The future of Twitter: SocialBRP

As I said elsewhere, I missed most of the weekend fun following Robert Scoble's sputter of posts on the Facebook/Twitter thing that starts here and spilled into Techmeme.  My concern has centered around the concentration of thinking on all things marketing.

As I said elsewhere, I missed most of the weekend fun following Robert Scoble's sputter of posts on the Facebook/Twitter thing that starts here and spilled into Techmeme.  My concern has centered around the concentration of thinking on all things marketing. That's an easy thing to do. After all, on the Internet, everyone's a pimp for something. Right? Even so, it strike me that represents limited thinking.

Jeremiah Owyang, Forrester analyst got in on the act but in his limited world, everything starts and stops with brands although he does a credible job of parsing the Twitter element around the topic du jour, Salesforce.com's Twitterizing its applications:

As a result, brands will start to monitor –then manage– the discussions that happen online. I was briefed by Clara Shih (related book), the creator of FaceForce (now called Faceconnector) (Facebook + SalesForce integration) last week, and while I think they’ve taken one step forward –there’s more to be done in confirming IDs, influence, and intent to buy. Update: Here’s the Service Cloud site, which emphasizes customer service and support.

Owyang starts to get to the real point when he mentions the A-word: analytics. But in order to make a credible job of that, marketers are going to require a new set of measures against which they can parse their campaigns. The problem with that is marketing is generally very poor at doing this kind of thing. They have an anathema towards being measured, preferring fluffy stuff like page views. Or delivery of a TV commercial campaign on budget (and look how gorgeous it is.)

Salesforce.com on the other hand is taking the relatively safe route of concentrating on service and support. I expect we'll hear a lot more about that on today's investor call. It's a safe route because it is something that business can easily parse into operations, through which efficiencies can be found and relationships fostered. It's an easy win on the efficiency side, provided (again) the analytics and logistics are in place. Relationships? That's a lot more ephemeral.

Scoble reckons that:

Yes, we’re having another baby. But look at what did NOT happen on Twitter: not a single diaper company contacted us yet. Not a single maternity clothing company. Not a single car company (yes, we’re going to buy a new one soon). Not a single camera company (already bought a new one for this occasion). Not a single insurance company (I need more). Not a single bank (I need to start saving for another college student). Not a single stroller company (need a new one that can hold two). Not a single vitamin company (Maryam is going through her prenatal vitamins at a good clip). Not a single shoe company (Maryam needs new shoes for pregnancy, and Milan is growing fast too).

That will NOT last.

...which Owyang parses to signal a beating to Scoble's door by the brands. That's fine except few outside Silicon Valley really knows who he is in the same way that anyone working in a niche is necessarily limited in their reach. Even if you say well OK that will be another form of marketing where's the moolah for Twitter? Nowhere.

What everyone seems to be missing is that the real opportunity for Twitter comes from within the enterprise and its business ecosystem. That's why a bunch of us developed ESME and why Siemens SIS is piloting it. We understood that microblogging can do what blogs, wikis and the other Enterprise 2.0 applications paraphernalia cannot do: provide instant discovery and results mechanisms. To quote from the release:

”ESME helps to build communities and thus fosters efficient, company-wide communication between employees“, says Richard Hirsch, project manager for ESME at Siemens IT Solutions and Services. Companies utilizing innovative Enterprise 2.0 concepts are mainly seeking to improve communication between teams in geographically separate locations. What makes ESME special is that machines and software systems can also be integrated into the communication process. This opens up new possibilities for shaping working processes and boosts company productivity as a whole.

The last three years, my E2.0 colleagues have struggled long and hard to find solid evidence of breakthrough value. The cases are horribly thin on the ground. However, Twitteresque services could easily swing that pendulum the other way. Unquestionably, it will requires serious investment in analysis tools. But business ecosystem wins in the knowledge stream, tied to context and often barely repeatable processes is a mouthwatering prospect. That will be much more attractive than outward facing marketing because BRP is what 80% of knowledge workers spend their time doing. That's where the largest potential gains in effectiveness lay.

Does Twitter win in these circumstances? Possibly but as time goes on I see it getting further way from 'the money' while competing services emerge that can tap directly into the big business systems. If Siemens is successful in piloting ESME for instance, that's an entree into a massive ecosystem of buyers. Siemens itself has some 400,000 employees. Goodness knows how many people it reaches. My point is simple: you only need a handful of Siemens to have enormous impact and quickly eclipse Twitter itself. That's one reason why IBM is going hell for leather with its own social computing strategy.

In the meantime as a touring aside @jack is in Sevilla. He's being picked up at the airport by my good friend @AlbertoAranda. Alberto doesn't speak much English. I hope Jack Dorsey learns to speak enterprise.

UPDATE: no sooner had I stabbed the 'publish' button than @ccmehil reminded me that collection of social graph data doesn't have to be restricted to Twitter and Facebook. Other services are in play such as his own @eventtrack which can vacuum up data from multiple services such as FriendFeed and Flickr. As he said on a Tweet:

@dahowlett you know it does brand tracking as well as people tracking and event tracking right?

Like Twitter, @ccmehil has yet to find a solid way of monetizing his idea.

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