Weekend stuff: learning with Suw via Twitter

I often hear how Twitter is the magic bullet to so many things and as a hardcore enterprisey type and despite my personal Twitt-addiction, I'd usually say: 'Pft.' Today taught me a couple of things that may yet change my mind.
Written by Dennis Howlett, Contributor

I often hear how Twitter is the magic bullet to so many things and as a hardcore enterprisey type and despite my personal Twitt-addiction, I'd usually say: 'Pft.' Today taught me a couple of things that may yet change my mind.

Suw Charman-Anderson, a UK colleague randomly Tweeted about Folksy.com. It's one of those nick-nack type sites that offer a range of impulse buy goods at modest cost. At a time of recession, buying something from these types of place can serve as a good antidote to feeling miserable and avoids the alternative of going to the pub with morning after regrets. Suw has a 'shop' inside Folksy and I decided to buy something as a surprise gift. Good value + giving smiles + surprise = happiness. Right?

Unfortunately Suw's shop doesn't ship to my location. Enter Twitter. How to solve the shipping problem? See the Tweet below:

That led to a short email exchange where we agreed the best way forward was to add something extra to the base price so that Suw is all good on shipping costs. I also gave her a UK address plus my Spanish address so that we could overcome the 'process problem.' PayPal took care of the transaction.

What did I learn:

  • In a hyper connected and distributed world, exceptions are the norm - get over it.
  • Working with your customers to find a solution in the absence of an easy process change is the way to go.
  • Prompt action tells me you care about me.
  • Social tools are great but let's not forget that some things have to happen in the closed world of email.
  • Learning from the process issue (Suw said the site is beta but there is a switch she can flip) can help you expand your market.
  • Social solutions don't necessarily scale. Imagine if Suw was suddenly inundated with requests. How might she cope with them without ticking off customers? A blanket Twitter response? Sounds like a plan to me.

The fact Suw isn't a recognized 'brand' doesn't matter. She's exposed on Twitter, her web presence and her shop. Ergo she has a brand which is worth protecting. Some might argue that brand is essential if sales from that source represent an important part of income.

Switch gears.

Vinnie 'Maintenance' Mirchandani eschews social software. That's his right and given he spends a ridiculous amount of time burning air miles and in negotiations it's no surprise. Our Irregular colleague Susan Scrupski determined to 'force' Vinnie onto Twitter, created an account and set up a way to auto post his blog entries to Twitter. Vinnie's a popular dude and within an hour had 49 followers.

Being the helpful chap I am, I cheerfully suggested he now needs a couple of tools to help manage his Twitter presence. Quick as a flash he shoots back (see image below):

Ouch! But then I had one of those light bulb moments. These kinds of service are not yer SAP R/3 FICO services. They're consumer grade and they're meant to be usable with almost no help. OK - so you might want to find ways of using Twitter that are specific to you for which your learning becomes an investment but entering a Tweet should be a no brainer as should the ability to use services like Seesmic Desktop and Topify. In other words 30 seconds to a minute max before you're basically good to go.

I explained that to Vinnie and he came back with:

better cancel that Accenture proposal then

It's all fun I know but there is a serious side to this.

Yesterday I riffed on MISO, grumbling about 5-year cycles and so on. I missed talking about the idea of taking the consumer experience as a benchmark for ease of use. Sameer Patel reminded me that he had written something similar earlier in the week but with the emphasis on Enterprise 2.0. It was this closing that caught my eye:

...you have to think about how long social computing deployments are going to remain point solutions and purely emergent before they can be DNA changing in any way.

I think its time to call out purely emergent implementation models (not that there’s anything wrong with that) vs. strategic use of social computing to achieve open collaborative and transactive work models.  Both have their place. But only the latter leads to an Enterprise, destined to achieve a 2.0 design.

If my Suw example is anything to go by, I'm reckoning there is a learning in there which comes back to my embedding idea I discussed yesterday. But I also think we have more work to do on the buy side. Vinnie's 'don't wanna learn more' statement resonates well. For anyone over say 30, remember how long it took to figure out Windows? How long before using a browser became second nature?

While the Enterprise 2.0 evangelists have a job to do, they sometimes miss that many workers are not at that same state of readiness. Addressing the learning curve should be job number one. MISO developers don't have E2.0 DNA running through their corporate veins - yet. And no, it won't require an Accenture, PwC, KPMG etc. It will require a Suw.

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