Monday, January 12, 2009

Twitter for business ... or how to prevent your partner calling you during a speech

Several times colleagues are asking me, what the use of Twitter is or why they should do it as well. Well, what twitter is, is captured  pretty good in this video: Twitter in plain English. But that possibly does not capture their business case. But maybe this blog entry can give some more uses.

But how can twitter - or microblogging in general - can help employees doing a better job?

In my opinion the most practical use is: get quick and easy access to knowledge! Of course not all jobs require a broad use of knowledge, but for me, working in the Services and Consulting business, it does.
And here are several ways I benefit from Twitter.

1. Build up a follower network.
Build up a network of colleagues, all around the world, that work in the same or related topics that you are. Follow them, and ask them to follow you, too. That way, a broadcast is received by a wide number of peers who may be able to help you and who know you, too. Secondly, this colleague-net builds up a stronger community for itself.

2. Subscribe to search-feeds.
Use the search feature of Twitter and the ability to subscribe to the search filters. That way you get notified of people that tweet about a topic of your interest that you are not following. Maybe you are able to help them. In the other direction, you can post to the public community as well, if they subscribed to such a search feed you might get help from people you does not know, yet. A good example for such feed is the Lotus Connections search feed.

3. Use hashtags.
By the use of hashtags - keywords with a leading # - you could mark your post or keywords in it to indicate, the post contains some information of a certain category. More information about hashtags can be found on hashtags.org. The effect is similar to the search feed, though the search feed may produce more "false hits".

4. Retweet
ReTweet (RT) is a resend of your post by another user to his followers. By this, information - if its valuable enough - reaches even the farthest wrinkle of the community. If you have something important to say about a certain topic and you share your knowledge in a blog, you could announce a new post via Twitter. Not only that you do some advertising for you and your blog and by this build up your reputation in a certain topic, but also that the information - if its really valuable - spreads around the community via retweet (RT).

But there is one final thing you take into consideration: give your personal Twitter network time to evolve, to grow, to strengthen the valuable connections. You also have to put some initial energy into it, build up your network, convince your reluctant colleagues to use it, too. Show them how to use the tools. In the beginning, they don't even have to contribute, in the beginning it might be sufficent, to just build the connections and it is sufficient when only a minority contributes, the rest will follow soon.

Twitter is really easy, even non-technical-adept people can use it, on their phone, on their desktop, via browser, via instant messaging. So even your wife or husband can use it! And you can let them know, what you are doing, that you hold a speech or a presentation, and if they just read your post, they maybe won't call you in inappropriate situations any longer ;)
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