By 2011, Enterprise Microblogging Will Be a Standard Feature on 80 Percent of Social Software Platforms
As businesses struggle to consider the uses of microblogging platforms such as Twitter in the workplace, Gartner, Inc. has highlighted the four ways in which organizations are using Twitter.
"Despite the fact that Twitter is primarily aimed at individual users in the consumer market, many of those individuals work for companies and 'tweet' about business issues, leading businesses to explore how they could best use it," said Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner.
"In general, Twitter usage by employees should be covered by existing Web participation guidelines," Mr. Mann said. "As Twitter is a public forum, employees should understand the limits of what is acceptable and desirable. It is good practice to remind employees that the policies already in place apply to this new communication forum, as well. If organizations have not defined a public Web participation policy, they should do so as quickly as possible."
Twitter allows users to post short, 140 character updates, on what they are doing right now. Users distribute quick thoughts, news and ideas, and this broadcast element of Twitter has led this type of service to be called microblogging, as each individual message (called a "tweet") can be considered a very small blog post. Users select other "Twitterers" to follow or receive their messages in close to real time.
Gartner analysts predict that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be a standard feature of 80 percent of social software platforms on the market. While other consumer microblogging platforms exist (such as Plurk, Jaiku, and Identi.ca), Twitter is the most popular.
Twitter is primarily aimed at individuals, so it is not imperative for every corporation to be actively participating at an official level. However, the popular impact of microblogging is leading many companies to explore how they could use it. In addition to the individual use of Twitter, Gartner has identified four different ways in which companies are making use of the Twitter application: direct, indirect, internal, and signaling.
Direct — The company uses Twitter as a marketing or public relations channel
Many companies have established Twitter identities as part of their corporate communications strategies, much like corporate blogs. They Tweet about corporate accomplishments, distributing links to press releases or promotional Web sites, and respond to other Twitterers' comments about the brand. Gartner maintains that this approach should be used with caution because uninteresting or self-serving Tweets could hinder the brand image as much as it could help. Responding to comments can be particularly risky, as the anonymous nature of Twitter can easily descend into a negative spiral. Gartner recommends that at a minimum, companies should register Twitter IDs for their major brand names to prevent others claiming them and using them inappropriately.
Indirect — The company's employees use Twitter to enhance and extend their personal reputations, thereby enhancing the company's reputation
Good Twitterers enhance their personal reputation by saying clever, interesting things, attracting many followers who go on to read their blogs. As people enhance their personal brands, some of this inevitably rubs off on their employers. Twitter provides a way of raising the profile of both individuals and the organizations they work for, which elevates these companies that want to be seen to employ influential leaders.
Internal — Employees use the platform to communicate about what they are doing, projects they are working on and ideas that occur to them
In most cases, Gartner does not recommend using Twitter or any other consumer microblogging service in this way, because there is no guarantee of security. It is crucial that employees understand the limitations of the platform and never discuss confidential matters, because as a seemingly innocuous Tweet about going to see a particular client can tip off a competitor. Other providers, such as Yammer and Present.ly, provide Twitter-like functions targeted at enterprise microblogging with more security and corporate control.
Twitter streams provide a rich source of information about what customers, competitors and others are saying about a company. Search tools like search.twitter.com or the twhirl application can scan for references to particular company or product names. Savvy companies use these signals to get early warnings of problems and collect feedback about product issues and new product ideas.
Additional information is available in the Gartner report "Four Ways in Which Enterprises are Using Twitter." The report is available on Gartner's Web site at http://www.gartner.com/DisplayDocument?ref=g_search&id=911714&subref=simplesearch.
Additional insight into social networking will be discussed at the Gartner Portals, Content and Collaboration Summit, taking place June 8-10 in Orlando. This forum looks at workplace technologies, such as portals, content management, social networking, mashups, online communications tools, eDiscovery, search technologies, Web 2.0 and emerging collaboration tools, and explores how these technologies are a key element in raising overall organizational productivity and employee impact, and how enterprises must change to get business results. A complete agenda can be found at www.gartner.com/us/pcc. Members of the media can register by contacting Christy Pettey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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