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Twitter: a spur to productivity for STM communities?

LI_pic_logo_119x32The internet has a seemingly insatiable appetite for discussing the perceived benefits and hazards of using Twitter professionally. The professional networking site LinkedIn, which now boasts over 40 million members, has a significant community of tweeple, and discussion threads such as this (“Will Twitter cause a decline in employee productivity”; LinkedIn account required) reoccur with some frequency.

What surprised me about this thread was the fact that the majority of the posters were of the opinion that yes, the use of Twitter at work will indeed lead to a decline in productivity.

I say I was ‘surprised’, because I thought that professionals who had taken the trouble to sign up to LinkedIn to avail themselves of its manifold benefits would not have to have exerted themselves overly to see that there is a strong positive correlation between being a productive, engaged member of LinkedIn, and a productive, engaged member of Twitter.

You like to ‘find and be introduced to potential clients, service providers, and subject experts who come recommended‘ (scroll down) on LinkedIn.

You can do this on Twitter, too.

You like to ‘create and collaborate on projects, gather data, share files and solve problems’ on LinkedIn.

You can do this on Twitter, too.

You like to ‘be found for business opportunities and find potential partners’ on LinkedIn.

You can do this on Twitter, too.

Add Twitter to LinkedIn, and the benefits become doubly captivating. If you have a Twitter account, you should link to it from one of the three slots available to you on your LinkedIn profile. If you have a LinkedIn account, you should say so on an easily-uploaded Twitter background. If tech isn’t your thing, you can compose this on your favoured presentation-creating platform, export it as a .png, and upload it as a background image on the Twitter ‘design’ tab. Mine is scheduled for an overhaul in the near future, but that is exactly what I did. It’s not perfect, but it’s good enough.

So, is Twitter a spur to productivity?

Yes.

Here are some of the thoughts as to why I believe this to be the case that I shared on the LinkedIn thread cited above:

Perhaps the most important things about Twitter from a commercial perspective is its potential to harness your employees’ enthusiasm and commitment, thereby enhancing their productivity.

If you discover an employee using Twitter effectively for business purposes, you should make a point of thanking them. They have taken it into their own hands to give a human voice to the area of your business that they are responsible for. They are building relationships with customers who are choosing to follow them, rather than merely enduring a hailstorm of direct marketing from you. They are raising your company’s profile, building advocacy around your brand, and delivering revenue.

Yes: delivering revenue.

Quite apart from all the indirect benefits listed above, Dell’s various Twitter channels had made $1m by the end of 2008. I’d hazard they’ve banked substantially more than that since then as their Twitter profile grows. So yes, Dell are using Twitter productively, and I’d hold them up as a model of best practice in this regard.

However, most companies are still very much in the early days of working out how to use Twitter effectively. I think it is fascinating, as this research demonstrates, that many of the brands that are receiving hundreds of thousands (even millions) of mentions on Twitter have failed to grasp its potential, and have not even bothered to set up a presence, or group of presences. Such wasted opportunities!

As the video embedded in LinkedIn’s ‘About Us‘ page puts it (although as to why it is not hosted on YouTube, I am unsure), ‘it’s about helping you be more productive’ (00:18). It’s what LinkedIn does; it’s also what Twitter does.

I have, of course, been talking about brands in the abstract here, but there are as many possible applications of these practices in the STM space as there are STM communities. Over the coming months STweM will continue to explore how STM communities (publishers, societies, corporate STM communicators) can harness the productive potential of social media by connecting them in appealing and engaging ways.

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