With the sustained explosive growth in the use of Twitter, it seems we can’t just view it as a fad that will pass soon. According to a study by Edison Research:
· Awareness of Twitter has exploded from 5% of Americans 12+ in 2008 to 87% in 2010 (by comparison, Facebook’s awareness is 88%)
· 51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks
It’s going to be difficult if not impossible to develop a credible and effective organizational strategy that uses Twitter until we can, as individual leaders get over our jitters about Twitter.
I just had a conversation with someone about the importance and difficulty in exemplifying the principles of Open Government but, I have to admit, I just blocked my first person on Twitter. This made me question the sincerity of my own advice. But, the paradox just shows the leadership challenges that surround the usage of social media in organizations.
Charlene Li, in her book Open Leadership describes the difficulty:
“It isn’t enough to be a good communicator. You must be comfortable sharing personal perspectives and feelings to develop closer relationships. Negative online comments can’t be avoided or ignored. Instead, you must come to embrace each openness-enabled encounter as an opportunity to learn.”
I drew the line with comfortable information sharing and developing closer relationships when someone (who I blocked) crossed my invisible line by wanting to become a fritter (a friend on Twitter). While I do believe that sharing personal information can help develop relationships, I feel that true personal friendships require more than 140 characters per interaction. Furthermore, communications in this media are only an @ away from sharing information from 2,243 of my closest friends.
Nevertheless, Twitter provides a powerful way of adding richness to conversations and interactions. This Washington Post article by Susan Kinzie discusses usage of Twitter in higher education. Professors are using Twitter to extend the academic conversation beyond the classroom. Furthermore, students can be more engaged and benefit from ongoing Socratic dialog.
Gartner analyst, Michael Maoz suggests an increase in the effective usage of Twitter in customer service. There are many ideas developing which will spawn new tools for early adopters that will be valuable for customer service. So, get over your jitters and watch the early adopters, there’s a strong potential for significant benefit.
Linda Cureton, CIO, NASA