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Why Enterprise Microblogging Has More Practical Use for Everyday People Than Twitter

December 9, 2009

On Friday, I expressed doubt whether Twitter will ever enjoy mainstream adoption like Facebook (and thus won’t be the future social stream for the masses). I argued that Twitter will remain a place largely reserved for people in technology, media types new and old, celebrities, Silicon Valley, or marketing and PR folks trying to reach the former groups. There are some significant exceptions in users and use cases (see: Iran elections), but on the whole, this is the reality of Twitter’s ecosystem.

Now, Twitter does deserve credit in combating its mainstream stream (ha) problem lately. It created better out-of-box, or in the browser, experience for new users with Lists and automatic ReTweets. These types of features might seem like a next logical step — or even pedestrian — to power users, but for new users who have no idea what a TweetDeck or a Seesmic is, it really helps. Still, even with Twitter’s openness in exposing its APIs and allowing people to build on the platform, the more closed Facebook has continued to thrive because it marries microblogging (or status messages, which are longer and have threaded comments) with other social sharing features in one constant stream without the need for redirection.

For this reason, I believe microblogging, integrated with other social software, will be more useful for the general populace as a technology at work than it ever will in their consumer life. Here is why enterprise microblogging will affect more people, and their day-to-day, than Twitter:

1) You Know the People

One of Twitter’s main problems is that if you reside outside of the insular community I mentioned above, it’s hard to see why you should be on Twitter. Suppose you’re an accountant, a doctor, or an auditor — rather than a social media consultant, digital or SEO marketer, or John Mayer. When you let Twitter cull your e-mail address book, you won’t come up with many names of people you know that are already on the service. So you need to start following people you don’t know. While seasoned Twitter users know value can be derived from following people you don’t know, most people won’t get there (60 percent leave after the first month), or their accounts go static and unused.

At work, you know the people on the enterprise microblogging platform because you work with them. If you have internal social networking profiles, when you examine one of their enterprise tweets, you can click on their name and see information with much greater depth than you ever could on a Twitter profile. When you know people, you’re more likely to understand the content and context of their short messages.

2) Communication Problem is More Real at Work

People already have consumer e-mail and Facebook (which has a status update) to communicate with their friends (not to mention phone, IM and texting). So it’s no wonder that many people can’t be bothered to spend much time on Twitter. Flawed as they are, those other technologies are good enough for them as consumers because they know exactly who they want to communicate with and how to reach them. In addition, services like Gmail sort through SPAM and enable accurate searches, so the “e-mail is broken” proposition doesn’t hold.

At work, the opposite is true. For most of you, your IT department has provided you with work e-mail that isn’t as nice as Gmail. Plus, you have to deal with occupational spam. When a colleague encounters a quandary that traditional systems and processes can’t readily address, he pings you and several other people. Odds are, only one or two of you possesses the right information to help him address his business problem, but he has already interrupted everyone else who doesn’t.

With enterprise microblogging, you can ask questions openly in the stream. The people who don’t have the answers can let it pass by without hitting a “reply-all,” and the person who does know can respond transparently for everyone to see (in case they ever encounter the same problem). This information remains searchable for everyone. This would not happen as efficiently in e-mail or IM.

3) Privacy Provides Comfort to Share

Twitter is sometimes too public for its own good (I’m discounting the fact they have the “private” option, since so few use it). Everything you publish flows into the stream for anyone (now, including Google) to see, and that’s scary to people. This could explain why Twitter is turning into a social bookmarking service. Tweeting a link and a one sentence explanation of how you feel about it seems safe enough. Tweeting where you’re headed for dinner or where you take your kids to soccer is too intimate and private for the whole world to know (again, we’re talking the everyman’s use case, who, believe it or not, aren’t enthralled with an overshare culture). As a result, they have more comfort with the Facebook status message.

Inside businesses, enterprise microblogging provides great privacy that eases people’s minds, lowering the threshold for sharing. A sales rep knows that he can enterprise tweet his location without worrying whether or not a competitor might put two and two together. A CEO can enterprise tweet a link that only his employees should read, but doesn’t want the whole world knowing their reading. Also, status messages, which can be a great way to get started with microblogging, aren’t frowned upon like the “heading to lunch” tweets are on Twitter. They aren’t trivial in the enterprise; location and activity status have value.

4) Value Becomes Evident Faster

It’s unfortunate that many people don’t realize how great Twitter is due to the time it takes them to realize value. For the first month I was on Twitter, I didn’t know who to follow or what to tweet. I figured it out eventually, and now enjoy amazing value from it. But for the general web populace, the gratification has to happen faster, or they leave. (I was also aided by the fact that I work within the proxy of the types of folks who typify Twitter’s user base, and I’ve come to know many of them personally.)

At companies, enterprise microblogging can provide immediate value because of the aforementioned points (knowing the people, and privacy). It’s less complicated to understand than most kinds of enterprise software, and people from all areas of your organization can get started with minimal training. Take this CIO story that highlights St. Louis Public Radio (SLPR), which recently implemented enterprise microblogging:

For example, SLPR’s receptionist received a call from a listener who heard an announcement on the radio about an event at a local high school and wanted to know more about it. Instead of sending an e-mail blast to all staff members, the receptionist used Socialtext’s app to poll the staff, and received an answer in less than five minutes. There was an immediate response, and we didn’t have to clutter e-mail inboxes to get it, Eby says.

[Abrupt end to post/cgl]

5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 9, 2009 2:07 pm

    Chris –

    I agree that internal microblogging has a great internal use case. It’s a new form of communication infrastructure. A good post to complement yours is: “Microblogging Will Marginalize Corporate Email”

    While that post used Yammer as an example (from last March), Socialtext Signals is equally valuable in this shift. Microblogging both replaces some uses of email, and expands the sharing and seeking of information.

    Great example from St. Louis Public Radio.


  2. dirkroehrborn permalink
    December 9, 2009 3:36 pm

    Chris, this is exactly what we are observing within our internal Communote Microblogging Platform, too. Especially, we are able to measure that about 54 % of the users are microblogging actively and regularly driving the 90-9-1 relations described by Nielson to a ration of about 25-50-25. I’ve blogged about this in detail at This post in in German, but you might use Google Translate to read it.
    Do you have any details on the usage of microblogging in your organisation.

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