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Why Professionals Should Continue to Blog in the Era of Twitter

I’ll bet you’re smart.

I mean, you’re likely college educated. Maybe even grad school. You can probably remember some killer instances where you nailed some assignment. That clever C++ hack. The time you delivered an insightful analysis of Vonnegut. Navigated your way through a thorny financial analysis. Came up with an elegant solution  in the chemistry lab.

You’re good. You’ve got knowledge in your field, you’ve got a track record of accomplishments in your job. And you’ve got solid points of view about your field and its future.

And all you want to do is tweet?

A number of people have blogged about the uncertain future of…uh…blogging. I understand where they’re coming from. Here’s how Jevon MacDonald put it:

I don’t know what the fate of blogging is, but as I think about it I wonder if it can survive without changing. Just in the last 2 years we have seen massive uptake in the creation of content by users, but most of it is now outside of the blogosphere. Status Updates on Facebook, Twitter, new levels of photo sharing and geolocation based services and networks are all becoming the centerpiece of attention.

His point is that with the ease of Twitter and Tumblr, the relevancy of and desire to blog is diminishing. He’s not alone, it’s a theme that’s been popping up in the last several months.

To which I say:

If you’re a professional who’s just going to twitter, you are missing a golden opportunity to help yourself via blogging.

This post is geared towards those who have day jobs, and for whom blogging and tweeting is an extension of their professional lives.

OK, smart reader, let’s talk about this.

A Blog Is Your Stake in the Ground

Twitter is wonderful. I’ve been tweeting it up the past few months myself. I’ve gained a whole new appreciation for the power of Twitter. As I said in a recent post:

Twitter has established lightweight messaging as valuable and addictive. From the simple roots of “What are you doing?”, people have morphed Twitter into a range of use cases. Open channel chats. News updates. Sharing articles and blog posts found useful. Polls. Research. Updates peers on activities and travels.

It’s great for what it is. And an important part of your professional persona and career development.

But blogs are the professional’s curriculum vitae. They are a standing record of strong thin king about a subject. When you devote the time to put together a blog post covering your field, you’re likely doing this:

  • Research
  • Analysis
  • Linking to others
  • Establishing your voice
  • Influencing the thinking of others
  • Showing the ability to pull together longer form thinking, a requirement in professional work

My own experience is that if you blog, every so often you pop out a signature piece. The kind of post that resonates with others and establishes your position in your field. These blog posts receive a lot of views, get linked to and turn up in Google searches. When you get one of these, congratulations! You have successfully put your flag in the ground for your field.

Tweets don’t do that. Tweets create a tapestry of someone, they foster ambient awareness. This has value in its own right. But they’re not vehicles for heavier thinking. They don’t demonstrate your capacity to size up an issue or idea and bring it home.

Keep in mind that LinkedIn now lets you add blogs to your professional profile. What’s going to be more valuable to you when people are running searches? Tweets or well-thought blog posts?

There’s a Flow to This

I know this is definitely early adopter stuff. The number of professionals spending time tweeting and blogging is still limited. But I suspect this is going to happen:

Those who can work blogging and some twittering into their regular activities are going to earn more money and get promoted faster.

I can’t wait until some academic study comes out about this.

Here’s how I see the way Twitter and blogging mix:

professionals-social-media-flow

Tweets engage you in a flow of information, they let you pick up signals and connect with others in your field. From all that, you gain a healthy perspective on what’s happening in your industry. Once you write a post, you’ll find yourself energized to engage once again via Twitter. And on goes the cycle.

The mere act of writing out research, analysis and opinion is amazingly valuable. No burdens for how that memo plays with your boss, or keeping your thoughts on-topic for the upcoming meeting. Just you and your blog, working through what interests you.

Could You Really Tweet These?

As an example, I’ve selected three posts from this blog. They were some that really worked out there. And I’ve tried to convert them into a tweet. Take a look:

blog-posts-with-tweet-alternatives

There’s no replacing the permanence or deeper thinking that blogs provide.

So What Are You Waiting For?

That’s my view on why you should keep on blogging even as you tweet. Let’s take this one out with quotes from three bloggers:

Bill Ives:

TwiTip recently had a post on Ten People All Twitter Beginners Should be Following by Mark Hayward. I will let you guess who is on it and then go to the post. It is no surprise that a number of top bloggers are one the list.

