Your Top Startup Questions Answered by CEO/Founder, Twitter for Dummies Co-author Laura Fitton

Laura Fitton is best known for explaining Twitter to the rest of us with her contribution to the social media how-to book, Twitter for Dummies. Fitton should know. In 2008 she founded the “Twitter for business” site Pistachio Consulting and in 2009 she launched oneforty, a marketplace for Twitter applications. This afternoon the entrepreneur conducted a live interview online, fielding anonymous questions about everything from social media campaigns to her favorite video games (answer: Rockband). The interview took place on Sprouter, a micro-consulting platform launched in 2009 by Web entrepreneur Sarah Prevette.   Here are some of Fitton’s best responses:

What do you think of social media consultants? Does it makes sense for a start up? Is it best to learn how social media works really well for YOUR business?

Same thing I think of lawyers, accountants, marketing consultants, etc. You’re building a team of the people you think can MOST move the needle for the stage your startup is in. So you need to…

1) Hire the best you can get at any given time

2) Manage appropriately and measure performance to see if it’s a good fit

3) Balance what you invest your time learning vs what you hire for

There is a lot you can learn by yourself with trial and error, and reading what’s available for free online. I’ll paste my 4 word guide to social media below, and that will be plenty of social media advice for many startups. But that said, if you’re a coder and it takes you 10 hours to get some social media thing done, you’ve just spent the cost of 10 hours of developer time that your product probably needed. It’s all trade-offs. Prioritize, focus and realize how central working with the right people is.

If you’ve got zero budget and want to measure and report on social media results what tools would you recommend and what are the most important metrics to track?

I recommend you spend time comparing all the top rated free analytics tools on of course : – )

Even just being sure to use and then check to see how those links perform when you tweet or share them is a free and easy important first step. Google alerts are great, especially when paired with Alerts Grader to help you prioritize.

How effective is flyer marketing/distribution?

Hahahaha. How effective are billboards? Newspaper ads? TV? Facebook? Twitter? Everything is about what you’re offering, who you need to reach and what you need them to do. If you’re standing in front of a coffee shop in peak coffee drinking hours dressed as a latte and handing out flyers offering free coffee and a chance to win an iPad, you’re gonna see foot traffic coming in the door.

I’ve heard that you’re not supposed to make your business rely on someone else’s technology (aka oneforty relying on Twitter). What are your thoughts?

I’ve heard the same. We think about that all the time – and most of what’s in the directory also works with Facebook, Google and other apps. At the same time, there’s something really really different about what Twitter is doing and what kind of change it’s capable of creating in the world. Tough train to dance with, innit?

oneforty has shown there’s nearly an app for everything – which one is missing?

One that makes YOU millions of dollars, of course!

We think that across the ecosystem what’s needed most are experiences – maybe apps, services, web pages, subscriptions – that serve the truly mainstream. something your mom or the average person on the street can see and go, “yeah. I need that.”

To make an analogy, we’re in the early days of the “realtime web.” Think of where the consumer web itself was in 95-97. Lots of people building twitter clients is like lots of people building browsers back then. But what turned out to be the most interesting thing? The websites and the businesses and markets that emerged.

So Twitter’s ecosystem is undergoing a similar shift from the client being important to stuff like fflick,, tweetbeat and flipboard that deliver a compelling consumer experiences, even (in some cases) if you never tweet.

What are your three favorite and three least favorite things about the “new Twitter”?

I love that it works off the same API as every other app – that’s eating your own dogfood for sure. I love that it provides more context and threading to tweets. It’s fun to learn tho – like going on a little treasure hunt and discovering fun, powerful new features. The DM interface is wonderful. (Tho that said the short DM memory, not getting to my oldest DMs is already a problem for me).

I am personally not great with complex interfaces, so it’s taking me a bit to master even tho the usability is pretty slick/gorgeous. So another concern is that I worry whether it will accelerate or decelerate mainstream adoption. My last worry is easily fixed – the impact it had on the many many businesses with branding in their background graphics, and the makers of those graphics. But that’s just a retooling problem that will be fixed quickly.

[What did you learn] from your time spent trying to raise early stage capital? Anything you didn’t know going in that you were surprised by?

I knew almost nothing going in, so it all surprised me. Biggest learning in my case was that persistence and execution are everything. If you’re raising money because someone told you you had a good idea, you may not get far. If you’re at wits end and fire-tested and no that you must get something done no matter what, then it gets easier.

Also, beware of “witches broom” distractions. Every investor you meet – and they mean no harm by it – will send you off to fetch the broom of the Wicked Witch of the West just like Oz did. They’ll say – do this, this and this. If you did all of it your company would never get off the ground and you would never raise your round.

You need to take all that in and ask yourself which things you would do whether or not the person was going to invest. That keeps you focused on what the company needs and it’s also a good “sorting” discipline for getting the right investors.