Why I think enterprise microblogging is a good idea

Sadly, I haven’t come across a company that uses enterprise microblogging?  I really think this is a technology that hasn’t quite found its feet yet has some great benefits and is worth a second look.

Microblogging (as in services like twitter) is a technology that has been getting increasingly mainstream and conservative press recently (if it’s getting mentions in the companydirectors magazine then I’d say it’s mainstream).  However most of what I’ve been seeing is about the social side of microblogging, connecting to communities on the internet to build engagement, improve responsiveness etc.  While a lot of the social, outward facing benefits of this technology have been overstated in my opinion (I am in the wrong market sector admittedly), I think that the internal benefits have not gotten anywhere near the attention they deserve.

There are a few providers in this market (yammer, and socialcast for more pure microblogging apps) and I think that organisations should pay them a little more attention – in particular if they want to build their internal social structures, or have an interesting, ubiquitous way of building an organisational knowledge base (more details below):

  • Building Social Structures – Social structures in an organisation traditionally will travel 2 or 3 steps away from someone at most.  You know everyone in your team, but you’ll only know a few people in other teams within your division, and nobody outside that.  What microblogs do is create opportunities to discover people in the organisation who they don’t know.  Sure some of this time might be wasted with social stuff “Hey who wants to go out to X for knock off drinks tonight!!!”, but a lot of the time, people will be asking questions, asking who knows about a certain industry, product or client.  This sort of information doesn’t freely propogate in an organisation, spending time creating digitally enhanced social structures is a good thing!
  • Developing Organisational Memory – Ever since Nonaka and Takeuchi published The Knowledge Creating Firm, managers have been looking for ways to take the tacit, difficult to communicate knowledge and put it into a format that organisations can build upon.  I think that microblogging’s mechanism of putting organisational conversations online, in a searchable, hashtaggable, asynchronous manner will provide an incredibly rich stream of data, experience and memory that other more formal social communication forms such as blogs or wikis cannot.  Where the difficulty arises is that organisations need to encourage people to move the behaviours that they normally restrict to email into the microblogging area (asking and answering questions in particular).  Organisations who can encourage the more social conversations rather than the one-on-one email based conversations.

The last new technology that I thought had a bunch of cool applications for enterprise was google wave, and admittedly, it worked out spectacularly badly (for google at least).  I would hope that organisations can see the potential, look beyond the marketing/social/community aspects, and see microblogging’s potential as a new knowledge and social platform.

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