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Your Mama Don't Dance and Your Daddy Don't... Twitter?

June 15, 2009
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During the CHIME reception at HIMSS in April, I spotted our friend Anthony holding court at a table surrounded by the rich and powerful. (Actually it was a bunch of CIOs and consultants.)

Being the shy and retiring guy that I am, I pulled up a chair and sat in the reflected glory for a while.

Over the next hour or so several people moved in and out of the conversation, but a recurrent theme was, “What is the utility of social networking sites to your business?” Most of the debate surrounded MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.

I wasn’t checking IDs, but my guess is that (with the obvious exception of Anthony) most of those involved in the discussion could tell you what they were doing when Kennedy was shot. Jack Kennedy.

The consensus of opinion in the group seemed to be that there was very little business value to Web 2.0, especially where Twitter is concerned.

It got me to thinking, though, about what Twitter does well. If you want to send out little messages or updates to a targeted group- even a self-selected group- it’s a pretty nifty tool.

One of the common complaints that people in positions of leadership hear is that their employees feel out of the loop. What if you tweeted little updates of anything that you thought might be of interest to people in your business sphere, especially those who report to you? Gives a whole new meaning to the idea of “followers”, doesn’t it?

Is it likely to solve all those “out of the loop” complaints? Of course not.

Can it help? Can’t tell without trying.

So I’m trying.

I registered recently and encouraged everyone on my team to follow me.
Since then, I’ve been trying to decide in my own mind what kind of update is pertinent and useful. There’s a difference in the updates my family, my staff, and my “fans” are interested in. (If you’ve not signed up yet, you’ll be surprised at all the followers you’ll gather that you’ve never heard of. I’m guessing that most are probably selling something.)

It’s too soon to tell if my team is finding any value in the exercise. For me, I’m hoping that it at least helps me to think about how I disseminate information. It would be nice if I could also gain some word discipline by learning to work in 140 characters. (Readers of this blog won’t find this newsworthy, but I’m sometimes, like Polonius, brevity-challenged.)

Perhaps a larger question is- Does adoption of any technology by a 50-something denizen of the C-suite demonstrate that the technology has entered the mainstream? Or that it’s hopelessly passé?

What about you? Are you Tweeting, Facebooking, YouTubing, Flickring, LinkingIn, or Blorping? (I just made that last one up. I think.)

And what were you doing when Kennedy was shot? (Jack.)

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Comments

Mark:
I set up a Twitter site and already have followers, even though I've not written anything....My linkedin site has already given us a client...Facebook has been the most facinating experiment...Within a period of about three weeks half my high school and many, many college buddies "friended" me. It appears we all discovered it the same weekend. Of course, this was more social than business but it did demonstrate something I've noticed with my teenager. She stays in touch with people she has met only once, where we loose touch with close friends. I do believe, that if I can make it a part of my schedule, social networking will provide a great new way to work with clients, connect with new associates, stay informed and potentially change the way we do business....I was in kindergarten when Kennedy was shot.

Mark, this is such an interesting debate. I know that some hospitals are using Facebook and Twitter as marketing tools (to publicize events and maintain a presence in the community), but honestly, I'm not sure how much business value it really has.
I think it has the most value to consumers who want one site where they can get a few sports and news updates that are formatted to his/her preferences (for example, instead of going to ESPN and navigating around for Red Sox news, I get Twitter feeds from 2 Boston newspapers).
When I asked my Dad, who was about 18 when Jack Kennedy was shot, about Twitter, he was somewhat familiar with it, but didn't have much interest in a site where every other word was abbreviated. He doesn't really see the point, and he is not alone in his thinking.

I'm still hung up on the fact that I was "holding court at a table surrounded by the rich and powerful." Who needs social media when you have that going for you :)

Mark,

Welcome to Twitter! Like you, when I first signed up I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to utilize this tool. Was it a fad, a game, or a glorified game of "Telephone?" Or was I actually going to gain something tangible from the time I spent listening and Tweeting? Didn't know.

However, in the last three or so months on Twitter, I have found my "Twitter voice" and in doing so have located a Wiki developer, connected multiple candidates w/ open positions, conducted a very unscientific but spirited poll on the iPhone vs. the Blackberry, and landed two new sponsors for HealthcareITCentral.com. All through Twitter! Not to mention making hundreds of new connections w/ people who may end up being friends, business colleagues, or both.

That being said, I think each circumstance is different, and what works for me may not work for someone else. I do think we've just scratched the surface when it comes to maximizing the potential of each of the major Social Media tools. Dell shared yesterday in a blog post that they can directly attribute over 3 million dollars in sales to its Twitter account - pretty cool! http://tinyurl.com/nh6a82 I'm excited to see what's around the corner.

G.

Mark, to Pam's point, when I set up my Twitter account, I was contacted by a friend through Twitter within 3 hours. He obviously had it set up to scan twitter for his contacts. ... I was sitting on the living room floor at home when Kennedy was shot.