between welcome ‘Twitter for business’ messages and frustrating, feed-clogging spam:

If the information is helpful, people will follow.

Unfortunately, the dominant modus operandi adhered to by most first-time ‘tweeters for business’ is as follows:

If you tweet, they will come.


Breaking News Online is a startup news company with an audience that clearly rivals those of the big traditional news sites on Twitter. It also now has an iPhone app that sells for $1.99—plus a 99-cent-per-month subscription fee.

It has used Twitter to create a passionate, dedicated audience and, in doing so, has created a business.

This has been the evolution of the internet, email and blogs.

What was once just a place for conversation among friends has evolved into a vehicle where brands can set up shop and drive real business, so long as they continue to treat their audience with the same respect that they would… their friends.

So, next time you find yourself poised over that submit button, ask yourself, is what you’re about to say of value to your prospective customer? Is it helpful? Do you have anything else to add that might excite your target market?

Because if you don’t, you’ll find yourself with no followers faster than you can say, ‘Twat the!?’