It’s been about two months since I wrote “Brian Madden’s guide to using twitter for real work purposes.” (If you haven’t read that post, I suggest you read it before reading this one.)
My twitter usage has continued to increase over the past few months (still 100% work-related), and I’ve figured out a bit more about how it can best be leveraged for actual work purposes. So building upon the three reasons I listed in that previous article, here are a few more ways twitter makes a lot of sense in the work context.
“Why twitter?” reason #4 – sharing my work-related status with the community
My first thought about twittering for work was that I’d only use it as a true micro blog. In other words, I wasn’t planning to leverage the interactivity of it—I was just planning on using it as a frequently updated one-way micro-sized blog. I made a big deal about only having “valuable” thoughts in the twitter feed and NOT having status updates of what I’m doing. “Why does anyone care if I’m meeting with Vendor X at this moment?”
I was sharing these sentiments with someone (I forget who.. It might have been Clint Battersby) who said, “Why would someone care if you’re meeting with Vendor X? Because you’re Brian Madden!”
That sounded kind of weird and a bit narcissistic to me at first, but it actually makes sense. The whole point of my job is to go out and talk to people and understand this industry, and in that context, people absolutely care who I’m meeting with and what I’m thinking. Of course any status updates posted to twitter must still respect the “work only” policy I set for myself. So “Waiting for my food at McDonald’s” is not appropriate, but “Waiting for my food with Chris Midgely and Tom Rose at stealthy startup Unidesk” is very relevant.
“Why twitter?” reason #5 – leveraging the community for input
Building upon the value of status updates as listed in Reason #4 above, members of the community can then leverage me to get their questions answered. “Since you’re meeting with Unidesk, ask them how they’re solving the block-level replication problem.”
I remember when Scott Adams started printing his email address in the Dilbert cartoon strips he wrote. “Absolutely brilliant!” I thought at the time. “I’ll bet he only had to think up the first 100 comic strips on his own. Now he can just sit back and filter all the great ideas that people email to him.”
What a great job that would be!
It didn’t take me too long to realize that I could build the same thing within the desktop virtualization industry. That tweet and question about Unidesk actually happened. Then a few days later I tweeted about the fact that I was in a meeting with Riverbed. Within 30 seconds I had two or three people that posted twitter replies, each saying something like, “Ask them about xx.”
That made it official. Even though I do nothing but read, write, discuss, and converse about the desktop virtualization industry, I’m only one person with a single perspective. But by leveraging members of the twitter community, I’m able to tap into an additional 1274 brains and perspectives that combine to make me exponentially better at my job. (We’re like Voltron for the 2000s.)
And this communal brain is not limited to questions for vendors. When I started working on my presentation for the Virtualization Congress in Las Vegas last week, I tweeted “Currently working on my Synergy presentation ‘the REAL cost of VDI.’ What should I include that I might forget?” That led to about ten responses, three of which had really good examples of things that I hadn’t considered for that presentation.
“Why twitter?” reason #6 – leveraging the community for information
The communal brain that is a twitter clan can used for more than input on random topics. You can flat out use it to find answers to questions. For example, today I’m writing an article for tomorrow about some new products Citrix announced at Synergy last week: the Citrix Receiver and Citrix Merchandising Server. There’s not too much information about these products on the web, and I have some specific questions about the products themselves. After about ten minutes of Google searching without finding what I need, what do I do next?
Before twitter I would have started emailing people I know at Citrix. In this case I don’t know the right person to ask, so I’d probably email a few random folks and ask them. Then I’d wait, and who knows, maybe I’d get the answer I needed in time or maybe I wouldn’t?
But now in my new world of twitter, I skipped my Citrix sources and opened up my question to the whole community with the tweet, “Can anyone at Citrix confirm whether / if Merchandising Server will replace Web Interface?” Within 30 minutes I had a few responses via twitter AND four emails from people (both internal and external Citrix). And just like that, I now know (1) the real insider story from Citrix, (2) the real public story from Citrix, and (3) what other people think.
In some ways both Reasons #5 and #6 allow the community to “pre-comment” on blog posts. They essentially have the ability to comment on articles-in-progress. This is very cool, although now I just need to figure out a way to give them credit, since their “pre-comments” don’t appear in the comments section of a blog post page. I guess for now I can just give “shout outs” in the text of the blog post. Maybe in the future there will be an easy way to attach twitter comments to a specific URL? It would be cool to have “tweets about this post” listed at the bottom of a blog post along with the “comments” and “pingbacks.” (Or maybe that already exists and I just don’t know it?)
