Insights and opinions on Information Technology from George Tomko, a veteran CIO turned renegade consultant.


Corporate Twitter? The Three S's That Must Be Overcome

By George M. Tomko

As Twitter becomes more mainstream, it is tantalizing to think about what could be a powerful component of Enterprise 2.0. And, before anyone thinks that I am against such tools, think again. My purpose as a leader is to drive the dialogue that leads organizations to flawless execution of change. This is what most people would consider “doing the right things right”.
But, anyone who is even moderately social on Twitter can easily become impeded by what I would call the three “S’s”: “Scam”, “Spam” and “Slam”.

“Scam” would be loosely defined as the dominance of “multi-level marketing”, success coaches, “law of attraction experts”, follow-me follow-you services and get-rich quick snake oil. It can also take any other form of human frailty-fraud, abuse, theft, misrepresentations, malware, trickery and all other forms of maliciousness.

“Spam”, closely-related to, and a key tool of the Scammers, clogs up the timeline with auto-generated inoccuous inspirational messages, timed bursts of 5 or 10 tweets, incessant direct messages to your e-mail accounts, and all other ‘junk’ that floats into otherwise fruitful conversation.

“Slam” is, for now, a catch-all term for the impact of living in a social media world. For the individual, it may be dealing with the potentially addictive and distracting time sink of being social with an ever-increasing network of friends and follwers. It takes time to fall in line with learning the lingo and understanding the norms, following the trends, etc.

For an enterprise, “Slam” will be the tidal wave of dealing with establishing policies, legal implications, regulatory compliance i.e. SEC, confidentiality, intellectual property, employee rights, training, security, user support, integration with other communication channels and methods.

At the end of the day, “Slam” will be the biggest headache of all. Why? Because it involves linking the outside world to the inside world in ways that have, to this point, been rudely rebuffed by the corporate firewall.

If you want to think about it another way, what will the new meaning become to this well-known phrase: “what’s said in this room, stays in this room”. Consider that within the last few weeks, Twitter became the voice of a country (Iran) as it was experiencing wrenching social change. It was able to take us to places that no other medium was able.

Now, consider a multi-national enterprise. Are they ready to go totally social – all ‘books’, meetings, presentations, hallway conversations, strategy sessions, pricing discussions, competitive intelligence gathering – flung open, total transparency? No way. Controlled ‘experiments’ and gradual learning, perhaps.

I saw a really great blog post that documents one company’s attempt at opening-up Twitter at an all-employee meeting. After they conducted the meeting, they evaluated what had happened:

“The after-action review surfaced one of the primary concerns about using Twitter in the enterprise: security.  While most employees are and will be sensitive to providing sensitive information about the company on Twitter, it’s always a risk.  In this case, the corporate IT security folks had raised a (very big) red flag about using Twitter for the employee forum, but the CEO decided that, for this short duration experiment, the risk was manageable.”

So what did they learn. You can view the entire article: “Twitter in the Enterprise”,  by Patti Anklam.

In my opinion, you’ll someday see a ‘corporate’ version that is sanitized, monitored, partitioned with strong ID and credentials management. But, the ‘door’ to the outside world will, for the foreseeable future, remain closed.

What is your opinion?

©2009 George M. Tomko All Rights Reserved