Microblogging and Effective Communcation Methods in the Enterprise

November 23rd, 2008

I have been on Twitter for about 18 months now and continually marvel at how it has helped me connect and re-connect with people I see infrequently.  I joined my new law firm, Virtual Law Partners, in August of this year and Yammer launched shortly thereafter.  VLP has no offices, so there is no water cooler around which people can congregate and socialize.  I created a Yammer network for VLP in the hope that it could serve that purpose virtually.

After two months on the network we have 20 members and I have posted 153 times.  The next-most frequent members have posted 60, 30 and 6 times, respectively.  It is fair to say that the idea of network was well received, but the network itself has not been overwhelmingly popular to date.  This is a data point for me rather than a success/fail metric.

We are a completely virtual business, and also a brand new, rapidly growing organization. We are going to try a lot of different communication methods before we find ones that work best, and we will probably find that different people have different favorites.  The NY Times has these quotes that for me encapsulate the appeal of microblogging- it can be pithy and valuable for both business and social matters:

“I’m personally learning about things I wouldn’t normally hear about until we’re getting ready for a monthly board meeting,” he said. His company, with offices on both coasts and soon in London, uses Yammer. “I’m constantly sending messages about what I’m doing,” he said. “The rest of the company gets excited, and they’re using that info to communicate with customers and partners.”

Companies with many employees who work from home or in far-flung offices may get the most out of internal microblogging, which can help fill the inherent social gaps among remote workers. Even simple updates like, “Going to the dentist” or “Mopping coffee off the keyboard” can make co-workers feel more connected to one another.

It isn’t for everyone, though, and never will be.  We have a host of other online tools to communicate intra-firm: IM, discussion board, internal blogs, phones(!) and a nascent social network.  I can’t wait to see how people use all these tools.  They each have their own set of benefits and drawbacks.  We are in the throw-things-at-the-wall-and-see-what sticks-phase. I bet that over time we will start using things in ways no one ever expected.

As a social web nerd, I really enjoy watching the process unfold.  VLP is a brand-new firm with a plan to do something no one else has done before in any industry: build a major business with no offices at all.  Communication is even more critical for us than for many other businesses.  I am really looking forward to seeing what works and what doesn’t over the next year or two.

Tags: , , ,