As a departure from my usual in-depth article I’m sharing my somewhat ‘social-logical’ thoughts on the community of business technology professionals on Twitter.
Twitter has many faces for its users. There is one Twitter where masses of people tweet about pop culture and everyday life. There are also the Twitter worlds of brand promotions and consumers. And then there are Twitter “collectives”, floating through the Twittersphere with distinct flavor and vigor, where certain “birds of a feather” come together.
One particularly strong “collective” swirls around business technology professionals. These tech professionals work with hardware and/or software, as: users, vendors, analysts, consultants, marketers, product managers, practitioners, writers, developers, critics, innovators. And most of these seemingly disparate professionals are continuously and serendipitously crossing paths on Twitter, in a way that was never possible before.
Of course, this tech professionals’ collective on Twitter is not formally organized nor does it need to be to result in effective communication and interaction. I like to think that the some of the propensity for technology folks to interact on Twitter has origins in software / hardware in “old school” developer communities, BBSs, and forums. “Special interest groups” within the tech professionals collective exist on Twitter (frequently marked by hashtags) – but mixing and interaction amongst all such groups are continuous and fruitful.
In mixing it up, software analysts are talking to social media agencies and practitioners, marketers to systems analysts and developers, big fish talking with not-so-big fish. Silos are being evaporated, as individuals are walking a bit in another professional’s shoes and seeing from another’s perspective. Twitter has been an extended and natural collaboration experience with open communicators, willing listeners, change agents and change acceptors. For these tech professionals, is Twitter becoming “collaboration as business process” that is essential to their professional endeavors?
As a collective, technology professionals take advantage of many activities, both organized and impromptu, that are possible on Twitter. Many lead and/or participate in chats or tweetjams via organized events, or jump in on lively exchanges that start with a couple of people. Connections and brainstorms spring up where impromptu conversations are usually open to all, with an almost stream-of-consciousness flow. Unexpected new relationships develop. When disparate worlds willingly collide, it can enable the emergence of new ideas, perspectives, unexpected slants on topics and problems.
Interactive Social Caretakers
On Twitter, each tech professional might be considered individual social caretakers or personal “community managers”. David Armano articulates how effectively trained community managers should posses the following seven qualities:
Articulate: Able to communicate effectively in a variety of media
Social: Engages in authentic conversations and interactions
Professional: Acts as a responsible ambassador of brand/org
Adaptable: Can make decisions quickly, handle crisis situations
Enthusiastic: Energetic, passionate and engaged in relevant topics
Connected: Has ties to the right people within the community
Organized: Can keep track of data, relationships, content calendars, and a variety of assets essential to maintaining community
I find that this list captures the traits embodied by many of the tech professionals interacting on Twitter. The “communities” they manage permeate the collective.
Twitter as Social Intranet for Tech Professionals?
Looking at this loosely-organized Twitter collaboration phenomenon for tech professionals, is it reasonable to think of Twitter as an über Social Intranet for such professionals? This would be a very public intranet but this Twitter intranet has much in common with the current fledgling social intranets behind the firewall.
Toby Ward describes a social intranet as:
An intranet that features multiple social media tools for most or all employees to use as collaboration vehicles for sharing knowledge with other employees. A social intranet may feature blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networking, or a combination of these or any other Web 2.0 (intranet 2.0) tool with at least some or limited exposure (optional) from the main intranet or portal home page.
Intranets are places where an organization goes to find knowledge, experts, documents, discussions. If we consider the intermingled tweetstreams of the tech professionals collective as the “home page” or the gateway to the treasures of this “social intranet”, then a smörgåsbord of blogs, wikis, discussion forums, social networks, and so on are available to all of the collective. Indeed Twitter itself may be the ultimate open forum. The Twitter “social intranet” also reflects continuous change: unpredictable, dynamic, significant, evolving – allowing exchanges of unexpected information and opinion.
In his presentation on Social Intranets, Oscar Berg sees a shift to Value Creation, emphasizing Collaboration – Learning – Innovation – Relationships. Twitter interaction experiences encompass the tenets of Berg’s Value Creation as well as these points called out by Berg regarding the greater expectations people have for organizations:
- Fast response
- Freedom of choice
- Transparency & influence
Holism through social networks and cultural change
If each tech professional on Twitter is their own community manager (and brand manager), and is participating in a social intranet super-structure, what sort of “social organization” describes the overall collective?
In the work that Jeremiah Owyang is doing on social businesses, he maintains that companies organize social in 5 ways: Centralized, Distributed, Coordinated, Multiple Hub-and-Spoke, and finally Holistic. Holistic is the least frequent in organizations where everyone uses social media equally and consistently across all organizations, somewhat as “social masters”, with the essential qualities of community managers.
The central notion of holism is that the whole ends up greater than the sum of the parts, meaning that something organically greater emerges. The tech professionals’ collective derives its organic strength from such parts as mutual respect, active listening, cross-culture, cross-geo, cross-functional to achieve a collaboration that is alive and kicking.
About the author: Julie Hunt is an accomplished software industry analyst, providing strategic market and competitive insights. Her 20+ years as a software professional range from the very technical side to customer-centric work in solutions consulting, sales and marketing. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitive and on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategic Product & Market Intelligence Services