Is Twitter for real? I mean, is this going to be another one of those social media things that springs up, is hot-hot-hot for a bit, and then fads away and is forgotten? I don’t have a crystal ball and so I can’t tell you if Twitter has any staying power, but as a company’s CIO in addition to running the IT department you are going to have to help come up with the company’s Twitter strategy…
The Danger That Lurks In Tweets
So what’s the big deal? Sure, sure we’ve all heard about Twitter, but isn’t it just another one of those social media tools that is always lurking in the background in the IT sector but which really doesn’t mean very much? You don’t have to worry about this because it’s not a part of the definition of information technology, right? Actually, you’d be wrong there.
It turns out that Twitter has exploded on the social media scene. Lots and lots of folks use Twitter to communicate – 27 million at last count. What this means is that if your company starts to use Twitter as a way to connect with its customers, things can get out of hand very quickly.
Examples of cases where a company’s “tweets” (postings using Twitter) have gone wrong are starting to multiply. Kenneth Cole Productions got into trouble when then tweeted that Egyptian protesters were taking to the streets because the company’s new collection was available online. Chrysler Group ended up firing the agency that had been handling their Twitter account after someone made a disparaging post about how people in Detroit drive. The list goes on, but you get the point.
How Other Companies Have Handled This Issue
Realizing that this new Twitter tool is a double-edged blade is an important first step for CIOs. What you need to do next is to come up with a way for the company to effectively use it while at the same time making sure that the company does not shoot itself in its foot.
The first thing that a CIO can do is to work with the rest of the company to determine just exactly who has access to the company’s Twitter account. For firms of any substantial size, this job could easily be bigger than just one person can handle. However, you want to keep the number relatively small (say no more than 10) so that you can have some control over what gets tweeted.
The next thing that you’re going to have to work out is just exactly how the company is going to want to use its Twitter account. Are you going to be responding to customer complaints? If so, then you’ll probably want to make contact with the complainer and take the discussion off of Twitter quickly.
No matter exactly how you choose to set up the company’s Twitter team, training is going to be important. Because Twitter is one of those tools that crosses the boundary from our private lives into our work lives now, it’s important that workers be trained – something that Best Buy does for all of their tweeting employees. Things that they might say or do on their private Twitter accounts might not be appropriate to say on the company’s account. Yes, you want the company’s tweets to be edgy and smart, but perhaps not THAT edgy…
What All Of This Means For You
When a CIO starts to deal with the question of how the company should handle its Twitter activities, he or she is on a slippery slope. Yes, Twitter is a fantastic way for the company to deepen its relationship with its customers; however, it can get out of hand quickly.
The CIO needs to help the company understand what issues it is going to have to deal with. The first is to determine how many people should have access to the account. The next is to determine just exactly what types of information the company should send out via Twitter.
There is always the possibility that Twitter might just be another flash-in-the-pan social media fad. However, right now it’s looking that it might be in for the long haul and may end up contributing to the importance of information technology. CIOs need to step up and show some IT leadership by helping the company to establish a set of rules around how they want to use this powerful communication tool. Get it right, and your tweets will work for you, not against you…
Question For You: Do you think that the company should respond to tweets from very angry customers?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
“Be more innovative” – how many times has your CEO told you that? Although being innovative isn’t really part of the definition of information technology, CIOs still want their IT department to always be ahead of what their internal customers want. We’d like to be able to have our IT staff be solving problems that our customers might not even know that they have. However, it turns out that in the IT sector, being innovative is very hard to do. Good news – I’ve got three ways that a CIO can capture some of that innovation stuff and apply it to their IT department.