Iran’s Twitter Revolution Holds Lessons For CIOs

CIOs Need To Plan On How To Deal With Twitter <br> (c) 2009
CIOs Need To Plan On How To Deal With Twitter (c) 2009

Politics is a fascinating subject and I’m sure that we all have our own opinions about the events that are currently unfolding over in Iran regarding their recent elections. However, this posting isn’t about the elections or who won. Rather it’s about the amazing flow of information that happened even in a heavily restricted / controlled environment. We live in the 21st Century and this unfolding story holds many lessons for modern CIOs…

What Does An Election In Iran Have To Do With Twitter?

Noam Cohen over at the New York Times has taken a look at how information has flowed since the unrest began. In all honesty, “twitter revolution” is probably an overstatement. Web sites, text messages, and simple person-to-person conversation probably did a better job of spreading news than Twitter did. However, Twitter did do an amazing job of getting information OUT of the country.

Remember that Twitter is only three years old. It’s impact is much greater than its age would lead a CIO to believe. Although you might not be dealing with a disputed election, Twitter could play a big role in your company’s future.

What Twitter Means To Your Firm

There will be times in the future that your senior management (CEO, Chairman, etc.) will want to control what information is released about your firm and have some control over what people are saying about your company. Twitter opens up a whole new channel for people to talk about your firm. Here are six lessons that the Iranian election have taught all of us about this powerful new communication tool:

  • Twitter Really Can’t Be Stopped: Twitter messages (“tweets”) are really a form of one-to-many communications. There is no centralized site that can be shut down or forced to remove information by court order. There is no stopping this beast.
  • There Is Power In Numbers: A single tweet probably doesn’t mean much. A couple of tweets won’t attract attention. However, a series of tweets about the same subject will start to create an ecosystem about an event or a viewpoint. This can attract attention and start to generate more conversations.
  • Buyer Beware: Remember, on the Internet nobody knows that you are a dog (a saying from the early years of the Internet). Since the people participating in Twitter have no real identity, you really can’t trust what they are saying until its been verified.
  • Home Of Bad Information: There are probably people trying to communicate truths using Twitter, but there are probably also people who are trying to spread lies using Twitter. Whether it’s to drive your stock price down (or up) or prevent / encourage a takeover, all sorts of people will use Twitter to spread completely made-up stories.
  • Twitter People Use Twitter: CIOs always have to keep in mind that the people using Twitter are generally tech savvy folks who are online a lot. This does not necessarily represent the public at large.
  • Twitter Is Connected To The Media: The popular media “gets” Twitter and they are listening in order to get leads on new stories and dig up sources. This means that almost any storyteller now has a potential direct line to a major media outlet.

Final Thoughts

Twitter is yet one more way for people to communicate. It takes a little getting used to for most of us as we struggle to understand why anyone would take the time to send 140 character messages to communicate when we have so many other tools that we can use. However Twitter (and all of its variants) are here to stay.

CIOs need to adapt to this new world. When future events affect your company (disasters, mergers, takeovers, product issues, etc.) Twitter will probably play a role in how information gets out to the world at large. Developing a communication strategy that includes Twitter is a critical CIO responsibility. Addressing this issue this will mean that CIOs will have found a way to apply IT to enable the rest of the company to grow quicker, move faster, and do more.

Questions For You

Are you using Twitter now? Is anyone discussing your firm on Twitter today? Have any of your competitors had discussions about them happen on Twitter? Does your communication strategy currently have a plan to include Twitter as a part of how you communicate information to the outside world? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of the great things about working in the IT field is that whenever things start to get boring, we have the ability to create new buzzwords and make things interesting all over again. The arrival of “Cloud Computing” on the scene a couple of years ago showed that this cycle has not gone away. Maybe it would be worthwhile to take a step back and make sure that we’re all on the same page here – what is cloud computing and why should anyone care?

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