Tweeting at the Speed of Scale

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Originally posted on the Collaboratory
From a holistic perspective, we talk about the need for organizations to become more socially calibrated—able to adapt and respond to changes both externally and internally. The three areas where emergent outcomes can manifest are, participation with your customers, collaboration between your employees and optimization in the interactions/transactions between your business and its partners. Digging into customer participation, it’s clear that in a networked economy customers demand engagement, information, support and ultimately, value and ecosystems such as Twitter are beginning to deliver here.

In true agile fashion, we’ve been working on our service offerings simultaneously as we service clients. One of our offerings is built upon the belief that a socially calibrated organization will desire to engage in ecosystems such as Twitter with both efficiency and scale without sacrificing quality. It’s a tall order but one that we see as a natural evolution of organizations looking to engage customers effectively and perhaps generate a bit of positive word of mouth in the process.

To date, we’ve seen several companies find success using Twitter ranging from the spokesperson model (Ford’s Scott Monty) to the nimble customer service team (Comcast) to literally hundreds of employees engaging within the ecosystem (Best Buy’s Twelpforce). While there is no one size fits all solution, it’s clear that the Twitter ecosystem is ripe for interactions between constituents and as Best Buy shows, it is indeed possible to scale. But currently they are one of the few organizations doing this. For organizations looking to engage large numbers of their employees within Twitter, they will also need to factor in speed as this particular medium is as real-time as it gets (see dynamic signals). There can be many complexities that exist as a barrier between moving from a current ad hoc model to a more systematic scalable solution. When exploring this opportunity (if it makes sense for your organization), there are several key factors to consider (and I’m only scratching the surface for the sake of the blog format).

One of the most significant obstacles to overcome is to determine if your organizational culture can grow into something which supports large numbers of your employees effectively engaging on Twitter. People fuel the ecosystem, not automated technologies. Issues such as competency, incentives, scheduling, job descriptions, policies and guidelines all need to be addressed. This is likely to be different for every organization and as distinct as your culture.

If an organization finds that their people are ready, able and willing to participate in an appropriate fashion—there is still the issue of process. Having a handful of employees providing support, help or engaging your customers may be one thing, but when you’ve got a small army of them it’s another. A process needs to be designed which allows for employees to engage without stepping on each others toes. Tasks may need to be allocated. An organization may need to architect a series of flows which can handle a multitude of scenarios. With scale comes the need for a flexible structure.

Tweetdeck and your personal account may be enough to sustain the “spokesperson” model of engagement via Twitter, but moving into having a legion of employees actively participating in an orchestrated fashion can require the use of a TAM (Twitter Account Management) system such as Hootsuite or CoTweet (disclosure, CoTweet is one of our partners). A “TAM” with robust features would likely be needed to manage workflow and integrate data. It’s worth noting that for a fee, CoTweet will support storing data of the interactions you have with your customers on Twitter (in addition to other services). But regardless of what you choose, in order to scale by design it’s likely that you’ll need more than what the native platform offers.

At the end of the day, business will have to move at the speed of real time and to do that at scale, you’ll need to plan, design and cultivate the right people, process and technology—all which ideally function under a business framework that is social by design. If you are looking for guidance in this area, we’d be happy to work with you.

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