March 29, 2009

Gartner predicts fast development for enterprise microblogging

Twitterecosystem (Twitter ecosystem made by, Flickr stream Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Creative Commons License)

The microblogging service Twitter gets so much attention these days from mainstream media, that some speak about a "hype". In our own country, Belgium, Twitter was discussed on national television and in the newspapers.

Twitter is famous for its simplicity: a free service allowing its users to send short messages about what they are doing, maximum 140 characters long. That's what we call microblogging.

Not unusual in social media, the company doesn't earn a profit, and even has no revenues. But never mind, Twitter is a success with more than 7 million unique visitors in February 2009 according to Nielsen Online (475,000 in February 2008).  It's about time too for imagining and introducing profitable applications and features.

So Twitter, a Californian company  founded by Evan Williams and Biz Stone three years ago,  will provide in 2009 commercial accounts for companies which will pay - or so the company hopes - for additional features of the service.

At the beginning, Twitter didn't plan to seek revenues before 2010 but the company decided to accelerate the calendar and recently increased capital by 35 millions dollars. The Twitter phenomenon is growing fast, so much that Facebook offered 500.000 million dollars in shares to purchase the microblogging site. Estimating it was still too early and the valuation by Facebook was too low, Twitter turned the offer down.

Gartner report

The research company Gartner recently published a report predicting a fast development of Enterprise Microblogging by 2011. Jeffrey Mann, research vice president at Gartner:

Despite the fact that Twitter is primarily aimed at individual users in the consumer market, many of those individuals work for companies and 'tweet' about business issues, leading businesses to explore how they could best use it.

In Belgium, I think it could take more time to adopt business microblogging. First of all, people are asking questions about the the utility of Twitter. They worry about the security and  the trustworthiness of what they read on Twitter. 

For example, in my newsroom, many journalists still don't understand what could be the real contribution of Twitter for their work. They are still considering the service more as a funny and personal application rather than a professional tool for researching and crowd-sourcing news.

It is an "egg or chicken" problem: if a journalist covers a local sector (let's say social news), where the protagonists are not technologically inclined and speak French or Dutch, there is not much to learn from Twitter, so this journalist will consider Twitter as an Anglo-Saxon echo chamber for geeks.

Back to the global realities of the Gartner analysts. They predict that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be a standard feature of 80 percent of social software platforms on the market.

The researchers identified four ways in which companies are using Twitter.

  • The first one is called 'Direct' and means that the company already uses Twitter as a marketing or public relations channel. Twitter is integrated in the strategic communication.
  • The second one, 'Indirect', is used by the employees themselves to enhance and extend their personal reputations, thereby enhancing the company's reputation.
  • Gartner doesn't recommend the third way, called 'Internal', which refers to the inclination to communicate about what employees are doing, projects they are working on and ideas that occur to them. That kind of behavior remains dangerous because of security and confidentiality issues.

  • The fourth one, called 'Inbound Signaling', allows companies to obtain precious information about consumers and competitors.

Microblogging is larger than just Twitter of course. There are other platforms such as Plurk and Facebook recently became more Twitter-like - yes that very same Facebook to which access is blocked for employees by an increasing number of companies. All the more reason for companies to give microblogging some serious thoughts. 

Sarah Godard


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you write a post on enterprise microblogging, and while u mention Plurk, you don't mention any companies that are in this space ( et al)?

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