Twitter for Business: Smaller Is Not Always Better


My staff told me during a meeting the other day that blogger Vinnie Mirchandani was told by a reader that he "sucks" because he's not on Twitter, which lead Mr. Mirchandani to detail exactly why he does not Twitter.


I wish that my own resistance to / bewilderment about Twitter was the only reason someone could accuse me of "sucking."


However, I certainly share Mirchandani's belief that the platform, as it exists today, is mostly about "noise." Candidly, as an editor at a B2B publisher, that creates something of a quandary for me, since it's part of our mission to cut through "noise" and get to the substance of things. High-sounding, I know, but that's what we shoot for.


But, if working on the Internet will teach you anything, it's that people (a.k.a., your customers) do what they want, by and large, and it behooves you to play along as far as you can. And a lot of folks like Twitter. We maintain a Twitter profile of our own, of course, as do many of our bloggers, including the eternally edgy Loraine Lawson. So we clearly understand that if readers want to consume infomation this way, we need to be Tweeting to them.


I continue to wonder, however, how a business can use Twitter internally, as they have learned to use consumer-originated tech like IM and those old-school "macro" blogs that can publish more than two sentences at once.


I spent 15 minutes today discussing Twitter with Rose Booth, one of our crack marketers here at IT Business Edge and a Twitter user herself. And -- by sheer coincidence, I swear -- Paul Mah posted today on possible business applications of text messages.


All of which simply served to confirm my original assessment of Twitter -- it's a one-to-many text messaging service.


My Web-based Twitter home page looks an awful lot like a Google Reader page to me. Actually, I've found that it often looks like this:



But you know that already.


Anyway, building a Twitter follow list is perhaps a tad easier than adding feeds to an RSS reader, but that's only because Twitter is essentially a monopoly in the micro-blogging space; it has all the data. When other platforms make a dent in the market -- and they most likely will -- users will want to manage all this micro-info in one place.

Clearly, Twitter's strong suit is its extremely impressive integration with SMS for cell and its fleet of widgets for smartphones. After all, when is there a better time to tell the world that you are on your way to get a latte than while you are actually driving to Starbucks? OK, that was snarky -- obviously, business people are on the move, and the ability to quickly disseminate important tidbits of information is a big deal to them. So, some of them, at least, are turning to a popular consumer platform for doing that.


Seems to me, that's the catch. Sooner or later, information other than "noise" is going to become common in Twitter, and just as with IM, businesses and IT are going to be faced with a lot of really important data being generated in the most unstructured manner possible. Forget for a moment about the general informality of a media that can induce a state official to publicly bash on a college basketball player. From an IT standpoint, it's a knowledge management (and quite possibly, compliance) headache of near-Biblical proportions.


At some point in the near future, somebody who owns one of those old-school blogging platforms (say, a Google) will integrate (or buy, as the rumor mill has it) the ability to send SMS one-liners and push notices to smartphone widgets from the same interface. Seems like a logical extension of any productivity suite, including Microsoft Office -- still sounds a little redundant to e-mail, but blogs are conveniently searchable and are made of structured XML, so they tend to play very nicely with other data stores. And a busy CEO could use the same interface to informally announce to the company that "Sales Rocks!" on the train and to write a more detailed monthly blog post about sales performance the following morning.


Finally, if this kind of mobility is important to your company, get your guys on a mobile data plan ASAP. Those texting fees will eat you alive. That is, unitl Google makes them a "free" part of Apps.