While Frank was wading into the trenches of the Facebook vs Linkedin wars (my personal scorecard: jobs scored through Facebook: 0, dates scored through Linkedin: 0) I was trying to to figure out what the heck is the deal with this Twitter thing. Everybody is talking about it and nobody over a certain age seems to have any idea what the fuss is all about.
Twitter is a site that lets you very easily post a brief statement of whatever you’re doing at that particular moment. (my first post was “joining twitter”) You can update this as often as you like and you can look at what other people are doing at that moment or what they’ve been doing recently. You can “follow’ people to receive a feed of what they’re up to on an ongoing basis. There are some tools that let you use Twitter from mobile phones and let you implant Twitter information in other sites, including Facebook. (Where, by the way, the entirely of Twitter’s functionality is available in just one of the hundreds of widgets available. More of Facebook later)
I might not be explaining this very well, but please take my word for it, this is terribly, terribly, addictive and could easily soak up all the spare time in the universe. How? Why? You’ll just have to try it.
By way of example, I present the Twitter profile of one Sockington. According to his (?) bio, “I am Jason Scott’s Cat.” As of this writing, Sockington says “Can’t talk now. Too busy licking.” and has 86 followers. Make that 87. At this rate, by the end of the year easily 100 people will have signed up to know what Jason’s cat is doing right now.
What does this mean for businesses? Besides that you should seriously consider banning your employees from using it at work, not much that I can figure out. There seems to be nothing on Twitter that even smells like a business model or a way to monetize the millions of hypnotized followers they seem to have acquired. But if you can create a platform where people post information multiple times a day and check that information almost constantly, you’ve definitely got something of value on your hands.
Let’s think a little more outside this admittedly squsihy box. Is there a place in a business setting or more importantly in b2b marketing for this kind of ultrapresence? It’s nice to know which of your co-workers is online or out of the office using your IM tool or intranet application. Would it be helpful to know that at this particular instant, Janice in accounting is “working on that jerk David’s unintelligible expense report?” Maybe. I’m sure there are control freak managers who would love it.
But what if you could get that kind of immediate feedback on business transactions? Like FedEx tracking but even more granular? 11:52am, your package is being crushed under 44 other packages in the back of a hot truck stuck in traffic on 128 South. 2:35pm, your payment is earning interest for the bank before its actually credited to the vendor. 3:48pm, your CRM consultant is closing out his day-trading positions.
The trouble with Twitter is that you have to actually spend the time to tell it what you’re doing, which is an inherent drag on productivity. When people are busy in real life, they use Twitter less, but when they are bored at their computers, they can update it all day.
My modest proposal for business Twitter (bwitter? twib2ber? Frank, what’s our budget for buying domain names?) certainly depends on information systems putting the real-time status into the system without wasting workers’ time, but what’s to stop people from wasting their time looking at this matrix-like feed of nanoinformation?
Will Twitter ever be more than a time-sink? Will business find a use for it? Stay tuned…