Twitter and the Micro-Messaging Revolution: Communication, Connections, and Immediacy—140 Characters at a Time.
An O’Reilly Radar Report. November 2008. 54 pages, PDF
By Sarah Milstein, with Abdur Chowdhury, Gregor Hochmuth, Ben Lorica, and Roger Magoulas. Foreword by Tim O’Reilly.
The personal computer was at first dismissed by industry leaders as only a toy.
Blogs were first considered merely personal diaries of no interest to anyone.
People new to cell phones used to report the most trivial details of where they were.
But consider where these technologies are now.
And here comes Twitter. Twitter started out with a group of friends letting each other know when they were doing the dishes or watching some TV show. That still occurs, but Twitter has evolved into a workplace communication tool for companies including Whole Foods, JetBlue, Dell, and Comcast, to name a few.
Twitter now has more than three million users, and some estimate its traffic at about a million messages a day. Twitter has no revenue yet (nor an announced business model), yet it has inspired a number of similar services.
The report “Twitter and the Micro-Messaging Revolution” addresses the Twitter phenomenon in depth, discussing the power of ambient awareness, the nature of the attention economy, and micro-messaging at work and for external communications. The report also describes using Twitter to gather market information, offers best practices for micro-messaging in business, and lists challenges in micro-messaging.
Author Sarah Milstein provides examples of how Twitter enables three kinds of “massively shared experience:”
People Twitter to organize get-togethers and to find each other at conferences.
People Twitter during emergencies to let others know they’re safe and to and connect with resources.
People Twitter to (virtually) share predictable events, like televised presidential debates.
Micro-messaging in the enterprise is still new, but already some use patterns have emerged. Milstein reports that distributed teams, in particular, say “becoming aware of what their colleagues are working on gives their projects a sense of momentum—in contrast to employees’ having a vague sense that their co-workers may be working or they may be surfing the Web.”
Micro-messaging systems allow coworkers to share information very quickly. Questions get answered in 30 seconds or a minute, in some cases. Employees like micro-messaging because nobody has to reply. And the messages are stored in a searchable, internally public location, making it easy for employees to look up the history of shared knowledge.
Other companies are emerging to meet micro-messaging needs that Twitter has not pursued. Yammer and Present.ly provide services for companies that want internal micro-messaging.
As in blogging, Twitter has its influentials. Twitter users have rankings and one’s ranking differs substantially when one calculates influence, rather than just numbers of followers.