by Abbie Lundberg

The Business Value of Twitter

Apr 02, 20084 mins
Enterprise Applications

I am enthralled by Twitter. That’s cause for both joy and concern. To be enthralled is to be captivated and charmed — and I do feel that way about Twitter. But it can also mean reduced to slavery, and I have to admit, sometimes I’m a slave. Depending on who’s posting (or “tweeting”) on any given day, I can find it hard to stay away. And believe me, the last thing I need is another distraction.

Twitter sounds silly to the uninitiated. Twitter! Or charming, depending on your frame of reference.

When I first came across it last year, I thought it was a joke. An online spewing of inconsequential details by self-absorbed people with too much time on their hands. But then I started “following” some pretty interesting people (to follow someone is to sign up to receive a feed of that person’s tweets). Mostly these were social media pioneers and tech luminaries like Robert Scoble (who has over 16,000 followers), David Weinberger (1,900-plus), Howard Rheingold (ditto) and Guy Kawasaki (over 7,000). I branched out from there.

Twitter is about action. It poses the question “What are you doing?” and you get 140 characters to answer. (For more on Twitter’s origins and intentions, see our short interview with founder Jack Dorsey.) People write about what they’re working on, usually with genuine enthusiasm and little bull. This is a key part of Twitter’s attraction for me: It has, for the most part, a positive energy, even when people are being critical. Some people make observations on things that others are doing, or current events. They share interesting news, articles and blog posts. They ask and answer questions, both practical (what’s your favorite Twitter client?) and reflective (what are you grateful for today?).

It’s not all geeks. I’ve encountered and begun following a photojournalist who tweets while on assignment (I felt like I was with him on his last trip to Africa); an author who writes about Budhism and has appeared on Oprah (she tweeted from the green room) and even some CIOs.

If Twitter were just a pastime, I’d have abandoned it by now. Did I mention I really don’t need any more distractions in my multi-tasking multimedia life? But I’ve met some incredibly smart and interesting people I would not have encountered any other way, and I’ve learned a lot.

From the beginning, I’ve been pondering the business implications of Twitter. Recently I tossed out the following:

abbielundberg soliciting tweets on the business value of twitter which I will aggregate for a blog post on

Here’s what I got back (with minimal editing). Many thanks to everyone who contributed!

jstorerj twitter/microblogging could fundamentally change corp comm, both within/outside the org. 09:27 AM March 29, 2008 from web

astrout all the A-list bloggers & many Web 2.0 CEOs are on – great way to watch trends 04:02 PM March 28, 2008 from web

rhappe CIOs should check out Twitter because it, very quickly, gives people their social networking ‘aha’ moment…critical IMO 02:42 PM March 28, 2008 from web 

yourdon See “The Awesomeness of Twitter” at 03:13 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

mikaeliand check out CIO JP Rangaswami’s blog, “Confused of Calcutta” re Twitter 02:58 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

DougH CIOs/Twitter? 1- simple tech way to increase network and receive quick outside FB on ideas. 01:35 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

DougH Also, b/c people use it for biz ideas & not just idle chat (at best) awareness is needed. Also, are there IT security issues? 01:37 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

mikaeliand CIOs should check out Twitter because more and more of their organization’s new employees will be expecting (demanding?) it 01:34 PM March 28, 2008 from twhirl

missusP [who runs a PR company] W/ Twitter, we quickly see thought leader opportunities for clients & keep a pulse on the industry w/ reporters, bloggers, even competitors. 8 minutes ago reply

Pistachio why CIOs should grok Twitter? i think it “secretly” has the potential to transform the enterprise. I see it as pervasive as email in

dchurbuck I use Twitter pretty extensively to make adhoc personal requests “Can you talk on phone?” “Can you send file?” or broadcast ?s. Twitter is different but similar to IM and beats aggregated IM by a mile about 2 hours ago reply 

monkchips the power and pungency of twitter connnections for research and development is growing by the day. ambient intimacy for ambient serendipity about 3 hours ago from web

If you’re into fully articulated thoughts, Twitter may not be for you. But if you’re a CIO or any other busy professional, having a tool that quickly and simply aggregates immediate information is a wonderful thing. The somewhat random collection of thoughts above was easy for me to gather and easy for the contributors to give. And it’s pretty complete.

If you haven’t played with Twitter or any of the other social networking tools yet, rhappe’s comment may be the most compelling reason to do so: If you give it an honest shot, you’ll get back an “aha” moment that could change your thinking about a lot of things.

For some good tips for how to get value from Twitter, read “How to ‘Get Twitter'” by my colleague at PC World, Harry McCracken.

As to the risks of being enthralled, I’m finding that’s just one of the many new challenges I have to learn to manage.

Oh yeah, you’ll find me tweeting as abbielundberg — come by and check it out.