Q: Does Twitter really serve a legitimate business purpose? All I see are people using it to gossip and to keep track of others’ personal activities and corny stuff such as new songs and concert dates.
A: Like the internet, Twitter can dish up both useful and useless information. It depends on how you use it. I might ask you whether a telephone has legitimate business purposes, and of course it does. However, a telephone also can be used to gossip and track others’ personal activities. Twitter’s primary value emanates from its ability to leverage the power of the computer and the internet (without requiring access to a computer connected to the internet) to produce one-to-many communications.
For example, consider a company with 15 sales representatives, each following the company and one another via Twitter. This arrangement enables the sales manager to tweet a single message, such as “The order of 36 desks has finally arrived,” to which a sales representative across the country might tweet back, “It’s about time, I just landed a deal to sell 12 of them.” In an instant, all 15 salespeople are privy to these messages, and, even better, those traveling sales reps can stay in the loop using only a smartphone with a data service plan—no computers or Wi-Fi connections are needed. The result is a new type of “status messaging” that enables quick and easy communication without requiring the recipients to carry heavier laptop computers or spend several minutes booting their computers and finding and connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots to check email. This type of communication also could be accomplished using email or text messaging groups, but Twitter’s setup is simple, and the limit of 140 characters per tweet eliminates verbose messages and results in communication that gets right to the point.
I predict that accounting systems soon will tweet useful messages to our pockets, such as “The quantity of six-gallon canisters on hand has reached its reorder point,” “The amount of cash on hand has fallen below $250,000,” or “Employee Benjamin Smith is due for a review.” In time, I also predict, our machines will communicate via Twitter as well. For example, your refrigerator someday may tweet the message, “You are out of milk.”