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Why twitter is not (yet?) all that valuable for BPXers ( and others)

Last night I could not sleep; one of those evenings where all the work keeps spiralling in my head. And as I was thinking about all the work ahead of us I got a message from twitter. Now some people like twitter and I think there is a small business value to us all ( and it has something to do with events ) however I definitely think there is a law of diminishing returns.

I found the blog by the noisychannel about twitter and other social media being a ponzi scheme utterly fascinating. I am assuming you have used twitter or at least signed up and started to follow some people.

So I originally was following more than 100 people in the beginning and quickly realized twitter is really only about following the active people that add value to your world. Most people are not active at all and although you are following them, you can mostly disregard them. But then you do have the active ones and personally I cannot follow more than 10-12 active people. ( and with active it means they seem to be glued to the keyboard or have some sort of electrode stuck to their brains and they transfer their thoughts to tweets automatically). What I also found out is that most people do not say what they are doing but most peope say what their thinking. So perhaps the first tweet question should not be what are you doing; but what are you thinking. Secondly I compare following 12 active people is almost like using the search radio station function on my car radio. Every 5 seconds there is another channel change and I both have a hard time following and I only am able to follow part of it ( sometimes because they are tweeting with others that are not part of your inner circle).

I am almost at a point where I wonder if twitter and other types of quick salvo social media tools (including texting) have something to do with an increase in Attention Deficit Disorder: ( and don’t get me wrong this is really a serious issue)

I did find twitter good for breaking the news to me like with the Bombay bombings or the Hudson river plane crash. Perhaps there is a business model for twitter owners there ( faster than NPR, CNN or AP News); since I still have not figured out besides advertising if there is any business model at all for them. ( And from myspace we know by now that millions of members does not equal millions or billions of value ) Additionally it is kind of nice when you are trying to track an event or go to an event if you are following people that go to the event and feel their experience of the event. I think some of the value of twitter lies there.

From a marketing perspective twitter is according to me overhyped. Marketeers seem mostly lost these days, having no clue which social media tool to go after and penetrate and converse with their potential clients. Twitter is hard because it is not picked up by the search engines like google; so one problem is that any message that you have in twitter can not get amplified through other channels (you could compare it like going to an event as a marketeer and trying to reach an audience with a banner ad; how effective can you be ?)  additionally you have to use the people that are followed most ( like Guy Kawasaki, Robert Scoble or Barack Obama ) and use them as your marketing person; good for them ( they can choose what they want to amplify and even ask for money….); bad for you !

The best thing for a marketeer is to find the people they trust and that have weight and are followed acitvely and see if you can work with them on a campaign; still tricky because they will message what you want in their own words ( or at least that is what I would say; Do you agree with me that most super active twitterers are freedom fighters ?)

In a business world and a business sense I am still trying to figure out how twiter functionality could be used for our as well as any business teams. I tend to gravitate towards more closed smaller job focused team groups where the question changes from ” what are you doing” to some more tailored questions to the group you are following:

– What decision are you making (as a manager I would be interested in this )

– What was the outcome of your meeting ( sales, partner org, general )

– What was the customer saying about which product? (sales)

– What problem do you have; or How did you fix the problem ( service engineer organization )

In the end it is to me all about making each other’s work day more effective. I have the challenge that I manage a global team located all around the world: China, India, Israel, Germany, US East coast, US Central, Canada and US West coast. So twitter functionality (if kept simple) could possibly increase transparancy and communiction. My favorite thing would be if twitter functionality and e-mail would be totally synced into one queue ( I do not think you can get totally away from official communication channels like e-mail and only focus only on non official communciation). Right now the issue is that there are too many tools out there for us and that creates a feeling that you have to watch too many (TV? like ?) channels at the same time. I am not sure if that makes me and others more effective ( I do not yet feel it makes me more efficient ).

So for the BPXers and others amongst us. If you are doing a project and you can create a small project group twitter or cubetree channel.. you could try it ( but you can also create a DL in e-mail. Still struggling with what the difference is) and see if it makes you more effective.  If you are thinking about how you can integrate twitter functionality into a business process and you have found the magic potion..let me and the others in our community know.. I would be very curious to learn how you think it could be useful beyond the news and current hype factor.

Hopefully you did not see this blog as a rant or a rave.. just felt I needed to dot down my thoughts on paper regarding this topic. This could easily become a whole thesis; and I am sure there are many trains and schools of thought.

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  • I frequently question the value of Twitter, but, lately, even I have to admit that I've had some good "conversations" and found very valuable content. (And SCN mentor Oliver Kohl has been a "Twitter Mentor" to me, showing me at least some of the light). I think it is all about building the right following, so you communicate relevant information to that group, and receive. Second option is to have a second twitter account with a small group of "friends" who you tweet with as a group, as opposed to sending out information that might be relevant.

    During the SAP Business Suite 7 launch, I enjoyed tweeting with the group of people watching. Dennis Howlett even knew the land line dial in, which helped a lot :-).

