The evolution of blogs has happened fast. Micro-blogging is fast making its presence felt. According to Wikipedia, micro blogging is a form of multimedia blogging that allows users to send brief text updates or micromedia such as photos or audio clips and publish them, either to be viewed by anyone or by a restricted group which can be chosen by the user. These messages can be submitted by a variety of means, including text messaging, instant messaging, email, digital audio or the web.
The content of a micro-blog differs from a traditional blog in that it is typically smaller in actual size and aggregate file size. A single entry could consist of a single sentence or fragment or an image or a brief, ten second video. However, the purpose of the micro-blog remains similar to that of a traditional blog. Users micro-blog about particular topics that range from the simple, such as "what one is doing at a given moment," to the thematic, such as "sports cars," to business topics, such as particular products. Many micro-blogs provide short commentary on a person-to-person level, share news about a company's products and services, or provide logs of the events of one's life.
The Business World and Micro-Blogging
Today, micro-blogging has transformed into a business tool. Of course, one of the first questions that a company needs to ask is ‘Is micro-blogging relevant to your business?’Also, do your research and find out if your competitors are tapping into this service as well. It is also crucial to know your target audience and if they are using micro-blogging as a tool or monitoring these forums.
For a business, the advantages of using micro-blogging can be numerous:
Micro-blogs establish awareness and expertise for a company. Frequent posts on a particular subject translate into building the brand name of your organization. Do make sure that your company logo and branding is present the micro-blog page. Also, one can link back to a blog so that more information is available. As an example, the T-shirt firm Threadless makes use of Twitter to keep their customers informed.
Micro-blogs also offer a fantastic opportunity to broaden the business network and add contacts. In order to accomplish this, be sure to share useful links and bring value to the audience. Once this is achieved, users are bound to follow.
Although selling on micro-blogs is not encouraged, businesses may utilize it to create awareness about the benefits of goods and services to new markets. Additionally, customer service updates may be provided using this tool. A good example of a company that does this is a Texas-based organic food business -'Whole Foods, which adds value by using Twitter to post on events in the community and organic topics as well.
They can expand your organization’s communications with stakeholders.
Micro-blogging enables you to track conversations about your company and your competition. It also enables you to discover new trends.
A tool such as Twitter is ideal for following news on a specific topic or for asking questions of your peers. Meanwhile, being able to update your status on the move benefits employees who need to keep in regular contact with one another: a single text can generate an update that is immediately fed to an entire group of co-workers. With the wealth of access points that microblogs offer - from Firefox add-ons to iPhone applications - it’s an elegant way to keep people connected, irrespective of time zones or technology.
Of course, like all tools, there can be drawbacks too. It’s worth considering that microblogging is, essentially, an extremely accessible form of publishing and that your posts can appear in Google search results and across the web. So remember, what you write and post shouldn’t get you in trouble with your company or the law. There’s also the risk that, if not managed correctly, microblogging may add to your digital clutter - not reduce it.
Twitter and Company
While Twitter may be the best known micro-blogging tool at the moment, there are others as well. Facebook’s status updates and wall posts make unwitting microbloggers out of its users. In fact, its redesign was a direct response to the growth of Twitter.
Tumblelogs such as tumblr and Soup extend the short-form format to include multimedia content. Yonkly is aimed at users who want to create niche microblogs. The Google-owned Jaiku offers an open source take on the genre. Plurk provides a quirky, timeline-based aesthetic. And Yammer, which won last year’s TechCrunch50, is specifically designed to provide an internal microblogging tool for businesses.
The business-focused Yammer allows companies to host the software themselves but at this point of time, this is the exception, not the rule. Most microblogging services live in the cloud, with all the benefits - and problems - that entails. Twitter, for instance, has grown so rapidly that its servers frequently keel over, resulting in the familiar Fail Whale screen.
Microblogging: The next email?
With 2009 being touted as the year Twitter has taken flight, some are even asking if micro-blogging could be the next email. With email becoming an increasing burden on people’s time, microblogging offers a compelling business communication solution. “Web 2.0 evangelists… say it can facilitate an open-ended corporate culture that values transparency, collaboration and innovation,” says Forbes.com. “Most important, it can be an effective way to build a customer-centric organization that not only communicates authentically but also listens to customers and learns from that interaction.”
For many of us, microblogs still have the novelty value of the latest web-based cultural phenomenon. But, like email, tools such as Twitter are destined to become a central part of our working lives.
By Shanti Anne Morais
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