September 28, 2009 | The Wall Street Journal

When Sean Callahan sent a “tweet” on March 19 announcing plans to launch TweetPhoto Inc., a photo-sharing service for Twitter, he didn’t have a company to speak of—just a bare-bones Web page and a plan to best TwitPic Inc., a well-established rival.

Mr. Callahan worried that the longer he waited, the harder it would be to unseat TwitPic. So while he was wrapping up a business degree in London, Mr. Callahan plunged into designing his photo-sharing platform. He also started using Twitter, a micro-blogging site that enables users to tell the world what they are doing via short messages known as tweets, to connect with potential customers—and erect the company itself.

Over the next few months, Mr. Callahan’s Twitter stream and blog documented, blow by blow, the start-up of a new business, with all of its victories and defeats. His experience suggests that wise use of social media could help speed the birth of many new ventures—not just those involved in social networking—if a business owner knows how to connect with the right people, learn from their conversations and weather the ups and downs that come with this new form of communication.

“Twitter is a digital handshake. It’s one of the fastest ways you can reach out to people,” says David Murray, director of social Web communications at Bivings Group, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm.

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