Its easy to scoff at Twitter. But the online service is having a real impact on businesses. Dell, for example, claims to have sold $3m worth of kit using the service. Sure that’s a rounding error compared to its revenues, but its the kind of rounding error that would make any company executive smile.
One interesting aspect of Twitter is the way it accelerates cross-border interaction. It is a Porous Membrane. While a fair amount of attention has been given to the dangers of giving away internal secrets, accidentally or otherwise, via Twitter, less attention has been given to the new opportunities for collaboration. One industry we’re seeing a real change in that respect is my own, the industry analyst business.
Collaboration traditionally has a cost, but Twitter collapses that cost to near zero. Got an idea? Say it in 140 characters! At an event- share your thoughts with everyone else using a #hashtag. No need to gather your thoughts on blogs, and then wait for feedback. What do we think now? Anyone can comment. And they do. Twitter also, for good or ill, encourages a certain honesty. The immediacy of the service lends itself to unvarnished opinion, which also tends to encourage collaboration. Its a lot more fun to help fill out a partial thought, than deal with a completely polished one.
When RedMonk jumped onboard the trend for Twitter it was mostly the cool kids, even though we were post SXSW adopters. But today there are more than 500 analysts on twitter according to Carter Lusher’s tracker.
Of course analysts have always chatted at events. We all have friends at different firms and so on. This is nothing new. But the scale of this activity has changed completely in the last six to nine months.
If I explain something inadequately then Anne Thomas Manes from Burton will pull me up for clarification.
I closely track Forrester’s Ray Wang (by far the most interesting guy to follow if you want to know what the life of analyst at a major firm is like) and have been known to help with context, if its an area I know, with a direct message. Of course its no surprise Mr Web Stategy Jeremiah Owyang is more than happy to share ideas and ideals.
Jamie Lewis CEO of Burton Group has been known to retweet my stuff.
Twitter is even having a marked impact on Gartner, which traditionally tended to keep itself to itself. Twitter seems to be accelerating the Meta Groupification of Gartner. Meta always had a more collegiate culture than Gartner, and now in a kind of reverse takeover we’re seeing a more collaborative Gartner, with a more porous membrane. Meta alumni like Andy Bitterer and Nick Gall share and share a lot.
If you work with analysts, or are interested in their thoughts and opinions, and how they formed them, all this chatter can be invaluable. The mystique of analyst omniscience is crumbling, which is all too the good. Peer review by Internet is the most powerful way to test ones ideas. We can’ think in isolation, nor should we. Some analysts may prefer to be in ivory towers, and avoid contact with the rough and tumble of the bazaar – but they are missing out.
If you work in analyst relations and are not tracking at least some analysts on Twitter you are quite literally not doing your job. [But please don't be offended if we don't follow you back. Account management collaboration is important, but its surely not as important as Twitter's incredible utility as a research tool. ]
If you work in an enterprise but don’t have a budget for analyst services I can pretty much guarantee you can have a good dialogue with industry analysts without needing to ask anyone’s permission. Free advice – there is such a thing. Especially if we learn from you. I know I am incredibly grateful to be able to learn from software developers, sysops and architects. Its what Twitter was made for.
I think the trend of cross border collaboration at analyst firms will accelerate. This will create challenges for us as businesses, but it will make the industry as a whole more effective. Talent collaborates.
photo credit- I stole it ruthlessly from Ray Wang’s background image on twitter. Its a perfect illustration. I will take it down if he asks me to.