Twitter’s value in the workplace

FT columnist Lucy Kellaway had an amusing-to-read story recently about business executives using Twitter and asks whether those Twittering executives reveal too much.

[…] I think [Twitter] is potentially the best communication tool there is; the trouble is that most executives are making a complete hash of using it. Either they fill it with mundane personal detail, or they fill it with mundane professional detail – which is possibly worse. The first scores higher on embarrassment; the second on tedium.

[…] Despite the dismal use to which executives are putting Twitter, more and more are signing up for fear of being left behind. Last week I met a British business leader who told me that he had just joined, but complained that he was now so focused on turning the details of his day into pithy tweets that he was finding it hard to pay attention to what he was doing. Worse, once he had composed his Tweet he felt insecure and unpopular as only three people seemed to be following him.

After checking out a number of execs on the ExecTweets service, Kellaway has some provocative thoughts about Twitter’s role in organizational communication.

[…] To force everyone to say what they have to say in 140 characters deals with the communications overload at a stroke. Not only would messages be quicker to read and easier to understand, most would not get sent at all. The bulk of internal e-mails are exercises in back-covering or throat-clearing, and so if they were forced down to their barest essentials it would become clear that there was nothing there at all.

To communicate this way – either on Twitter or on Yammer, which is a similar service aimed at companies – would have another advantage. It would make clear who are the really powerful people in a company. Humble employees who happen to have good ideas could easily have more followers than the chief executive.

Still more revealing would be the ratio of followers to followed, as it tells you whether people are not just talking but also listening.

That final paragraph fits nicely with what I believe, that Twitter is a terrific tool for listening.

And putting amusement aside, I can also see Twitter’s value in the workplace instead of email in some situations – and I’m all for finding more effective alternatives to email – if people are able to just go ahead and use it as they see fit rather than as some kind of cascaded top-down formal directive to use it.

There are some examples of that in the user testimonials on the Yammer website.

In the meantime, take a look at ExecTweets from Federated Media that helps you find and follow business executives (mostly American but not exclusively so) on Twitter. There’s less than 100 there at the moment but take a look anyway.

You might find a gem.


Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Paul Seaman

    I also loved Kellaway’s swipe at poor executive communication techniques. However, there’s form and then there’s content. Bad communicators at more than 140 characters do not improve because they suddenly have that set as a limit, no more than they do when the limit is set at 70 characters, or even 200.

    Moreover, there is such a thing as Twitter overload as LeMeur has highlighted on his blog here:

    http://www.loiclemeur.com/english/2008/12/twitter-we-need-search-by-authority.html

  2. What’s next on the horizon? « Life is what you make it

    […] http://nevillehobson.com/2009/05/03/twitters-value-in-the-workplace/And putting amusement aside, I can also see Twitter’s value in the workplace instead of email in some situations – and I’m all for finding more effective alternatives to email – if people are able to just go ahead and use it as they see fit rather than as some kind of cascaded top-down formal directive to use it. […]

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