Exploring Twitter as a social networking tool for competitive intelligence
By Karen Rothwell
At the 2009 Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP) conference last month, I felt like an outsider when it appeared I was the only one not Twittering. Initially skeptical that Twitter would turn out to be the latest flavor of the month, I quickly signed up for my free account on Twitter.com when I realized it was the preferred method of communicating among most of the SCIP members. I immediately found it useful to communicate last minute updates on the session I was facilitating during the conference. Since then, I've done some digging to see how else my peers or I can use Twitter in a competitive intelligence setting.
What is it?
Twitter is a free social networking service for people to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent and short quips called "tweets." Real-time information on where you are, what you are doing, and what's in the news are common topics that one will find "tweeted" in posts limited 140 characters.
"We have seen some major growth in Facebook during the past year, and a subsequent decline in MySpace. Twitter has come on the scene in an explosive way perhaps changing the outlook for the entire space," said Jon Gibs, Nielsen vice president, online media and agency insights. "The one thing that is clear about social networking is that regardless of how fast a site is growing or how big it is, it can quickly fall out of favor with consumers." So read on with caution.
You can be a passive user of Twitter and choose not to use it to communicate updates on yourself but instead use it to look for information or follow the posts of others. More active users set up an account to network with others that share similar interests.
Twitter seems user-friendly to me. Programs such as Twitterific or Tweetie can be downloaded to get updates on your cellphone or PDAs, making it easy to use when you are on the road.
Basic applications for CI practitioners:
- Twitter Search & Mining. The Search function can helps users to find real-time, unfiltered information on topics including your company and your competition. Yet another source for real-time information.
- Twibes. Twibes are groups of Twitter users that share an interest in a common topic who would like to be able to communicate with each other. CI professionals can form twibes within or outside their organizations to share and collect intelligence on customers, competitors or others.
- Twellow is an online directory that categorizes your Twitter profile by taking the geographical information and biographical information from your account. It allows you to find Twitter users with similar interests who you can follow and interact with. It is a fast mechanism for creating a network.
Note that information is not validated in any way so check other sources to validate rumors, opinions and comments found in Twitter.
For those like me who have been reluctant to check out yet another social networking site that will eat up the little time you do not have, this one's worth a peek. Although to be completely truthful, while my most common use of Twitter is to get restaurant recommendations when I'm traveling, I have it in my arsenal of CI tools because I see the value of using the tool to post questions, communicate, get breaking news and network in the right situations.
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