Microblogging as a Corporate Tool

The discussions about micro blogging services have reached another peak these days with Yammer winning the beauty contest at TechCrunch50. Despite all reservations regarding Yammer not being very innovative this incident at least turned on the light on looking at micro blogging services as Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, Identi.ca or as well Yammer (see full list of tools at Jeremiah Owyang) as a corporate tool.

I do not want to rewrite everything that is said about corporate micro blogging but 1) give a little differentiation towards the discussions, 2) sum up a short recap of some interesting German discussions on this topic and 3) come up with some thoughts about some requirements on the side of the user’s perception and understanding of this tools.

Regarding the first aspect – in a lot of discussions about Twitter, Yammer and Co. I miss the differentiation between the scope of its application. Well – as Yammer provides micro-blogging towards a closed network, and Twitter is fairly open in the cloud – we have to distinguish the use of these tools for external corporate communications (for which Yammer is not very applicable) and internal communications and collaboration purposes. So for me corporate is not corporate – and if I want both with one tool neither Yammer nor Twitter is the right choice – implementing my own Laconi.ca instance would therefore be a better approach – combined with Twhirl as a desktop client.

As this community blog is mostly about internal communications and collaborations issues I will focus my second point on the German discussions that are limited to this. (Regarding the external communications potentials I wrote on our German Social Web WORLD Notizblog.) Joachim Niemeier – moderator of our upcoming E2.0 FORUM – had published a very nice post discussing some arguments for the application of these tools and some usage scenarios. His arguments for the usage of these tools include the following:

  • Provisioning of an easy-to-use communications instrument
  • Easy documentation of discussions and decisions in form of “micro-information”
  • Documentated contextual feedback on these micro-information (not getting lost in any email chain communication)
  • Provisioning of methods to identify the cooperation/project partner (within my organization) and to build up a common understanding of my work/project

Well – these arguments for these tools are kind of the aims as well as the problems to be solved. I would still add some more mediate argument. A lot of critics on social software – esp. on micro blogging services – includes the vast amount of noice and distraction it produces. As I wrote on our Notizblog regarding social media providing noise with social bindings and mechanisms for agenada setting I see this noise implies a great potential for any creativity process – this breaks the thing again down towards Tim O’Reilly’s word of “fostering the collective intelligence” with Web 2.0. Within the discussions and informations exchanges there are a lot of ideas for innovations – and esp. micro-blogging services are very effective on this because they limit the idea spreading on a number of characters and make it very easy to distribute them.

Regarding the usage scenarios Joachim Niemeier brought up the following ideas:

  • Defining processes
  • Debriefing projects
  • Project management in general

Dirk Röhrborn complented these thoughts with another systematic approach on the usage scenarios:

  • Micromessaging (short messaging)
  • Awareness / Serendipity (transparency towards the business activity)
  • Microdocumentation (structured documentations)
  • Microlearning (learning in small units)

And yes – here I also would add the item of “Supporting creativity processes”.

Last but not least – I would like to start a discussion about the requirements to introduce these tools towards my organization. As an social software idealist I instantly started a Kongress Media network on Yammer after I heard about it – because as a geo-dispersed organization we are very much suffering from the information overload the email exchange is bringing to us. (Therefore I am eagerly following the results of Luis Suarez’ experiment!) But still – I believe that micro blogging could solve some of our problems – but my folks are very hardly adopting to any kind of social tool – and at last to the newest gadget that is out there in the world. So how do I get there? Dirk Röhrbein is writing in his post about the understanding that is needed for the success of these tools. So I assume we need Twitter to succeed for the masses before micro blogging can be implemented in a substantial way – as weblogs also had to be adopted by the masses before corporate blogging had become acceptable. But maybe it only lacks the best-practices. In the discussions at Joachim Niemeier’s post Martina Goehring as well as Martin Böhringer are talking about some micro blogging best-practices – maybe I or Joachim Niemeier can convince them in writing down their experiences in a guest post at this place – until then I open up the discussion to let you tell me your experiences.


  1. Dirk Röhrborn says:

    @bn: Thank you very much for adding “Supporting creativity processes” to the list of micro-blogging usage scenarios. This is particularly interesting for us because innovation not only needs free exchange of ideas but also at least a minimum of documenation when it comes to implementing new ideas into business practice. Therefore I would like to stress the importance of combining micro-messaging with micro-documentation that we will tackle at communote.com.

