Can Twitter Add To Work Productivity?

I’ve been using Twitter for a little while, and I see both its benefits and its drawbacks; here are some observations, and some suggestions for using it to both improve your social networking, and to improve your workplace networking.

In related pieces, Saul Hansell, of the NY Times has written a piece which decries some of the reasons why Twitter is so controversial, and offers his “TwitPinion” focusing mostly on the user interface.

This discussion is about user experience and benefits; perhaps if enough people follow this advice, even the famed Maureen Dowd will change her mind.

The April 18, 2009 issue of The Economist wrote about how Zappos uses Twitter in the corporate workplace to share information among its employees, creating transparency and loyalty among its employees. (Yammer provides a similar experience, focused primarily on these intra-workplace communications). The use of Twitter in the workplace certainly can provide meaningful, relevant, time-sensitive content to those who need and/or would like to know, taking the place of (and perhaps reducing time spent on) corporate communications.

But, Twitter can also become a time sump as well as a source of annoyance. After all, how often do you want a colleague or acquaintence to call you up (while you are focusing on work), and hear them say something like “hey, I am going out with my kids to buy rainboots today; I thought winter had ended. Bye for now.” Twitter provides the opportunity for this kind of communication, also; at best it is meaningless chatter, and at worst it is disruptive to your workflow.

How does one separate the stuff one wants to get from the entire stream of consciousness? As a Tweeter (the one who sends the messages), and as a Follower, here are some suggestions:
■ Most people have only one Twitter account, and so a user’s Tweets are indiscriminate between one’s personal relationships and one’s business networking.
A solution to this is to get two Twitter accounts; use your “real name” (as Kevin O’Keefe, a consultant on blogging for attorneys, has suggested) for your business account Use another nom de plume (where you can let your personality shine) for your personal account. If you do this, then you also must be vigilant and use the ‘right’ account at the right time. Otherwise, you’ve just negated the whole benefit!
It is currently not possible to have two Twitter accounts on your cell phone, however, as Twitter recognizes “you” by your cell phone number; Hopefully Twitter will figure out how to provide users with multiple options in the future, just as you can have multiple email addresses.
■ For your personal account, set your Twitter controls so that you, the User, can prevent people from “following” you. You may not want certain people to be following your banalities or certain aspects of your personal life; especially your co-workers, boss, or others you are trying to impress, or Mom!
Don’t exclude followers on your business Twitter account; after all, Twitter is one way for a person to establish a larger-than-life profile and gain more credibility.
■ When sending a Tweet to be received by your business followers, make it meaningful and relevant, so that it is of value to them. Giving your opinion on a multiplicity of matters just devalues your focus and opinion: Make your opinion, comments, observations really count—if you leave your mouth open too long, eventually all that comes out is drool.
Without some discernment, in my opinion, Twitter is going to become the graffiti of the electronic age. I invite you to follow me on Twitter; I won’t Tweet often, but when I do I hope that I follow my own guidance and provide commentary of value.

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