Microblogging is a form of blogging based on short posts. A real-time communication platform, microblogs are short, tight snippets of information that tell others what you’re doing, where you’re going or even how you’re feeling at any given moment.

In a social context, you could essentially be keeping tabs on your friends’ activities and vice versa, within a private group or publicly on the Web. Several microblogging services are available: we’re featuring two popular ones in this post.

twitter Twitter is a networked web and mobile phone based shared short messaging system. It allows users to write brief text updates (max 140 characters) 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, e-mail, MP3 or the Web (source).

You can open a free account at twitter.com.

yammer_logo_smallYammer is a similar tool for organizations, that allows quick networking and information sharing, with the added benefit of connecting easily within the common organization email domain (i.e. cgiar.org). Note: if you have a valid @cgiar.org email address, sign up to join the growing cgiar network on Yammer.

How can you use microblogging to your advantage?

Having started out as a “What are you doing now?” social communication tool, microblogging holds great potential at work. Whether you see it as an annoying distraction or powerful communication tool, it is in the hands of the user, you. 

Here’s why you should consider using microblogging at work:

  • Brevity. First, the 140 character limit on your microblog forces you to scale down your update to just the facts. Post an idea, a useful link*, ask for quick feedback all in less than a minute. This works in your favor because the responses are just as brief and to the point. (*Last week I mentioned learning about tinyurl.com. TinyURL is an excellent tool that helps you shrink a long url into a tiny one which you can then share with others via Twitter, Yammer or other instant messengers).
     
  • As an informal communication tool
    • Announcements to promote events/ activities
    • Asking for quick feedback and posting short updates create an informal structure that gets your point across without getting bogged down by more formal means of communications.
       
  • Updates from colleagues you ‘follow’. This feature is really the crux of microblogging. Whom you follow determines the type of updates you gain access to. By intelligently selecting the right people, you are now privy to their experiences, ideas and insights. You have the potential to ‘mine’ their resources as your followers ‘mine’ yours. What are the benefits?
    • You get breaking news. Real time conversations can be very revealing.
    • Networking is easier. The informal setting allows quick introductions and gets you straight onto their microblogs.
    • Connect within a community at work, increase visibility and engage with partners and colleagues.
       
  • Less email. Microblogging on Twitter or Yammer reduces the need for email exchanges, which help de-clutter your inbox. The versatility in sharing your messages through a variety of ways reduces the dependency on email access.
     
  • Real-time sharing during events (e.g. conferences, training events, meetings). It is one of the key tools for social reporting, i.e. “is where a group of participants at an event interactively and jointly contribute to some form of reporting, in text, photos, images or video. The resulting “social report” is made accessible, usually online, as soon as possible, sometimes as a half-product. This allows others to join in, to extend, to adjust or remix.” (explore the  ‘social reporting’ tag on this blog). Microblogging during events increases visibility and outreach of the knowledge that is generated at a rapid pace during face-to-face meetings, and it helps build a level of engagement and participation that goes beyond physical presence.
Why some people love Twitter

Why some people love Twitter

 

How to be a ‘savvy’ microblogger

  • Post updates that add value. This could be an idea, interesting links and shortcuts that have appeal but do not warrant a blog post.
  • Respond to microblogs when you have a contribution to make. You don’t have to interact on all posts that are shared.
  • Exercise caution when posting updates. In a more public group, you may want to hold back on personal details.
  • Choose whom you ‘follow’ wisely

Who’s been microblogging

  • Conference share and “back channel.” In the recent ShareFair in Rome, several participants twittered live and during the sessions to share insights and highlights with their twitter networks. Current example? Colleagues are now twitting live from the African Geospatial Week in Nairobi (with special postings on the Yammer cgiar network).
  • Incorporation of Twitter in CIMMYT’s blog. The ICT-KM blog (where you are now) incorporates the Twitter updates on the sidebar.
  • Media giants like BBC and The New York Times use Twitter to post headlines and story links (NYT and BBC)

Have you had any experience you’d like to share about microblogging? Perhaps you’ve identified other uses for microblogging at work. We would love to hear from you.

Till next week!

Resources 

Get these links and more from the microblogging tag at CGXchange on Del.icio.us

Advertisements
Twittering away...

Twittering away...

Attending a workshop in a time zone vastly different from your own can often tax your powers of concentration, especially when you have to participate in an afternoon session after a heavy lunch. Full stomachs and jet lag can lead to diminished attention spans, putting pressure on facilitators and presenters to come up with ways of re-energizing participants.

Someone who certainly knows how to deal with post-lunch fatigue in others, even while combating her own jet lag, is workshop facilitator extraordinaire Simone Staiger-Rivas, who successfully led day one of the CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop in Penang, Malaysia.

In a lively half-hour lunchtime session, Simone introduced participants to Twitter and Yammer, social media tools that can a have huge impact on the way we communicate our work to colleagues, friends and the world.

Simone excitedly recounted a recent experience with Twitter, a real-time short messaging service that works over the web or mobile phone.

“Last week, I conducted a seminar at CIAT on social media entitled Let’s Really Go Online! The Potential of Social Media for Improving Organizational, Project and Personal Impact,” she said. I was a little disappointed because only 20 people came to this face-to-face meeting.

“However, prior to the meeting, I’d uploaded the presentation onto SlideShare, a Website for sharing presentations, and put the link on my Twitter and Facebook pages, and also on my Skype Status tab. By 3:00 pm that day, just before I gave the presentation at CIAT, 20 people had seen the presentation online, and I’d received about nine comments on Facebook.”

By the following afternoon, more than 180 people had viewed the slide show, and Simone began to get really excited.

“My Twitter contacts, some of whom have a huge number of followers, had ‘re-tweeted’ the link to the presentation, sharing it with all their contacts. And that was the beginning of a snowball effect. Then two days later, almost 300 hundred people had seen the presentation.”

Three days after the CIAT seminar, more than 400 people had viewed Simone’s presentation, with seven bookmarking it as a favourite. As a result of the number of hits her presentation received on SlideShare, the site listed the slideshow under the ‘Technology’ section, giving it even more prominence.

Now, 400 isn’t an enormous number, but when you compare it to the number of people who attended the face-to-face session, it’s huge.

Yammer

Simone also talked about the usefulness of Yammer, often called Twitter for organizations. Like Twitter, Yammer is a micro-blogging service that allows users to post short messages (140 characters maximum) and follow updates from others. Unlike Twitter, Yammer focuses on work-related networks comprising users with the same organizational email address. Yammer users can update colleagues on events or ask each other questions without clogging e-mail inboxes. Users can also search Yammer to find people working in similar fields and subscribe to RSS feeds on a specific topic.

Participant Mike Listman, CIMMYT, was excited about the possibilities of such social media tools after listening to Simone’s demonstration. “I’d never heard of Yammer until today, but I’ll certainly get my team to explore how we can use it in our work,” he said.

Ellen Wilson, Senior Vice President, Burness Communications, on the other hand, is already a convert. She and her colleagues, who are spread across four different offices, use Yammer regularly to update each other on their respective activities, share cool articles, and answer work-related questions.

“If you are reluctant to use services like Yammer, the messages can also be sent to your email account,” said Ellen.

Such was the enthusiasm for Yammer that the CGIAR communication specialists attending the workshop have decided to establish their own Yammer group.

This not the first time Twitter has been highlighted during a CGIAR event. The ICT-KM Program conducted a training session on the tool during the recent Share Fair held in Rome.

Please visit the Program’s Twitter by clicking here!