  2. Dirk Röhrborn says:

    @bn: Thank you very much for adding “Supporting creativity processes” to the list of micro-blogging usage scenarios. This is particularly interesting for us because innovation not only needs free exchange of ideas but also at least a minimum of documenation when it comes to implementing new ideas into business practice. Therefore I would like to stress the importance of combining micro-messaging with micro-documentation that we will tackle at communote.com.

  3. mk says:

    @Björn I am divided if “understanding” is what we need to drive corporate adoption. Twitter and co. are basically easy to get applications. The way I see it, people don’t use it because they don’t understand and don’t see the altered mode of communication – as it’s so counterintuitive to what we all have learned for long.

    Yes, telling and educating corporations about Microblogs won’t hurt (and adding a list of possible usage arenas is a good start too, @Dirk) but I propose to focus on the personal benefits of “ambient initimacy” for knowledge workers and explore usage potentials in project or innovation management from there.

    People don’t really care about project documentation and “after action” knowledge reviews (and innovators despise processes and organizational boundaries) – hence, we must provide them with light-weight tools that don’t add much additional work load and that bring instant benefits. This is where Twitter, Yammer and co. are coming into play: they are making it easier to feel connected, to communicate and they allow for easy “drill-down” (at least three times: in terms of intensity of debate, in terms of private or public conversation, in terms of engaging into a conversation when I feel so and dropping out from it again when fit).

    Now, Laura Fitton prefers “microsharing” to “microblogging” (yes, the latter is pretty common and already a kind of industry standard) and I can see the reasons. It’s not so much blogging, messaging, documenting or whatever. Twitter and co. are also means for sharing time, for caring about your colleagues and professional network.

    So, as microsharing alters the patterns and ways of communication within an enterprise, we may need 1) an organizational culture that understands the need and value of “caring for your colleagues (and what are they up to in this d*** project”) and 2) we must understand that people need to use it personally some times to understand its benefits for them and their work.

    Btw, somehow this reminds me of the initial reactions of people towards wikis. And with that said, I’ve seen it quite often that when people begin to use their intranet wiki, ideas where this nifty tool (and method to collaborate, dare I say) might be used too emerge quickly. I guess that might happen with enterprise microsharing platforms as well, so it’s more about building a versatile and adaptive platform than getting the usage scenarios right from the very start.


  4. mk says:

    @Björn I am divided if “understanding” is what we need to drive corporate adoption. Twitter and co. are basically easy to get applications. The way I see it, people don’t use it because they don’t understand and don’t see the altered mode of communication – as it’s so counterintuitive to what we all have learned for long.

    Yes, telling and educating corporations about Microblogs won’t hurt (and adding a list of possible usage arenas is a good start too, @Dirk) but I propose to focus on the personal benefits of “ambient initimacy” for knowledge workers and explore usage potentials in project or innovation management from there.

    People don’t really care about project documentation and “after action” knowledge reviews (and innovators despise processes and organizational boundaries) – hence, we must provide them with light-weight tools that don’t add much additional work load and that bring instant benefits. This is where Twitter, Yammer and co. are coming into play: they are making it easier to feel connected, to communicate and they allow for easy “drill-down” (at least three times: in terms of intensity of debate, in terms of private or public conversation, in terms of engaging into a conversation when I feel so and dropping out from it again when fit).

    Now, Laura Fitton prefers “microsharing” to “microblogging” (yes, the latter is pretty common and already a kind of industry standard) and I can see the reasons. It’s not so much blogging, messaging, documenting or whatever. Twitter and co. are also means for sharing time, for caring about your colleagues and professional network.

    So, as microsharing alters the patterns and ways of communication within an enterprise, we may need 1) an organizational culture that understands the need and value of “caring for your colleagues (and what are they up to in this d*** project”) and 2) we must understand that people need to use it personally some times to understand its benefits for them and their work.

    Btw, somehow this reminds me of the initial reactions of people towards wikis. And with that said, I’ve seen it quite often that when people begin to use their intranet wiki, ideas where this nifty tool (and method to collaborate, dare I say) might be used too emerge quickly. I guess that might happen with enterprise microsharing platforms as well, so it’s more about building a versatile and adaptive platform than getting the usage scenarios right from the very start.


  5. Persia N says:

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  6. Persia N says:

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  9. Jonathan Bird says:

    Definitely agree there. A tool like Yammer is a +1 over email.

    I wrote a post on my blog recently about the issues surrounding microblogging for corporates. Very interesting topic…