Building a Collaborative Enterprise: Twitter (Part 2)

This is the second post in a series of posts covering collaborative tools that can make an impact on your business. If you’re new to Twitter, I’d suggest you read part 1 first.

Why Twitter?: Internal Collaboration

Honestly, many of the very creative ways Twitter can be used as a real-time communication platform probably haven’t been invented yet. Here are some creative ideas we came up with using an internal poll on our Sharepoint site:

  • Server or systems uptime monitoring and alerts (tying into Twitters excellent SMS capability with major cell phone carriers)
  • Corporate workflow integration and notifications – new business notification / blasts, integration with development workflow, etc.
  • Events planning and communication – for companies that sponsor annual users’ group meetings, setting up a dedicated Twitter account to communicate details and updates to attendees

Enterprise Use

Especially for large companies, something like Twitter can even take the place of other solutions (such as Office Communications Server), or (as in many companies I’ve seen) public IM services such as Yahoo or AOL. IM services that function outside the company may present serious security risks, including exposure to vicious worms or malware.

Companies such as Yammer and Present.ly are springing up, providing Twitter-like services running for private intra-company enterprise use. These provide the benefits of Twitter, including collaboration and greater dissemination of information, while retaining privacy that enterprises mandate.

While the market for corporate Twitter-like products is still in flux, examining the options available should be an important part of your enterprise collaboration strategy. With recent management changes at Twitter, it is highly likely that Twitter will be introducing a for-pay Enterprise service in the near future. Twitter CEO Evan Williams recently stated that

There is commercial value, not just personal value [to Twitter]

Integration

Twitter provides a very rich series of web services that can be used to integrate Twitter accounts with many existing back-office systems – both for receiving incoming tweets (imagine your Twitter feed integrated with salesforce.com, for example), and for outgoing tweets (imagine integrating QuickBase or Microsoft Dynamics to drive marketing campaigns). The Twitter web services can easily be integrated into existing Java, .NET, or Ruby on Rails infrastructure.

Downsides

Because Twitter is a realtime mass communication mechanism, gaffes can hurt you very quickly, since bad or inappropriate twitstream content will assuredly ripple through the as Internet fast as possible. Additionally, Twitter serves as a very rapid sounding board for poorly vetted social media ideas by aggregating feedback from thousands of users or consumers.

A very recent example of this from November 15-16, 2008 was the very strong consumer backlash to Motrin’s new advertising campaign. Immediately after the advertising campaign was released, negative comments on Twitter began piling up, causing Motrin to decide to pull the ad from its online media campaign.

On many corporate blogs, and certainly traditional “press release” communications outlets, content is reviewed, re-reviewed, and approved many times over before being released for public consumption. Part of a corporate Twitter strategy should include a good understanding (and documentation) of rules of engagement and proper Twitter etiquette, since a traditional review process would be cumbersome and reduce the “immediateness” of responses.

Name Squatting

With the uptick in corporate attention being paid to Twitter, “Twitter squatting” is starting to be noticed by corporations. Much as “domain squatting” happened in the early days of the Internet, Twitter squatting could be potentially either damaging or expensive for companies that don’t own their name. Twitter doesn’t yet have an official policy of releasing names to trademark holders (unlike, for example, domain squatting); however, they will release “inactive” accounts, and I’d bet they will have a policy on this issue very soon.

Should You Twitter?

In the current highly-connected and collaborative business climate, companies must have a social media strategy. Companies must understand all of the major social media platforms and identify how they will bring value to the business.

Twitter has provided a unique service, and many companies, especially ones that deal with B2C services, should consider a strong Twitter presence.

Next in our series of blog entries covering collaborative enterprises: Facebook.

One thought on “Building a Collaborative Enterprise: Twitter (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: Project Management Resolutions for 2009 « Edgewater Technology Weblog

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