How does it work? You use your computer or mobile phone to write a short message (140 characters), which is passed on to anyone who has elected to ‘follow’ your messages. Sort of like sending an sms to a group of people, who can then see other people responses. Similar also to facebook etc ‘status updates’.
So who do you choose to ‘follow’?
It could be your group of friends, for planning social events. It could be your favourite shops, to hear about last minute sales. It could be news agencies like CNN, so that you always have the latest news updates. Or, it could be thought leaders in your industry so that you can learn about their latest opinions on events, strategies, software and tools.
The most popular software for microblogging is twitter (www.twitter.com) , and there are dozens of good websites that will help a completely new user get up and running quickly.
On several occasions, such as the Mexico City and Chinese earthquakes, news of the disasters was spreading via microblogging up to an hour before major news networks had reports up. People who were actually at the locations were sending warnings, descriptions of what was happening and letting their friends know that they were ok, using Twitter within minutes of the quakes striking. As their friends replied, the original messages were passed on to new groups of friends, and so word spreads.
The obvious warning in all this, is not to write anything that really shouldn’t be distributed or that you would be later embarrassed by, should a future employer choose to have a look at your online presence.
Microblogging is also becoming common in the workplace. Imagine being able to send an instant message to your colleagues: “we are looking at dealing with company XYZ, has anyone worked with them before?” or “our team just found a solution to problem ABC, contact us for info”. Many large technology companies are already using internal microblogging programs that allow employees to tap into each other’s knowledge on an ongoing basis.
Companies can also follow the microblogging world for customer service, by constantly searching for references to their companies name. A message from a ranting customer will be instantly noticed and the company can quickly respond. Dell Computers has multiple employees who monitor twitter posts and respond directly to problems. Dutch Railways uses twitter to announce delays in real time.