Tags: Twitter, Social Computing, Social Networking, Social Software, Social Networks, Knowledge Management, KM, Knowledge Sharing, Collaboration, Remote Collaboration, Communities, SMS, Google Talk, Twitteroo, Twitterific, RSS, Syndication, Micro-blogging, Metablogging, Q&A, Web Presence, Serendipity, Knowledge Discovery, Informal Learning, Social Capital, Anecdotes, Clippings, Sticky Notes, Quick Links, Twittering
Incredibly massive the impact that just one single social computing offering can have out there on the Internet. I am sure that by now you rather hate it or love it. Either one of those. No doubt. That is exactly what is happening out there in the Blogosphere, too! You rather hate Twitter or you love it. Hundreds and hundreds of different weblog posts have been put together thus far in the last couple of weeks, covering the potential value add from Twitter in the business world, or its lack of. And I must say that after I have been playing around with it for the last couple of days I am actually one of the folks who loves the experience. Yes, I am going to admit that for a number of months I was not really convinced about it, I thought it was just a total waste of time, specially for those knowledge workers already busy doing all sorts of things. And on top of that get going with some twittering? I didn’t think so.
However, thanks to some peer pressure from some of the folks who I already know from their weblogs or whatever other different conversations, and a few other weblog entries here and there talking about it, I, finally, decided to give it a try and my initial opinion has now changed completely. So, like I mentioned previously, here is a weblog entry that I have put together where I have listed 10 reasons why I strongly believe that Twitter is actually a very empowering social software tool that would help knowledge workers improve their already existing social networks. Yes, that is right, 10 good reasons why you would want to continue make use of Twitter or why if you haven’t gotten started with it yet, it may be a good opportunity to do so now. Thus here we go with those reasons:
1. Strong sense of community: That is right. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why Twitter on its own is really worth while exploring and playing around further with it. Being able to see the pictures, and the profiles, of the people you are connected to and get a real sense of what they are doing, and saying, at that very moment is a very refreshing way of knowing what is going on within your social network(s). In a virtual environment this is probably the closest that you would get to the same sensations as when being on a face to face environment.
2. Staying connected: Here is another good reason to make use of Twitter. And specially for the mobile workforce, because with this particular offering you would be able to stay connected at all times with those folks you care about. Being able to share short messages when you are about to leave home to go to the office, or when you are about to take the car, or the plane, or just before you go and visit an important customer, or when you are going to be gone for an extended amount of time and everything else is off is just incredibly handy. It would save you plenty of e-mails or IMs to check if people are there or not.
Here is an example. Say that, for instance, you have got to travel to another city to visit a customer and you mention briefly in Twitter you are heading there. Perhaps one of your colleagues from one of your social networks may be in that same city and have share a similar message. Well, within minutes you are both going to realise that you could actually meet up for lunch or a drink or two and connect face to face. How useful can that be?
3. Pervasiveness: This is a reason that I wanted to mention over here as well as an answer to quite a few folks who have been saying that it is rather difficult to actually work with Twitter and share those messages. Well, to start with, if you are familiar with SMS, or text messaging, and I bet you all are (If you have got a mobile phone with you) you already have got the gift of writing into Twitter because you can use SMS to post messages to it.
On top of that you also have got the Web or the Instant Messaging interfaces. So if you are in an always connected mode you can rather go through the Web or IM interfaces (I am currently making use of Google Talk for that) and send your messages.
And, finally, if you are one of those folks who like to have the control with an offline application, not to worry, there are a couple of options there, like Twiteroo (Windows) or Twitterific (Mac). So, as you can see, I doubt there are many other social software tools out there that would allow for such flexibility and pervasiveness when sharing messages across while still keeping that ease of use, regardless what you may be using.
Oh, and before I forget, what about the RSS newsfeed? Is there a much better way of keeping up to date with everything than just a single line in your RSS feed client per item to go through? How easy and how fast can you scan through those different messages without the RSS feed? I doubt it would get any easier than that, so having one is going to help you digest all of them in a matter of seconds (Or minutes, if you have got plenty of people you would want to follow).
4. Enhancing your weblogging experience with a micro-blog: This is actually one of my favourite reasons on why I am enjoying Twitter quite a bit and that is the fact that through it you can post quick messages about things that may be of interest to you and which you may want to revisit at a later time to expand further in your own weblog. So in a way it becomes a micro-blog, but the interesting thing is that is going to happen not only for yourself, but also for your social networks because you are feeding them with interesting links to cover and you are helping them come up with topics for their own weblogging and vice versa. So there you go, you will now be able to have an incredibly good amount of topics to research or weblog about and share your experiences with others.
That is actually one of the things that I am starting to make use of myself by actually selecting those entries as favourites and then just filtering them from everything else. If you haven’t tried it out just yet, go ahead and do it. You would be amazed of how much you twitterings are actually going to help your already existing weblogging efforts.
