SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Archive for December 5th, 2008

What is Twitter Good For in the Enterprise? 3 Key Use Cases

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 5, 2008

Some rumblngs among the Enterprise Irregulars about Twitter this morning.  The usual discussion broke out between the Twitter-lovers and the I-don’t-get-Twitterers.  Being a group of Enterprise types, it was a little more focused on informed opinions and less on inflamed passions that this conversation often is, and it reminded me to write a bit about this topic which I had internalized, taken for granted, and then stopped worrying about.  Let’s just run through some uses for Twitter in the Enterprise and some reasons not to ignore it.

Parts of the Conversation Take Place on Twitter Because Some Prefer It

Whether you’re a Twitter lover or not, be aware that there is a group that wants to have their conversation there.  If you don’t connect with Twitter at all, you are going to miss out on that conversation.  Don’t assume the only thing being discussed is which fast food people had for lunch each day.  Why do people like Twitter for this conversation instead of blogs, forums, or social networks?  First, let’s just drop the “instead of”.  For many, it’s “in addition too”.  Second, I’ve written before about the idea that Learning Styles can influence how people like to consume or create content on the web.  Here is my diagram for a sort of “Myers Briggs” of the web:

If you think about the matrix, you’ll see why a lot of things on the web invite such a polarized love/hate relationship. It’s all about how people communicate and which type of web experience maps best to those preferences. It’s well understood through examples like the Myers-Briggs test that everyone doesn’t learn and communicate in the same way. If you’ve ever tried a system like Myers-Briggs, you’ll understand how much light it can shed on why two people are having a hard time communicating successfully in business. Keep in mind that the same thing can happen on the web and if you want to be sure you are successfully communicating with, or at least listening to, every group, you have to cover every learning style.

Eventually business will realize this and they’ll create a superior web presence that checks all of the boxes on the matrix. Some are trying and getting close already.

Twitter Forces Short Responses: Ideal for Purposes Where Brevity Focuses

Getting back to the language of the Enterprise and it’s practitioners, have you ever heard about or employed some of the principles that can be used to make meetings or other inter-personal processes (offsites, budget planning, etc.) more efficient?  Consider messaging exercises of various kinds like creating mission statements, or key messages on a web page.  Don’t these exercises benefit when restricted to brevity?

Twitter falls into this category too.  By only allowing 140 words, it changes the nature of the conversation that takes place.  Ask yourself what kinds of conversations are better served by only allowing 140 characters?  As a quick, special purpose brainstorming tool, I suspect there are a number of “Twitter Games” one could come up with that would be ideal.  How about the exercise of naming a product?  That seems ideal for a Twitter exchange.  Or how about working on an elevator pitch?

What about forcing brevity to summarize?  This transitions to the idea of Twitter as telemetry or news feed.  If you can scan a list in Twitter and see tinyurl clickthroughs for those that need more attention you’re being more efficient than dealing with the information in situ with the full mass of words.  That’s got to be valuable for a number of enterprise processes.

Twitter as Telemetry or News Feed

There are certain kinds of information where it is important to tell at a glance what the current status is, but to be able to go back over time and see how that has changed as well.  Think of the old-style stock tickers and news feeds.  Twitter is ideal for that purpose.  For example, I use TwitterFeed to update my Twitter stream every time I post to this blog, for example.  That way, anyone following me sees there is a new post, sees the title, and can check it out with a tinyurl click if they like.

There are plenty of enterprise applications for an information stream that talks about what’s happening right now.   The reason I use the term “telemetry” is that Twitter can literally be viewed as a component of some larger system.  You can feed it messages (as I do with TwitterFeed, but it could be almost any corporate information source), and you can also pull the messages off Twitter via apis to use in various ways.  Maybe you are a busy sales manager just trying to keep certain messages top of mind for your sales reps, but the messages change constantly.  They’re promotions or some such.  Build a quick and easy Twitter telemetry system where you can type the messages of the day in as needed and they appear on a window that the sales reps monitor.  At my day job (no, I don’t blog for a living!) for Helpstream, we have built Twitter into the business rule fabric of our Customer Service application.  You can use it in this telemetry fashion as you see fit for your business.  For example, it’s trivial to create a Twitter stream that would reflect every new idea submitted to our Idea Storm facility.


I hope I’ve given you some ideas for why Twitter could be useful in the enterprise.  There’s a lot more potential in Twitter than what I’ve covered.  What are your ideas for how to put it to work in your business?

Posted in enterprise software, strategy, user interface, Web 2.0 | 8 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: