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Businesses can make use of Twitter as a public relations channel, but they need to be aware of security when sharing ideas, Gartner has said.

The social networking site allows users to post short messages, or microblogs. Gartner predicts that by 2011, enterprise microblogging will be a standard feature of 80 percent of social software platforms, even though most are currently consumer orientated.

Many businesses are using Twitter as a public relations and marketing channel, Gartner said. Businesses are "tweeting" about corporate accomplishments, distributing links to press releases, and responding to other Twitterers' comments about their brand.

Gartner said this approach should be used with caution because uninteresting Tweets could hinder the brand image as much as help.

Other businesses use Twitter in an "indirect way", to enhance and extend their personal reputations, thereby enhancing the company's reputation. This approach relied on them saying clever, interesting things, attracting followers to read their blogs, Gartner said.

Some firms use Twitter as an internal platform, to communicate about what they are doing, projects they are working on and ideas that occur to them. But Gartner said it "does not recommend" using Twitter in this way, "because there is no guarantee of security".

"Inbound signalling" is a final way firms are using Twitter, as a resource showing information about what customers, competitors and others are saying about a company. "Savvy companies use these signals to get early warnings of problems and collect feedback about product issues and new product ideas," Gartner said.

Jeffrey Mann, research VP at Gartner and author of the 'Four ways in which enterprises are using Twitter' report, said: "In general, Twitter usage by employees should be covered by existing web participation guidelines."

"If organisations have not defined a public Web participation policy, they should do so as quickly as possible."

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This story, "Put Twitter to Work" was originally published by Computerworld UK.

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