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Global CIO: Why CIOs Need The Transformative Power Of Twitter

Twitter is driving significant business value in large organizations, and CIOs can learn how from examples involving PepsiCo, Hyatt, Mayo Clinic, superstar coach John Calipari, and more.

So you don't use Twitter, huh? You think it's a silly productivity drain and solely the province of professional goofballs and teenagers? With zero or less than zero business value?

You couldn't possibly be more wrong. And at best, your blinders could get you labeled permanently as the backward-looking CIO who's resistant to new ideas.

At worst, your pig-headedness could cost you your job.

The Mayo Clinic is using Twitter to bypass clogged arteries of communication. Pepsi is using it to "move at the speed of culture." A three-person winery in Australia is using it to create global relationships awareness. Major League Baseball is using it to immerse fans real-time in its products. Hyatt is using it to swaddle top customers in a 24/7 concierge-level experience. And John Calipari is using it to reignite passion, recruit top players, and reinvigorate an iconic college basketball program.

Twitter is helping corporations of all stripes engage with customers candidly, productively, globally, and inexpensively. In this age of experience-driven marketing, in which customers not only want but expect to be involved in product co-creation and enhancements, Twitter gives businesses the unprecedented ability to tap into customer-driven feedback loops, which just on their own are highly valuable, and turn them into marketing labs, message amplifiers, focus groups, sales tests, and possibly even goodwill ambassadors.

Now, does that sound like the type of trend you want to make sure you're out in front of and leading, or one you think you'll ignore and hope like hell that your competitors, customers, partners, and prospects do the same?

Ignoring it is hardly an option. More than ever before, CIOs are being expected and required to become active agents of change and drivers of revenue within their organizations. More than ever before, CIOs need to be open to hearing about new ideas and unlocking creative new ways to test them.

And more than ever before, CIOs cannot afford to merely dismiss such game-changing new technologies and engagement tools as lightweight and frivolous, or by saying they're fluff for for the marketing department to look into. We have to look beyond our own limited and sometimes-frustrating, sometimes-baffling experiences with the unquestionably banal side of the Twitterverse and instead see it for the powerhouse it has already become with several million users, and imagine what huge potential it will when that number hits 50 or 60 million.

Take another quick look at those examples listed above (and the number and range is growing daily): the Mayo Clinic, PepsiCo, a tiny Australian winery, Major League Baseball, Hyatt Hotels, and superstar basketball coach John Calipari. None of them is a tech company, none is stuffed with teenagers, and none is in some strange and unique micro-niche whose experiences can't be replicated elsewhere. Maybe they're all just crazy. But I don't think so.

Five years ago, or even maybe two years ago, you could've blown off this Twittermania with the rationale that the constricting economy was forcing you to lock down all new projects and focus all your time and attention on your current operations, budgets, and challenges. That was in the waning days of the traditional CIO, when such internal introspection was generally tolerated and in some sclerotic companies even lauded.

But the global economic downturn and the simultaneous rise of the Fully and Massively Engaged Customer (FUMEC: has a nice ring, doesn't it?) has put an end to all such disengagement. The new CIO, the strategic CIO, the Global CIO, or whatever you wish to call it, must be a creator and not a stifler; must be a hunter and not the hunted; must be an expert on what customers want and not a clueless outsider. So let's take a look at what those six enterprise-class Twitterers are doing.

1) MAYO CLINIC: One of the world's top research and clinical healthcare organizations has begun to enlist its patients and other key insiders in disseminating its research and spreading the word to influential clusters of patients and their families. Here's how recently described it:

Using the micro-blogging service Twitter, [the Mayo Clinic] announced the imminent release of a study on Celiac disease, an immune system response to gluten. Then it tracked which of its followers had re-distributed the Tweet and, after careful consideration, provided a few users with an embargoed copy of the study--a practice normally reserved for journalists. Those followers, each of whom have Celiac disease, were permitted to blog about the study once it was released to the public.

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"Hopefully it becomes a model," says Lee Aase, manager of syndication and social media at the Mayo Clinic who notes that the hospital promoted the study with explanatory video and audio clips on its own blog as well as on Facebook and YouTube. "We want to provide the ability to have a conversation." For many in medicine, that's an unconventional perspective. It's difficult enough to engage one's physician in a conversation about health issues, much less the staff of a prestigious research institution and hospital system.

Yet, convention can't hold back the Internet masses who seek not only reputable health information, but also a dynamic user experience and Web-based dialogue about their respective conditions and questions.

Some key takeaways:

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