5. Reaching out for quick Q&As: This is, perhaps, certainly one reason that may be a bit tricky to use, at least, at the very beginning, because you do not want to sound too tiring constantly asking questions, but what a better way of sending quick questions / queries to your social network(s) and get answers back, just as quick and short as the questions you have initially sent out? You are more likely to have a good and quick answer you could work with from Twitter than from e-mail or from a standard IM conversation.
I have tried it out already a couple of times and I must say that without even knowing if I would be getting an answer or not, people actually got back to me with just what I was looking for. Including folks who are not using Twitter themselves, but do listen to others… Take it for a test yourself and see how far you can go. As I said though, be careful not to overload your friends and followers with queries. Give them a break
6. Presence indicators: Again, this is another good reason, specially for the mobile workforce, to make use of Twitter. With it you would have an opportunity to check out if your colleagues are there or not, if they are able to help out, if you would need them, or if they would just be able to hang out with you while you may be waiting for something to happen (A meeting, a conference call, a plane to catch, lunch / dinner, you name it).
It may be relatively a simple thing, but you would be amazed to find out how that informal exchange of messages gives you a strong sense of connecting with folks about something else than just exchanging knowledge or information on particular business related topics.
7. Speeding networking at conference events: And if you are not sure about this one already, check out the impact it has been having at different conference events, like SXSW. The larger the event, the better. Is there a better way to find out what is going on at the particular conference event you are attending than with a gigantic whiteboard where everyone is sharing messages of where they are, what they are doing, what they are attending and the different conversations they are having? It actually feels like having a thousand ears (And eyes) watching out for you what is happening out there and then letting you know about it.
It just feels like you are there! This is actually one of the main reasons why I got started with Twitter in the first place. And I am hoping to be able to test that out over the next few months as I am getting to do quite a bit of travelling, but more on that at a later time.
8. Serendipitous knowledge / information discoveries: Yes, I know that this reason may well be common sense to most of us, but I just had to say it as well. Why not? Yes, indeed, I can imagine that lots of people would think that some of the different messages may be trivial and everything, but that is not always the case. In quite a few of the short messages shared you would actually be able to find out how people are sharing different knowledge snippets and links to different resources that would provide some further interesting readings and, why not? get a discussion going on that could be going through Twitter or through whatever other tool. But the conversation got started through that short message.
Yes, I can imagine that this is going to be a very difficult-to-prove reason on how it would improve your social network(s), but the thing is that even if out of 20 messages exchanged you actually get to discover something new that you could re-use as well in one of those 20 messages it would still be worth while. All the way. Think about how much stuff you get to read during the course of the day that you discard as you go along…
9. Informal learning: If Informal Learning was ever meant to be something that would bring learning into the next level of interactions within the Enterprise and beyond, then Twitter is certainly going to help Learning reach that Learning 2.0 status. Why? Well, simply because by having people sharing messages on what they have learnt during the course of the day while at work, making use of the different tools they get exposed to, is not only going to help them remember what they have learnt, but also share with others what they have found most interesting from all what they have been exposed to and, if needed, create an additional interest in others who would start asking questions about those learning activities, or potential courses they may have attended.
I think that this particular reason has not been explored very much, just yet, but I bet it will be over the next few months, specially when more and more knowledge workers start taking these type of interactions into a learning environment, even while at the office desk. So stay tuned for some more in this space.
10. Boosting your social capital skills: and, finally, the one reason that I feel rules them all and which, in itself, explains quite clearly the incredible business value that Twitter has been providing thus far. I bet you have been reading quite often how this particular application being used by different folks is not providing useful or relevant content since lots of trivia data get shared all over the place. I bet you have read all over the place things like who would be interested in finding out what people are having for dinner, or which film they have seen recently, or when they may be visiting their parents or celebrate their birthday party, and the list goes on and on and on.
To be honest with you, the person who would be interested in all that, and so much more, is you. Yes, you yourself! And you may be wondering why, I am sure. Well, Twitter is actually covering one area where most online tools available out there in the social computing space have failed to deliver. An area that, whether we like it or not, is essential to any successful Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Community and Social Computing strategy. And that is the fact that Twitter helps you improve, and tremendously, your social capital skills.
Yes, that is right! Those different skills that you would be making use of in order to help nurture and consolidate the different relationships that you have been building over time with your colleagues, friends, etc. etc. Those essential and intangible social capital skills that would help you keep those social networks very healthy and moving further into the next level.
And that would be it, folks. Yes, I know a rather long weblog entry, but, at least, there you have got some more food for thought, hopefully, about the potential business value of Twitter with some good reasons that I have been experiencing myself thus far in the last couple of days that I have been using the application myself. How about you? Is there any other reason why you feel that this application can help you improve your already existing social networks? What do you think?.