    There is the question though at what point it all becomes too much. There seems to be more and more research that multi-taskign is really a myth...

    • I personally think Twitter is only valuable to market compaign. The tweet is too unstructured for us to work in a business project. Furthermore, Twitter can be only be applicable and add value to mobile business. As Vijay Vijayasankar cited the example of mobile phone usage, it's just a tool for killing the time! Imagine, when you are on the road or in the plane, you feel bored and want to kill off the time, then it'll be the opportunity to promote your products/services, brand your companies and etc.
  • Hi Marco,

    I won't go against your analysis about marketing using Twitter and your thoughts about other aspects. There are others much better with this and they will probably put in their two cents.

    Just wanted to let you know about the SAP Affinity Group on Twitter:

    It is a list of Twitter users with a relationship to SAP, may it be an employee, customer, consultant, etc.

    Of course way to much for you to follow, because many of them a very talkative but definitely something to check out.


  • I joined recently and am following a bunch of people - all related to SAP in some fashion. My immediate problem is the amount of noise from otherwise good contributors - people talk about their pets, time they sleep and wake up, and other useless (for me) things...and then occassionally send exceptional tweets. If only I could figure out a way to selctively get updates..

  • Hi Marco,

    For me, Twitter is more like a global coffee room - I can go there for a break from time to time, and mostly people are talking about random stuff - but quite often you hear something really useful there which you wouldn't get anywhere else.

    Working mostly from home, Twitter for me replaces the kind of chatter I would normally have with many colleagues in the same office. I think I have spoken more with the SCN team in Palo Alto etc through Twitter than through work-based emails, for example, but a very informal kind of talking - sometimes about SCN, but sometimes about strange fashions in cycling gear, for example.

    Of course, many of the problems you raise with Twitter for BPX purposes are the very problems we are hoping to solve with the Apache ESME project. 🙂


    • Darren, as mentioned I do see twitter a bit as a news value generator; almost like a coffee corner ( not much gossip, but yes sometimes).. I just can't keep up with the volume of chatter if more than 10-12 people are talking at the same time.. can you ?
      • Newbie mistake, Marco 🙂 - you're treating Twitter like email and trying to keep up with it all.

        Th key with Twitter is not to try to keep up with everything that is said - after all, you wouldn't tape everything said in the coffee room while you were working just so you can listen to it later.

        My operation mode is this: I get email notifications of direct messages, so I will always see those quickly (only a few per week). Next, I check my "@replies" list in Twitter to see if I am specifically mentioned in any conversation - typically there are only a handful per day of those. Finally, I just check the last few pages of general conversation to see what's going on right now, and if it happened earlier, I don't worry about it. I also use Tweetdeck to maintain a small group of the people of particular interest to me, so I can go a bit further back in time with their messages.

        That's the same way you'd treat a coffee room - pop in for a coffee, see what people are saying *right now*, and occasionally someone will mention what was being said earlier if it affects you.


        • Perhaps the question then should be: does a coffee room approach /tool like twitter add (significant ) value to your daily work and make you more effective ?

          Probably if you are a schmoozer.. it might be ! If you are trying to do actual work or trying to think.. hmmm..

          • I think the mistake is to see Twitter as a work tool as such. It's primarily a social tool, but one that perhaps wastes less time than others. The very immediacy and ability to ignore what's in the past is what gives it some utility though: I can ask "who knows how I can solve this problem?" on Twitter and get some responses quite quickly - maybe I have my answer in under an hour. In ESME, I may send the message "Server will be rebooted in 5 minutes" to my team. The relevant people will see the message, and at the same time I am not filling up the inbox of team members who didn't see my message because they are in a meeting - an email would be wasting their time in this context. Anything that actually reduces the number of emails in my inbox is a useful tool, in my opinion.

            - Darren

  • How ironic that your post was published the same day that I wrote about some industries/ organizations not embracing Web 2.0. Since Twitter is blocked here, I have not really thought about it much. I already subscribe to so many discussion forums that it is easy to find myself spending a lot of time filtering out what is noise to me. I have to agree, for myself I don't see the same business need for Twitter as I do for Web 2.0 collaborative technologies.


    • I have seen a lot of clients blocking twitter and facebook and orkut on their networks. But for a disciplined few, I think there are a lot of people in offices who would waste paid time on non-work related browsing and chatting.

      It is interesting how this looks similar to the scenario when mobile phones came out first. People went on long flights to other places and used to call home once in a few days and but for emergencies, no one seemed to miss the ability to stay connected. Then came mobiles - and I see myself calling my wife from a mile away from home just to say that I will reach home in couple of minutes. I perfectly know that this communication adds very little value - but since I have the tool - I use it.

  • Good thoughts, but you forgot the most important information. What is your Twitter ID?
    I am using Twitter quite extensively in a very similar way like Darren. I have Tweetdeck running on a separate computer and peek over once in a while to see what is going on. I am not only using it for work related stuff but also things like visiting and rating restaurants and to let friends know when I am traveling and where. It is also very useful as a back-channel to a conference.