The BrainYard - Where collaborative minds congregate.

Steve Wylie, Contributor

April 27, 2009

3 Min Read

The truly unique characteristics of Twitter are its simplicity and lack of specific purpose or application. Twitter is merely a digital conversation; albeit one that's constrained to short statements of 140 characters or less. Like any conversation, you choose to talk to one other person at a time or broadcast out to many. You can make your conversations private or public. You can choose to blather, or to comment on everything from walking your dog to world affairs. You can follow and share your thoughts with thousands of people or you can offer your attention to a select few. As with any live conversation, contribute something particularly witty, funny or unique and your comment could be repeated to millions of users by Twitter's digital word of mouth, also known as a re-tweet. At its core, Twitter is just a platform for simple conversation and that's what makes it unique.With that in mind, I wonder how Twitter and other social messaging tools will bring value to business. What are the business applications yet to be conceived of on top of this simple conversation platform? Instant Messaging began similarly as a consumer application, largely driven by a younger generation of users and over a public, consumer infrastructure. Many enterprises initially blocked user access to IM, fearing information leakage and having concerns that employees would waste company time chatting with friends. But eventually the value of IM won over many enterprises and business-grade solutions began to enter the market. Today companies have choices. Do we allow IM for business communication? Do we use a private solution or the free public networks already in place? In many ways social messaging reminds me of those early days of IM and seems to be on a similar path to business adoption. But social messaging is happening on a much larger, faster scale.While social messaging is sure to find a home in the enterprise, exactly how it''s used, how it''s integrated and how it''s managed is yet to be seen. Most businesses already have a multitude of communications channels that users struggle to stay on top of. Will social messaging simply be another flavor of enterprise communication or will it be a better way to communicate and potentially supplant pieces of our existing infrastructure? Will the established communications vendors embrace twitter-like functionality or will a new breed of vendors gain a foothold in the enterprise market? There are many unanswered questions here that need to be addressed.At our June conference in Boston, we will tackle these questions in a panel discussion we recently announced. "The Future of Social Messaging in the Enterprise" is one of four main stage discussions and includes an interesting mix of vendor perspectives from IBM, Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent and Socialcast. Adding color to the conversation and keeping everyone honest are industry analyst Mike Gotta and social media consultant Laura Fitton. At the helm of this rather large panel we have Irwin Lazar from Nemertes Research. I''m not sure if the gloves will come off in this session or if early market caution will lead to more questions than answers. But I am sure that we''re tackling an issue that will be debated and discussed for years to come as social messaging continues to take root and new companies and applications emerge.

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