Is Twitter Stupid?

Without even getting into politics, there are many controversial things in the world today, and Twitter is one of them (albeit one that’s relatively innocuous).

I was an early adapter of Twitter in 2008, although I did join the then-new social media platform kicking and screaming. Some of the concerns I had back then are still being voiced today, including:

  • I don’t care what other people eat for breakfast.
  • I need more social media in my life like I need a hole in the head.

If you are a Twitter hater—or someone who thinks Twitter is just stupid, or pointless, or a waste of time—I invite you to read without prejudice and see if you can perhaps start to appreciate the value of this free tool for entrepreneurs like us.

Twitter is a social media platform that lets you follow people, who in turn can choose to follow you back. For instance, I follow one of my favorite writers, Joyce Carol Oates, because reading her tweets makes me happy and (presumably) smarter. However, I’m not offended that she doesn’t follow me back.

Twitter is also an online news and social media platform that’s space-restricted, meaning you get only 140 characters, which is a few sentences, depending on your fondness of punctuation. It’s an open platform, so what you tweet will be visible to all, unless you send a direct message to someone. You can easily reach a lot of people, but you also have to be careful with what you say.

There are, of course, downsides to this technology, the main one being that you can spend all day on it, but self-employed linguists usually have enough self-discipline to watch their online time.

What’s so good about Twitter?

  1. Twitter will make you a better writer. This sounds like hyperbole, but I’ve tightened up my writing significantly due to the 140-character limit. Being succinct is a sign of good writing, and it’s an art that Twitter might help you master.
  2. Twitter lets you keep your finger on the pulse of your other languages. For example, I follow hundreds of Mexican government accounts. In addition to total immersion in your source/target languages, surrounding yourself with the language as it’s written and spoken in Mexico (for instance) is invaluable. Gender-inclusive language is one of my research interests, and it’s fascinating to see it evolve, including on Twitter.
  3. Twitter helps you increase your online footprint. Twitter is a huge site with more than 300 million users, so being part of it is good for you and your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Simply put: if potential clients Google you, your Twitter account will come up near the very top of the search results, and that’s good. Tweet wisely.
  4. Twitter helps cement your role in the industry. People will follow you if you have interesting things to say and go beyond what you had for lunch (no one probably cares, unless it was at Chez Panissse). Retweet links to well-written articles, respond to other users, engage in smart conversations (“replies”), talk about your work (only giving identifying client information if the client has cleared it, etc.). Ideally, your tweets will make it clear to colleagues and future and current clients that you’re passionate about the industry and engaged in it. All this for free! Interestingly enough, some clients have asked me to tweet about their new products and services because I have more followers than they do.
  5. Twitter is a great teacher. I’ve learned a lot of things on Twitter, and not just about language. I follow political scientists, economists, professional tennis players, novelists, chess players, astronauts, homelessness advocates, charities, friends, judges, the dog of a governor, etc. Not all of it’s interesting, but much of it is. If it’s not interesting, there’s an easy solution: don’t read it. I use lists to group accounts.
  6. Twitter can help you find jobs. My colleague Uwe Muegge tweets enthusiastically about in-house translation and interpreting positions, pretty much every day. (You can follow him at @UweMuegge.)
  7. Twitter is a great communication tool at conferences. I enjoy live-tweeting during many of the conferences I attend, including ATA’s Annual Conference, so those colleagues back home can benefit as well. Likewise, I enjoy reading the Twitter stream from conferences I can’t attend myself. There’s usually a handy hashtag (which is essentially just a way to group information), such as #ata57, which was the hashtag for last year’s ATA conference.

Finally, here are some of my Twitter stats:

  • Handle: @language_news
  • Followers (people who follow me): 11,000
  • Following (people I follow): 5,496
  • Most frequently viewed tweet for December 2016: Always amazed by how much English has crept into German-language advertising. We do have a perfectly good German word for “shops.” #austria pic.twitter.com/czTFqwgB2b

Happy tweeting!


Judy Jenner is a Spanish and German business and legal translator and a federally and state-certified (California, Nevada) Spanish court interpreter. She has an MBA in marketing and runs her boutique translation and interpreting business, Twin Translations, with her twin sister Dagmar. She was born in Austria and grew up in Mexico City. A former in-house translation department manager, she is a past president of the Nevada Interpreters and Translators Association. She writes the blog Translation Times and is a frequent conference speaker. She is the co-author of The Entrepreneurial Linguist: The Business-School Approach to Freelance Translation. Contact: judy.jenner@twintranslations.com.

This column is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or other business advice. Each individual or company should make its own independent business decisions and consult its own legal, financial, or other advisors as appropriate. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of ATA or its Board of Directors. Ideas and questions should be directed to judy.jenner@entrepreneuriallinguist.com.

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