- The Washington Times - Monday, April 20, 2009

Can we “Tweet” our way to wealth, fame, success … even the Oval Office? A “Tweet,” of course, is the 140-character message sent by devotees of Twitter.com, an online microblogging service that has caught on with millions of people. Actor Ashton Kutcher is in a race to get 1 million people “following” him via the online service.

The 2008 U.S. presidential campaigns, for better or for worse, used Twitter; there’s already an “@ObamaBiden2012” Twitter feed up and running. You can also can follow “@Sarah_Palin” and the Alaska governor’s political action committee, if you desire.

However, Warren Whitlock, a marketing entrepreneur in Las Vegas, isn’t out to change the political landscape with Twitter. He wants to make authors famous — “best-selling” writers even — and then help them capitalize on that fame via speaking engagements and the like.

In the book world, noted agent and Christian book editor W. Terry Whalin calls it “building a platform,” and Mr. Whitlock might be the Home Depot Inc. of that genre. His latest book, co-authored with Deborah Micek, is “Twitter Revolution: How Social Media and Mobile Marketing Is Changing the Way We Do Business & Market Online,” published by Xeno Press.

Thousands already follow Mr. Whitlock’s “tweets” and Facebook messages — he has over 4,300 Facebook friends and 30,000 total Twitter followers, roughly 50 percent more than Mrs. Palin’s PAC. From there, his imperatives can sometimes go viral, sending a book on business credit or human relations or marketing up the Amazon.com sales charts. Be a No. 1 best-selling author on Amazon for even one day and your cachet is enhanced, the thinking goes.

For Mr. Whitlock, it’s all built on trust: “Today, we want to buy from people that we know, like and trust,” he said in a telephone interview. He builds that trust by offering free tips and audio recordings of how-to strategies as well as e-mail newsletters.

“It really is, I believe, when I let go of ‘How can I sell more and where can I find those people to serve?’ [that] it all turned around for me,” he added. “The principles I’m talking about are nothing new, but the technology has gotten so good. I can maintain a loose, friendly relationship with thousands or millions of people.”

This kind of marketing — building online communities — is catching on. Former marketing executive David Meerman Scott’s newest book, “World Wide Rave” (Wiley), is all about the concept of getting people excited — when they are online — about your company or product — or candidate — wherever in the world they might be. Mr. Scott’s enthusiasm is so infectious and his message so persuasive that if you’re not an acolyte of his methods by the time you finish, check to see if you still have a pulse.

Jennifer Leggio, a marketing-communications pro in Silicon Valley and “social business blogger” for ZDNet.com, advises that there’s potential — and pitfalls — in pursuing dollars 140 characters at a time.

“There’s absolutely an opportunity for an individual or company to build relationships that help them become more successful as opposed to some other social methods,” Ms. Leggio said in an April 13 interview. However, she adds, “If anyone used Twitter solely as a get-rich-quick scheme or thinks it’s a surefire way to make money, they’re misguided.” Twitter isn’t just an “outbound” strategy — you should listen to what your customer base is saying, she noted.

Mr. Whitlock mentioned, for example, that Comcast Corp. will respond to subscriber complaints via Twitter and won’t “let go” until the problem is resolved.

Ms. Leggio adds that, “for some reason, the Twitter audience is more discerning than other audiences. If you come across as only being there to sell, that’s the minute you’ll start to lose your audience.”

Follow me on Twitter, @Mark_Kellner, or e-mail [email protected]

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