Micro-blogging is a relatively new concept that could shake up corporate communications. We are all overloaded with email that never gets to the point and documentation that rivals War and Peace. We need a simpler, faster way to communicate.
Micro-blogging is to email what the postcard is to the letter – an easier, cheaper way to reach out to someone. If your company is not micro-blogging yet, it could be soon.
The leading supplier in this field is Twitter. They launched their first-of-its-kind service in 2006. It caught on quickly.
The original concept was simple – enable people to inform their friends of what they are doing while away from their computers. Hence, Twitter messages, called tweets, are limited to 140 characters, the maximum length of an SMS (text) message.
This may seem like an impossibly small message size but it forces you to think hard about what you need to say. These messages may also include links to webpages. The message may be a teaser with a link for those that want to know more.
Here is how it works. You setup a Twitter account and post a message. You search for other Twitter users that you want to follow. You let others know about your account so they can follow you. That is it.
You can follow anyone with a public Twitter account whether you know them or not and anyone can follow you if you choose to make your account open. It is a bit like electronic stalking but you remain in control of what you say. Other users only see your updates. They do not have access to any of your personal information.
You are probably thinking that this sounds like yet another social networking site just smaller in scale. Social networking is only the beginning. Consider several ways this kind of service could help grow your business.
Twitter users often comment about products and services. Sometimes they are complimentary and sometimes not. Often, they will ask if anyone has used a product or service as they seek recommendations.
Your firm can search Twitter for references to your brand names or product types. You could respond to someone looking for information. You might even head off a customer complaint before it gets out of control.
People will often seek "customer support" from their Twitter community. Your firm could respond to create goodwill with the community.
Posting information about new products and product upgrades on Twitter is another way to create marketing buzz. You can insert a link to your company website for further information.
If you host a seminar, training session or sales event, encourage participants to tweet about their experience. You could have dozens of independent marketing agents working for you.
Many companies have started using Twitter for advertising. For example, here is a recent post by Amazon – "Lightning Deal! $89.99 - Swiss Legend Men's X1 Collection Chronograph Watch http://tinyurl.com/2hxyud". It is brief and includes a link for more information.
News organizations have also begun feeding headlines to Twitter as in this Wall Street Journal story – "OPEC Ministers Face Tough Decision http://tinyurl.com/6yrel8".
There are also a number of specialized ways that a service like Twitter can be used. You can post public information as above but you can also restrict access to your updates to only those people you approve. By using this feature, a group can setup accounts and share information amongst themselves only.
A service called GroupTweet helps to manage groups and coordinate their messages within Twitter. An independent service called Status (statushq.com) also specializes in group activities.
A project team could post quick status updates to a common Twitter page. Everyone would see what is happening in near real time by just watching a webpage. No need to sift through mountains of emails.
A customer service team working at a large customer site could post frequent updates simply using their phones. Workers may be scattered across a large area but they still know what is happening by simply viewing a Twitter page on their smartphones. Their activities can easily be coordinated and synchronized.
This kind of service also has the potential to help with disaster response. It could be used to keep responders, suppliers and customers aware of the latest situation. A single Twitter update can reach as many people as sending out thousands of emails.
Twitter is not the only micro-blogging service. A firm called Yammer aims its service at companies not consumers. There is also an open-source package available called Laconica. Your company can setup an internal micro-blogging site using this software.
To see Laconica in action, visit the website called Identi.ca. They use Laconica to operate their site.
If you intend to use micro-blogging for mission-critical projects, having your own server makes sense.
Give micro-blogging a try. You can see my Twitter account at twitter.com/brainslink.
Vin D'Amico is Founder and President of DAMICON, your ADJUNCT CIO. He helps companies avoid the subtle mistakes that cause missed deadlines, lost opportunities and fragile results. He shows them agile approaches that slash risk and cut development time so they get to market 25-50% faster. He helps them carry that momentum into the sales cycle using white papers and case studies that accelerate the selling process.
This article appeared in Vin's monthly Virtual Business column for the IndUS Business Journal in November 2008.
To learn more about how DAMICON can help your business, please take a look at our service programs.
This column appears monthly in the IndUS Business Journal.