Twitter's Potential for Business Users

Watching the emergence of Twitter, a microblogging tool that allows people to post updates in 140 characters or less, IT leaders are beginning to think about how the technology could be used in their organizations.

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When he first signed on, he noticed that there was a lot of chaos in the amount of communication occurring, but he saw some potential business value.

"Often, the e-mails I get from CFOs or IT directors are half a line anyway," Zanki says. "Being able to get your business case through in 140 characters or less could be very valuable for everyone's time."

Tim Davis, CIO of Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, a fast-food chain, says that he joined Twitter back in April after making a commitment to stay more informed about social media.

"This spring I decided I needed to get educated as social media is just taking off and I couldn't continue to shun it without investing the time to figure it out," he says. "I also wanted to figure out how this all fits into business models."

He began following the updates of bloggers, social media gurus and even found other Twitter users who shared his passion for cigars, a hobby for Davis.

Like Zanki, one problem Davis immediately experienced was some Twitter users overusing the service and dominating his cache of messages. "I had to quietly drop Scoble because he would spew out eight tweets within three minutes," he says, referring to the technology blogger, Robert Scoble, who, at the writing of this article, has 28,336 followers. "Personally I don't think that is the right use of Twitter," Zanki adds.

David Elwart, CIO of South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism, says that he has experienced similar problems since joining the service. "There can be too much noise," he says. "Some of them you quit following because of it. But some people are really interesting and can turn you on to new things."

For instance, Elwart began following a woman in California whose specialty was state parks and recreation. The messages the two exchanged over the service led to South Carolina state officials, at Elwart's behest, inviting her to speak at their annual conference on tourism so the state could learn from her insights.

What a Business Twitter Would Need to Look Like

The way Twitter works is, true to the form of short messaging, pretty simple. You post a message in 140 characters or less into an open textual field, click a button that says update, and your message is broadcast to the Twitter pages of all the users of the service who follow you.

There is a replies tab that chronicles when your friends decide to comment on your message with one of their own. There is also an archive tab that logs your updates and an "everyone" tab that shows the updates of all Twitter users (provided they made their feed publicly accessible).

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