Companies should adapt rules to harness Twitter


POSTED: Sunday, April 19, 2009

Like many technical innovations, businesses and government agencies are looking for ways to use and control Twitter (www.twitter.com) within their organizations. One of the latest crazes in social networking, Twitter is a free service that provides a platform for “;micro-blogging,”; where individuals can distribute short text messages to a wide group of people. Ostensibly used to let others know where you are and what you're doing, Twitter has evolved into a broad method of data sharing.

Twitter has gained prominence lately with reports of newsworthy events. For example, news that a small earthquake struck the Big Island was first broken via Twitter.

Currently, Twitter is used mostly by individual folks who provide “;tweets.”; Obviously, though, most of these people have jobs and tweet about business issues.

Already, we're seeing organizations using Twitter for a variety of purposes. Some are leading-edge in their use of Twitter, going so far as to use it for official marketing and public relations missives. Although Twitterers have thus far shown a high intolerance to self-serving tweets, many businesses have become proficient at advertising via Twitter without upsetting the community.

A riskier use of Twitter is when people discuss what they are working on. Obviously, companies can lose their edge if the competition becomes aware of supposedly confidential work products.

Lastly, we see organizations using Twitter as a tool for customer feedback and competitive analysis. If someone tweets about your company's product, you'd want to know what they are saying.

A key to effectively using Twitter as a business tool is to build a large following. Following the golden rule, a good way to get people to follow you is to follow them. Twitter has some pretty simple functions that facilitate the location of Twitterers either by name or key words. Many folks who you follow will reciprocate and start following you if, of course, you have anything remotely interesting to contribute.

There are currently hundreds, if not thousands, of tools available to maximize the capabilities of Twitter.

Given its rapid adaptation by businesses and government agencies, we believe that Twitter will continue to be incorporated into business functions. But its use must be controlled. When e-mail and the Internet took off, most organizations established policies guiding the use of such technologies at the office. Similarly, now companies and public agencies should consider reviewing existing policies and revising or augmenting them as necessary to include the use of Twitter and similar tools. This will be especially important as more and more organizations begin to adapt Twitter for various uses.

John Agsalud is the director of professional services, Pacific region, for Decision Research Corp. Reach him at 949-8316, ext. 171., or at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)