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Twitter Alternatives That Are All Business

Twitter Alternatives That Are All Business

Gaining buy-in: There were some concerns from management about the nature of information that could be posted to the site and how the information would be controlled, Levy says. "This is a 'you can't control a crowd' type of thing. If you clamp down too hard on restrictions, people won't use it; but on the other hand, you need some sort of structure," he says.

To get everyone onboard, a policy was developed and posted on their website. "We didn't want to make it long and complicated, we wanted to encourage people to talk about things, but make everyone aware that everyone else can see it, and to self-moderate," Levy says. They also encouraged senior management to not only join, but to actively use it during the workday. Levy says this encouraged more activity on the site and made senior management more reachable and approachable.

To spread the word about the new tool, the rollout team partnered with various internal communications groups and created presentations that explained why they might want to try it out. Motorola also integrated an icon on the website that allowed employees to post something directly that they found interesting with one click. "We wanted to keep it public and in people's minds until it got a mind of itself," Levy says. Today, more than 7,000 employees use the tool, he says.

How they're using it: In addition to using microblogging as an avenue for disseminating information and encouraging communication and collaboration, Motorola also participated in a worldwide event where, on Oct. 15, employees performed community service. They publicized the event internally and encouraged staff members post to the microblogging site photos of themselves helping the local community and discussing what they were doing.

They also integrated a geomapping tool that listed where each volunteering employee was located, so others could see in real-time what was happening around them. "It was really cool because it not only showed what people were doing and where, but it encouraged people to converse about it and create new connections among themselves," Levy says.

Use Case #3: Avaya

Why they did it: Avaya, an enterprise global communications company with a distributed workforce of between 13,000 and 15,000 employees worldwide was looking to get their employees to communicate outside their groups, wanted to increase mobility of their sales associates and felt it was important for their employees to be comfortable and knowledgeable of new communication methods that their customers might be using, says Kay Beavers, a member of the worldwide sales technical operations group.

"We're moving away from long-winded e-mails that take hours to compile and where the conversation drags along for days," she says. "We wanted our associates to be quicker, more nimble and more efficient in how they communicate, and microblogging seemed to suit that well."

Avaya has been using both Yammer and SocialCast for about a year, outside the firewall. Currently, they're in the process of trialing inside the firewall.

Gaining buy-in: Beavers says that finding a solution that their IT security team and legal team were comfortable with was challenging. "Legal wanted to make sure we didn't say anything that shouldn't be said and security wanted to make sure it was safe," she says. "It was really important for us to establish best practices at the start of the project." The team initiated conversations with top execs and technical experts, then moved forward to educate employees.

Making sure that there was enough self-training available to employees was important so they could learn at their own pace, Beavers says. The rollout team posted videos demonstrating how to use certain features like tagging, personal replies and customizing their streams. Managers also sought to recognize employees who shared valuable content and comments by reposting their comments and observations. This has encouraged more employees to join, Beavers says.

How they're using it: Because SocialCast's and Yammer's tools can be accessed via a mobile phone, Avaya sales associates are now more reachable, which has helped to improve the time it took to respond to customers, Beavers says. Additionally, the tool has been useful for onboarding new associates, helping them make contacts more quickly and catch up on company news by searching through past conversations, Beaver says.

"[Microblogging] is really much more of a Generation Y communication tool. We wanted to use that to attract and retain those kinds of workers and let them use the tools they've become used to in real life, and not just limit them to the tools their parents use," she says.

Using the microblogging tools has also helped Avaya reduce e-mail and attachment overload; Beaver says employees are no longer afraid to delete e-mails since they can search for conversations and announcements within the microblogging sites.

Four Tips for a Successful Microblogging Implementation

1. Determine the "want" factor. "It's not safe to assume that just because you roll out this technology, it's what people want to see," says Jeremiah Owyang, a partner and strategy consultant at Altimeter Group. If employees are already using Twitter, they're more likely to support an implementation of a microblogging tool. "Microblogging should be a feature that's part of a larger technology set, not a standalone tool."

2. Involve a diverse group early in the process. Tim Eby, general manager at St. Louis Public Radio, made sure he involved skeptics in the planning and testing phases. "Knowing that the majority was onboard brought us buy-in from the rest of the station," he says. "And if you don't have leadership from the organization willing to embrace change, it's difficult to have anything fully adopted."

3. Create buzz. By strategizing with internal communications groups, getting the word out to employees about the implementation became easier, says Rami Levy, distinguished member of the technical staff with Motorola's open-source technologies department. They created presentations and incorporated icons onto their webpages that made it easier for employees to share content.

4. Set guidelines. Establishing best practices at the start of the project was key to Avaya's success. "We wanted to create some sort of guidelines to reduce the noise so the negatives didn't outweigh the positives," says Kay Beavers, a member of the worldwide sales technical operations group. But be careful: "There is a fine balancing line between establishing too many guidelines and letting it evolve organically," she says.

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