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Innovation

Corner of Bar vs Corner of Library: The Twitter Conundrum

On the eve of a couple of international Enterprise 2.0 Conferences, I'm revisiting in this post a core concept about the fundamental dichotomy of behavioral patterns around marketing people and business operations people.
Written by Oliver Marks, Contributor on

On the eve of a couple of international Enterprise 2.0 Conferences, I'm revisiting in this post a core concept about the fundamental dichotomy of behavioral patterns around marketing people and business operations people.

As a general rule the people running the strategy and tactics of companies rely on a trusted cadre of advisors and keep their cards very close to their chest: their decisions have implications for internal head count and of course external competitive advantage.

Successful marketing people seem to work in the opposite way - they seem to know everybody and can work a room like their life depends on it.

Where the operations person may be deep in strategic thought in their library, the marketing person is likely to be at the corner of the bar at the watering hole of the moment, schmoozing multiple acquaintances new and old.

(Business operations people, I'm about to mention Twitter but please keep reading, and don't roll your eyes into the back of your head like that).

For 2.0 technology conference goers who are paying attention it's easy to see how these admittedly stereotypical extremes would react to modern communication tools such as Twitter and collaboration products.

The average Jane in the street however has little concept of all this as she goes to work with a laptop full of documents she needs to email out as soon as she gets online.

The mainstream media buzz around the usage of Twitter is heavily torqued towards the marketing Joe above.

i covered this topic back in June with a post titled 'Collaborative Networks vs Social Networks' about the problems those two groups solve - they are very different.

(The tsunamai of inanity you can get hit by daily on Twitter is outside the scope of this post and to be fair a conceptual achilles heel for any business user).

Marketing people need to create awareness, and that particularly includes themselves. Having a zillion Twitter followers is a currently a fashionable badge of honor and evidence of being the most connected guy in the global bar.

The operations gal, on the other hand, is much more circumspect about who she gives her business card too, and by extension what the utility of Twitter is.

A successful enterprise 2.0 collaboration environment that's delivering value across a large organization is likely to be carefully segmented into 'need to know' chunks of information served up by your user name and password (beyond general information of course).

In marketing meanwhile any publicity is good publicity, including behaving like a fairground barker online (Twitter is the new TV home shopping network for these people, complete with the trademark gushing insincerity and energy levels).

It's not hard to see from these comparisons why enterprise 2.0 as a whole can be a confusing concept for most people to grasp. It's therefore very important for good marketing people and sophisticated operations gurus who have their information antennae tuned to demonstrate intelligent use patterns that are genuinely useful in business (ie they improve efficiency and awareness and make money).

The photo caption of this English  'the power of tweets' story says it all: 'AA Gill's column about how he shot dead a baboon to get a sense of what it might be like to kill a person caused a minor Twitterstorm'.

I mean seriously, if you weren't a Twitter user and couldn't see any value in it for you, wouldn't that line alone make you make a mental note to avoid at all costs: career death, etc?

Too much free time, naval gazing, hedonism and stream of consciousness don't play out well in a recession, but demonstrating business value does.

Let's make sure we focus on delivering that and avoid the regrettable egofest excesses of the last year or so with marketers confusing lightweight tactical viral marketing with heavyweight business strategy.

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