Twitter for Business and Enterprise? More Risks?

Great pic from TechDust.com! Although, I guess, the bird should have the gun if you think Twitter is risky

Great pic from TechDust.com! Although, I guess, the bird should have the gun if you think Twitter is risky

What do you think about that question?

Let me give you the background on why I’m asking.  An interesting thing happened yesterday. I decided to post a blog post talking about Twitter. I thought was interesting. Basically, the point of the piece is to highlight how Twitter can benefit just about any type of business.

Like I wrote in the subtitle of this blog, “It’s just a conversation.” That’s why the piece resonated with me.

That’s what I truly believe. It’s a conversation on Twitter. It’s a conversation on Facebook. It’s a conversation if you’re having it in your living room with close friends. The only thing that’s different is the means by which we’re talking and the rules that control how we say it. Twitter is really strict. You’ve got 140 characters, period, to get your point across. You can cheat with links to longer content, but you’ve still got to engage that person in 140 characters or less to get them to click.

The piece “Twitter Works for ANY Business – Seven Reasons Why” is from Grant Criddle’s blog, Plugging into the Social Media. He gives exactly what the title says, seven reasons how a business can benefit from using Twitter.

  1. Build and expand on your network – form relationships

  2. Top of mind awareness with customers and prospects

  3. To learn – about anything and everything

  4. Listen to what people are saying about you

  5. Learn about the competition

  6. Transform your customers into raving fans

  7. Lighting fast customer service

I think that’s a pretty nice list. I have to admit with my mobile wifi provider, Boingo, that’s how they turned me into a raving fan. I mentioned them just in passing on Twitter. I’d never thought to see if they were tweeting.  However, they were monitoring tweets, read mine and responded. Cool!

Then when I was having issues with not getting a signal and wasn’t able to get through on the customer service line, the person manning their Twitter stream was really helpful. They’ve not always been that responsive, but, overall, they’re doing a lot better than other business I’ve mentioned on Twitter. Now I don’t expect every business to do this. When it happens, however, you remember it. When you can get a quick customer service responsive to a simple question online, that makes an impact.

I got one comment from Beirut from the ThoughtPick blog.  She focused on the negative aspects of Twitter:

…it also has the ability to allow for a less secure network at the office, waste employee’s time as well as more room for property loss/theft.

You can click over to the debate she’s having on the ThoughtPick blog: Twitter for Enterprise Debate: Would You Use It For Your Own Business?

I decided, however, to answer her at length here. When I finished, I realized I’d written a blog post ;)So here is my reply:

…can you please give a hypothetical showing how Twitter is significantly different from any other form of communication?

You can have employees blow hours of their time or steal via email or the phone too. However, businesses send press releases and pitches via email simply because it’s made it easier and you have people doing business via the phone constantly.

It’s a new way to communicate, so those risks you mention? They apply to all the ways we communicate.

Business have communication policies and confidentiality agreements that they subject their employees and business partners to. I wouldn’t expect any business to let their employees loose on Twitter without applying the similar and specially-tuned policies and confidentiality agreements for social media. It gets a bit more tricky with business partners but the same can apply in those situations.

I will agree that since the Internet can be indexed and searched in a way that phone calls can’t or that emails can’t that the impact and exposure can be thousands of times more intense IF it goes viral.

But if you’re using Twitter in the same way that you’d use TV, radio or print for advertising, people can record and post that media on YouTube too.

You need to train employees and not let them loose on Twitter. If you do, then, like the early days of email or the telephone, there will be risks that people won’t consider. In fact, people still make email errors and send or forward things to recipients that they ought not.

I, however, don’t see Twitter or any other social media site as SIGNIFICANTLY more risky than more traditional ways to communicate.

The impact of a leak can be huge, but that would have to be intentional. Something like that is easier to see done via email. In fact, we’ve seen sites like Gawker.com publish emails and memos they’ve received from employees who want to expose something or someone.

In the case of a disgruntled employee that tweets a link to a confidential memo or takes a screen shot of an email, it would be the same level of risk to a business as a fax or a forwarded email because now that information can be posted on Twitter, Facebook or put up on a blog.

In fact, a direct leak on a Twitter account would possibly be EASIER to trace back because you have IP addresses and email addresses associated with the account that could be traced, monitored and searched. You’d also have prima facie intent to share that information, if someone sent a tweet.

They would have to upload the memo, shrink the link of the memo so that it would fit in the 140 character requirement and then write (or maybe just send the tweet without text and that might relieve the need to shrink the link). Anyway, that example, shows that it might be a bit more difficult to send out and easier to trace back to an employee if it’s a tweet. If an employee wanted to expose something maybe, a photocopier and a letter mailed without a return address would be better for them because, while slower, it might be harder to trace.

Twitter and other social media sites are just new ways to communicate. They have similar risks. Businesses need to consider those risks, but this is a ship that has already sailed. I wouldn’t advise any business not to use social media. I would advise a business to be smart about it and consider how to make it work for them.

So, what do you think?

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