Tweet Inside: Microblogging in a ...
1 23rd Bled eConference eTrust: Implications for the Individual, Enterprises and Society June 20 - 23, 2010 Bled, Slovenia Tweet Inside: Microblogging in a Corporate Context Kai Riemer The University of Sydney, Australia firstname.lastname@example.org Alexander Richter Bundeswehr University Munich, Germany email@example.com Abstract With the advent of Twitter, Microblogging has become increasingly popular. The ser- vice is simple, easy to use and its success has company executives wondering if using the short message service in their Intranets would benefit organisational information sharing and communication. At the same time, others have cautioned against transfer- ring social media inside the corporation as this might lead to importing unwanted pro- crastination behaviours. Against this backdrop, our case study explores communication patterns in a team that has adopted Enterprise Microblogging. By applying genre analysis, find that microblogging in this corporate context is vastly different to its pub- lic equivalent. We discuss our findings in light of contextual differences and the open nature of communication platforms, which impact on user appropriation. Moreover, we argue that decision makers should vest trust in their employees in putting microblog- ging to productive use in their group work environments. Keywords: Enterprise Microblogging, Social Media, Enterprise 2.0, Group Work 1 Introduction Whether in reporting on the tsunami in Southeast Asia or the elections in Iran - the Internet platform Twitter has found its place as a short messaging service in the public space. The service has gained popularity with media professionals, Internet enthusiasts and the average user. The idea of Twitter is for users to broadcast to the world what they are currently doing, called Microblogging. Messages are short (up to 140 characters), the user interface is simple, and a wide range of tools provides ubiquitous access. Twit- ter belongs to an emerging class of technologies termed Social Media. Having gained
Kai Riemer, Alexander Richter 2 significant coverage from the popular press and management-focused media alike, or- ganisations have begun trialling the application and use of these technologies in their Intranet contexts, i.e. for facilitating collaborative processes among employees (e.g. McAfee 2009, Richter & Riemer 2009, Wagner & Majchrzak 2007). As a growing number of providers offer platforms to facilitate what has been named Enterprise Microblogging (EMB), it remains unclear to what extent this service might present a potential for improving team communication and how it might be appropriated and used in a corporate context. Typical claims regarding its usefulness include the sharing of information and exchanging ideas (e.g. the ���virtual water cooler���). While platform vendors and consultants point to the potentials these platforms yield, little is known about what impact social media might yield in the corporate realm. In fact, many decision makers have voiced concerns that with the application of such tech- nologies, organisations are at risk to importing some of the typical behaviours associ- ated with the use of social media in the public Internet (e.g. Howlett 2009). While ex- amples of business use of Twitter have been reported (e.g. in journalism), communica- tion in Twitter is at the same time associated with largely hedonistic, egocentric, and leisure-focused behaviours (Naaman et al. 2010). In this paper we report on a case study, in which we explore EMB use practices in a company, which has adopted and used an EMB platform for several months. We apply genre analysis to identify communication types and reason on the role of this new plat- form in the respective team context. For doing so, we compare our results with similar studies on Public Microblogging (PMB) in Twitter. Our results show that EMB as a phenomenon is vastly different from PMB. While in both cases the underlying technol- ogy is quite similar, appropriation and use in a corporate context are structured by the needs of the tasks at hand and by a shared group context. Communication is much less egocentric instead it is oriented towards the needs of others. We discuss our results in light of the particular nature of such platforms as open tech- nologies. Our study has implications for information systems research and contributes to a better understanding of the nature of this particular type of artefact. In terms of prac- tice-oriented implications, our study suggests that widespread fears of importing with social media the associated behaviours "into the intranet" are largely unfounded, as open technologies do not purport usage. To the contrary, decision makers should vest trust in their employees to appropriate technologies in a useful and fitting way. Our paper proceeds as follows: Firstly, we introduce microblogging and briefly summa- rise recent research. In section 3 we introduce the case company and its EMB platform. Section 4 provides details on our study, while section 5 describes the different genres we identified. Section 6 discusses these genres in light of recent results on Twitter and provides explanations for differences of EMB usage in the two contexts. We also dis- cuss implications for decisions makers and point to study limitations and future re- search. Section 7 concludes the paper. 2 Microblogging Microblogging is quite simple and best explained by drawing on Twitter: On the web platform, users can post short messages, called tweets, which contain up to 140 charac- ters. These messages appear in chronological order on the user���s public blog stream.
Tweet Inside: Microblogging in a Corporate Context 3 Users can decide to ���follow��� others and will then receive their messages. Messages can be created directly on the web or with a wide range of third party software solutions and mobile clients. While simplicity is often seen as a key success factor (e.g. Passant et al. 2008, Netskills 2010, Zhao & Rosson 2009), microblogging is not without controversy. Critics argue that with Twitter an unprecedented mass of meaningless information is created (e.g. Pear Analytics 2009). 2.1 Research Investigating the Use of Twitter Due to the widespread adoption by millions of users (e.g. Kazeniac 2009), Twitter and microblogging in general have become the subjects of research from different disci- plines. Existing work focuses mainly on describing the phenomenon (e.g. Barnes & B��hringer 2009 Huberman et al. 2009 Krishnamurthy et al. 2008). Moreover, the use of Twitter has been investigated across contexts, such as political campaigning (Cetina 2009), as a form of electronic consumer word-of-mouth (Jansen et al. 2009), as a learn- ing tool (e.g. Ebner & Schiefner 2008 Parslow 2009), or as a tool for social activism (Galer-Unti 2009). Since our interest lies in understanding the proliferation of microblogging in the enter- prise context, we draw on two studies that portray the ways in which individual users communicate with Twitter in the public space in order to later contrast and compare the findings with our study. Firstly, one recent study shows that 80% of Twitter users can be classified as so-called ���me-formers���, who mainly make themselves the object of their communications. Just 20% are seen to be true ���in-formers���, who post content that is tar- geted towards other users��� interests (Naaman et al.2010). The authors identified several communication types, of which they discuss the four most frequent: 41% of all posts contain information about oneself ( ���I'm tired���), 25% are random thoughts ("Blue sky in Winter"), 24% utter personal opinions ( ���Great game yesterday���), while only 21% ex- hibit true exchange of information (���New Study on Enterprise 2.0: http:// ...���). In an- other study, Java et al. (2007) found four meta-categories of usage: 1) daily chatter, 2) conversations, 3) information/URL sharing, 4) news reporting, with a similar contribu- tion between personal communication and information sharing. Most posts can be clas- sified as daily chatter, while conversations account for 21% of the tweets, and only about 13% of all tweets share information / URLs. While these results are in line with what the developers imagined the use of Twitter to be, i.e. to share what one is currently doing/thinking, it needs to be noted that informing behaviour still accounts for a significant proportion of communication, which shows that many users have found productive and professional uses for the service. Essentially, this is what inspired transferring the idea to the corporate context. 2.2 Enterprise Microblogging Given the success of Twitter, a range of EMB platforms have emerged in the market- place and corporations have begun to ask how they might exploit the potential of mi- croblogging for internal/group communications. While platform providers claim a range of benefits, decision makers however have been cautious to warm to the idea. At the same time, a lively discussion on the benefits and risks associated with corporate social media has emerged in Blogs and other online commentary outlets. Among the concerns is that microblogging is only a temporary fashion, that nobody in the company will use the tools and that most organisations will not be ready culturally to implement social