When Heather became disabled, Twitter gave her wings...

Heather Chapman, the Twitter Sitter
Heather Chapman, the Twitter Sitter
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Addicted Twitter fans spend hours of their day chained to their phones, relentlessly tweeting updates of their day in 140 characters, But the social networking site has brought a new freedom for Heather Chapman. A riding accident two years ago put her in a wheelchair. The 46-year-old Sheffielder had to step aside from the successful business she ran with husband John - but after successfully running the company’s Twitter account, she spotted a new job she could do from her wheelchair. The Twitter Sitter service was born...

Q. Can you explain how the business works?

A. It’s quite simple; today social media is ‘where it is at’, in terms of marketing to your customers. Businesses that have difficulty finding time to tweet, or are unsure how to use Twitter as a marketing tool, ask me to tweet on their behalf. I also offer Twitter lessons on a one-to-one basis.

Q. So you teach people how and what to tweet? What’s your advice for a top tweet?

A. Know who it is that you want to tweet to, then write for the reader, not for yourself. Keep it short, to 71-100 characters, so it can be retweeted.

Q. Do you feel Twitter has given you a new lease of life?

A. Tweeting for others has given me a new outlook on life as I often have to become multiple personalities, changing each for different accounts!

Q. How did you come to be in a wheelchair?

A. In August 2011 I fell from my horse Heathcliffe. I had dressed him up as a Morris dancer for a fancy dress competition at a local show, so I can hardly blame him for getting a little upset and galloping at a group of small children. I decided to get off to make him stop. But my landing wasn’t graceful. I suffered a concussion and a few months later, became dizzy, lost balance and coordination and eventually ended up not being able to walk. I can get around, in a fashion, using furniture and walls. However as I cannot stand or walk independently, it is more practical to use a wheelchair.

Q. What was life like before the accident?

A. I ran a successful business, Training Ventures Ltd, with my husband, John. I won The Network’s South Yorkshire Business Person of the Year last year because of our success. We give hands-on First Aid and Health and Safety courses using real people who act as casualties. I had to stop training. John still runs the company, based at Aizlewoods Mill. I also skied regularly. We enjoyed going on holidays abroad and visiting historical houses and sites.

Q. It must have been a huge shock to you and your family.

A. As things happened gradually, we all just got on with it. Though it still pains me to see my mother struggling with my chair.

Q. What do you miss the most?

A. Walking! Without walking, life becomes so much harder in all aspects.

Q. Does it make you see in a new light the daily battles that people who have had major disabilities to contend with?

A. Oh yes, I believe we should include adaptability into all aspects of life. Lets have parking spaces wide enough for all, not just for disabled or parents and babies.

Q. Have you always ridden?

I had riding lessons as a girl and worked in stud stables and yards. I always dreamed of owning a horse. When John bought me Heathcliffe for our anniversary in 2009 I was over the moon.

Q. Do you still have your horse?

A. Of course! It’s not his fault! I still ride him every week. He’s a gentle horse and has adapted to me very well.

Q. How do you get into the saddle?

A. with a lot of holding on and a high mounting block. Someone has to help me.

Q. Two years on, how are you now, mentally and physically? 

A. As it all happened gradually, I got used to things slowly. I have always been determined and so I just find other ways to do things, or I find other things to do. Not a lot fazes me.

Q. Have you been told you might walk again?

A. I have been told I will have to relearn to walk with the help of physiotherapists, and I am doing that. It will be marvellous to walk again.

Q. What made you see Twitter as a business opportunity?

A. I had started looking after the social media for Training Ventures. As I got more involved we started getting more and more business and followers were enjoying our pictures and stories.

I starting thinking of other companies that don’t have the luxury of having someone who dedicates their time to social media. Small one-man bands desperate to be in 15 places at once tear their hair out at the thought of adding Twitter to the ‘to do’ list. Some people are just plain scared of social media; of getting it wrong, or of not understanding the etiquette. So the No Eggs for Heads-The Twitter Sitter Service was hatched. It’s a ‘baby-sitting’ service for busy business people, who need their Twitter account monitored and tweets sent out during the working day. The service is live and so replies are swift. The service is available from as little as £10 a day.

Q. What do you think of Twitter?

A. It’s a brilliant way of communicating to many people across the globe and getting news and the latest gossip immediately. It’s like a busy bar at the end of a day, humming with chatter about products, services and what’s happening in life. It’s also an excellent forum, with people asking about products and services,

Q. Is it here to stay or will something better come along?

A. For the foreseeable future, social media will continue to have a big impact on the online community. Twitter is a big player in the field and probably the one that gets the most attention from the news world, as it’s so instant. It’s hard to imagine another platform taking over. Businesses need to recognise this and get in quickly before they are left behind.

Q. What do you think of the Twitter trolls? Should they be free to ‘speak’ on Twitter?

A. There are nasty people in life. But what one person finds abusive, others find amusing. Freedoms, though, should not be taken away from anyone.

Q. Twitter bosses have agreed to a Report Abuse button to make the process easier and faster. Do you think it’s a good idea?

A. Yes, I think it makes it easier. But simply blocking the person can work too.

Q. What would you advise someone getting abusive messages on Twitter to do? Retaliate, or ignore?

A. Mostly ignore, these people feed on interaction and will often up the ante until they get a reaction. Blocking works, as it removes that person from your timeline. Persistent abuse should be reported to Twitter.