MAD Perspectives Blog

Microblogging Within the Enterprise

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 17, 2009

We’ve all read of the increased usage of Twitter.

The business model is still unclear, yet twenty somethings, CEOs and celebrities are using Twitter every day.  There is a love affair with expressing oneself in 140 characters or less.

We’ve read stories about how Twitter has impacted customer service at companies like JetBlue, who has been able to respond to customer tweets regarding a lack of flights for key events, allowing JetBlue to add more flights.  Additionally, JetBlue recently created an account on Twitter to offer last minute discounted tickets.  However, these are examples of customer facing uses for micro-blogging.  We can all agree and imagine many scenarios where this form of instant broadcast communication can provide benefit to both the enterprise and its customers.

However, what about micro-blogging behind the firewall?

When we consider who uses tools such as Twitter, it provides some insight as to who the early adopters may be within the enterprise.  It is clear that new employees are coming to companies with a different set of expectations regarding communication.  They come armed with mobile and other wireless enabled devices with the expectation to communicate instantly and  informally.  While the company will expect them to adopt existing methods of communication, such as email, this generation is happy to blast messages to a wide audience, happy to gain feedback and opinion from a diverse group.  These twenty-somethings currently use Twitter to share all kinds of information.  They will bring their habits and methodologies to the enterprise.  Additionally, employees of all ages are frequently using various instant messagin services to connect.  While this is primarily one to one communication., it still reflects a desire for instantenous communication with peers.

Can microblogging knowledge sharing be adapted for the enterprise?

Can we effectively communicate business thoughts in 140 characters or less?  And, can we capture and save these conversations for future reference?

Apparently, we can.  Deloitte adopted Yammer and has used it to alleviate advertising cost by inviting employees to create taglines for a new campaign.  Employees from across all departments were invited to participate.  They were able to view all contributions and generate new concepts without engaging an outside agency.  AMD has encouraged the use of micro-blogging within the corporation for employees to comment on quarterly executive webcasts.  As a result business groups within AMD are investigating how micro-blogging can help them organize and distribute content.

High Tech firms such as IBM and Oracle created their own micro-blogging tools (BlueTwit and OraTweet) for internal use and to allow their employees to experiment with micro-blogging within the enterprise.  OraTweet is now available for external customers.  Smaller, emerging companies are also providing microblogging solutions .  They include:  Yammer, Utterli, SocialText, SocialCast and Present.ly.  The point is that companies from the very large to the very small are creating micro-blogging solutions.  They believe there is value to quickly posting news, creating links to blogs and forums, gathering customer feedback, providing real-time updates on customer events, marketing and sharing knowledge behind the corporate firewall. If you and your company are thinking about trying a micro-blogging solutions, keep these  thoughts in mind when assessing vendors:

User Identity and Security
Utilize a solution that clearly identifies the employee as your company’s employee.  Your content is your intellectual capital.  You do want to ensure that the information shared via micro-blogging is behind the firewall.  It is possible to leverage intranet LDAP registries. This has the benefit of a single identify for email and micro-blogging.

Reliability and Scalability
Twitter is infamous for its service outages.  Enterprises may want to consider a distributed (rather than centralized) deployment of servers. Given the number of possible users within the enterprise, this will reduce the server impact.  Additionally, the solution must be interoperable with existing enterprise applications.

Groups
While micro-blogging publicly is a very social experience with an understanding of the broadcast nature of the message, behind the firewall it may not always be appropriate to “blast” a message to all employees.  Business groups, departments or project teams may want to micro-blog within the team.  A solution that supports the definition of groups is useful.

Like many social media solutions, it is difficult to define a tangible ROI at this time.  Micro-blogging within the enterprise is new and evolving.  It should be part of an overall communication and collaboration strategy.  It is not a standalone strategy to solve problems of knowledge sharing or community building.  It is a way for employees to quickly share their thoughts, news, information and more, as they experiment with it.  Social media continues to democratize the enterprise.  Micro-blogging is one more tool in your digital media toolkit supporting that effort.

What's your perspective?




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