“Why twitter?” reason #7 – the meta-conversation around big events (conferences, keynotes, etc.)
I’ve been listening to vendor keynote presentations for what, ten years? And the only thing I can say with absolute consistency is that it’s more fun to listen to them with friends, because you can lean over and make smart-ass comments to them while the person on stage is talking. (This would be what my dad would call the “peanut gallery.”)
During big presentations, twitter allows us all to become the peanut gallery. Of course like all aspects of twitter, the value of running commentary DURING a presentation is dependent on who’s doing the commenting. Sure, snarky comments are fun at one level. But if someone comments “what was just said is important because...”—that could actually make us pay more attention or frame our listening differently.
So in the dark ages before twitter, we actually had to wait until AFTER the speech was over to ask our friends “So what do you think of that?” Now with twitter, we know what they think of it during the speech.
A great example of this was during Citrix’s Synergy keynote last week. Citrix asked everyone tweeting about it to add the tag “citrixsynergy” to their tweets. (A twitter tag is just the hash symbol followed by some word that provides an easy way for people to search across the entire twitterverse for specific topics. So all tweets with #citrixsynergy can be easily found via twitter’s search page. (Here’s the #citrixsynergy example.)
So as I’m sitting in the keynote, I’m including "#citrixsynergy" in all my tweets while simultaneously reading everyone else's tweets about that same speech.
There was so much conversation about the Synergy keynote (DURING the Synergy keynote) that Citrix’s John Fanelli said, “You know, the day will come when the course of a live keynote actually is changed based on the live running twitter feedback.”
John didn’t have to wait too long for that to become reality, as it happened in the keynote the very next day. Citrix’s Peter Blum and Wes Wasson were on stage showing off Citrix’s new “Dazzle” product. Earlier during the keynote I commented (via twitter of course) “Are you kidding me? Starfield view for Dazzle? Remember yesterday when I mentioned "Cover flow for apps?" So while Peter and Wes were waiting for a demo task to complete, Peter showed the star flow again, saying “Brian Madden really wants to see the Star Flow again” (Watch the video, this happens at 24:45) Wes then said “But Brian Madden doesn’t like datacenters,” another reference to a tweet I’d posted earlier during that keynote.
So there you go! I got name-dropped in a huge keynote due to twitter. :) But more importantly, when I caught up with the Citrix folks later (John Fanelli, Wes Wasson, and West Cost Brad Peterson), they said, “Yeah, we had the live blogs and the twitter feeds up back stage, and we were watching them and briefing the speakers via the monitors as they were going on stage.”
And that’s just during the opening keynote. Another great use of twitter during a conference is for instant information about which sessions are good and which are bad, or about what’s happening live at that exact moment. For example, Shawn Bass tweeted “#citrixsynergy Hoff's session is awesome and quite funny. Leave your existing session and come on over. You won't regret it.” at 11:35am on Synergy Day 2. (Notice again the #citrixsynergy “tag” he included in that tweet.) Others tweeted about where the best parties were or what live demos were happening on the exhibit floor.
“Why twitter?” non-work reason #1
Okay, so I know my goal was figure out how to use twitter for actual work purposes. But now that I’m familiar with the service and how to access it from my iPhone and Blackberry (yes, I have both), I realized there a lot of great ways to leverage the fact that lots and lots of other people use twitter for non-work purposes.
Case-in-point: I live in San Francisco. The public transit system here is called the “MUNI,” and I ride it to and from the office each day. A few weeks ago I entered the station and started walking down the stairs when I noticed the train platform was full. Very full... Much more full than normal. Of course no one knew what was going on and there were no announcements. So I hit search.twitter.com from my iPhone, typed in “muni,” and instantly found about 20 tweets from random folks sharing where and for how long they’d been waiting. I realized the delay was huge across the entire tram line, so I turned around and walked right back up the stairs to catch a bus instead.
So that’s that!
My use for twitter is evolving, and I’m sure I’ll write a “Part 3” to this article in a few months. But for now, I can say absolutely that twitter is an valuable asset to me that helps me do my job better, and I’m a better analyst for it.
Oh, and by the way, you can follow me on twitter at twitter.com/brianmadden.