With the continuing evolution of tools, blogging is becoming more focused on what it does well – moving beyond sound bytes and providing a permanent accessible record of thought.

Eric Berlin:

Here’s my new thinking: probably the best and most successful bloggers will also tend to be the best blogger/microblogger hybrids, and vice versa.

Steven Hodson:

For us this means less competition and less noise for us to fight our way through in order to get through to the readers. This of course is my first reason why bloggers should be thankful for services like Twitter and FriendFeed – they help clear out the noise makers.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 120508

From the home office in Truth or Consequences, NM…

#1: Love this post by Atlassian’s @barconati Connectbeam Connects | Confluence Customers Beam http://bit.ly/5VhY >> why E2.0 integrati …

#2: Noticing that my tweets that hit 140 characters are having text cut off well before 140. Anyone else?

#3: @twitter A bug. Char. < and > are stored as 4 char. in ur DB, not 1. Means each use cuts max char. of tweet by 3. This tweet’s max=134

#4: One effect of BackType – I am more conscientious than ever about commenting. Comments have the effect of Google Reader shares.

#5: Lump by Presidents of the USA comes on radio. Says 20-something, “Oh that’s the classic rock station.” Lump is classic rock? Ouch!

#6: One thing vacations with little kids ain’t…restful.

#7: RT @timoreilly Derived intelligence from large data sets is a kind of interest or “float” on data. Analogy of Web 2.0 data to capital.

#8: The H-P Social Computing Lab is doing some really interesting research http://bit.ly/k7dI

#9: RT @jbordeaux re: enterprise 2.0 “And like pornography: they’ll pay too much, get over-excited after tiny results, but soon regret it.”

#10: But at least I’ve got a Sam Adams.

Twitter Bug: Truncates 140-Character Tweets (UPDATED for why it happens)

Thought I’d snap off a quick blog post. I’ve been seeing a problem on Twitter where my longer tweets were being truncated at 130 characters. For example, this 140-character tweet got cut off mid-word.

Love this post by Atlassian’s @barconati Connectbeam Connects | Confluence Customers Beam http://bit.ly/5VhY >> why E2.0 integrati …

I did a bit of QA on-the-fly on Twitter. I found that tweets of 137 and 139 characters were just fine. It was only the exactly 140-character tweets that were being truncated.

A couple fellow tweeters participated in the QA. Nathan Bobbin (@nbobbin) got the same problem. But Jacqueline (@laikas) was just fine with her 140-character tweets.

So you may not be seeing this bug. But if you are, a simple solution is to limit tweets to 139 characters. A bit of forced brevity, eh?

*****

UPDATE: There is an answer for this problem, courtesy of GetSatisfaction user Eridanus. Apparently special characters are stored by Twitter as more than one character. So you think you’re righting 140 characters, but it’s actually longer as far as Twitter is concerned. In the tweet above, I used the characters: >>. Here’s what Eridanus had to say:

Tweet No. 1:
Reading: Confluence 2.10 – Just in time for the Holidays http://bit.ly/L45rs >> Cool widget connectors (Flickr, SlideShare, YouTub ……

Tweet No. 2:
Love this post by Atlassian’s @barconati Connectbeam Connects | Confluence Customers Beam http://bit.ly/5VhY >> why E2.0 integrati ……

In both cases, the > is the special character, which is represented as a so-called HTML entity:

> is represented internally as & gt ;
< is represented internally as & lt ; (but without the spaces)

(I had to include spaces in the entities to prevent Get satisfaction “obligingly” converting them into the characters).

So >> looks like 2 characters, but actually requires as much space as 8 normal ones (i.e. 6 more characters than you’d expect).

And then Twitter wastes a few characters for the ellipses …..! – making up the usual 140.

Crowdsourced answer. Awesome.

*****

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90-9-1 Participation and Enterprise Social Software Adoption

In 2006, Jakob Nielsen postulated that participation in online communities followed these characteristics:

  • 90% of users are lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
  • 9% of users contribute from time to time, but other priorities dominate their time.
  • 1% of users participate a lot and account for most contributions: it can seem as if they don’t have lives because they often post just minutes after whatever event they’re commenting on occurs.

This was groundbreaking research, and it is a terrific framework for thinking about communities. Its lessons can help sites design better interactions.

The 90-9-1 is useful for thinking about employee participation as well. The more people who participate, the more Enterprise 2.0 advances companies’ fortunes.

But in really thinking about communities, it occurred to me that 90-9-1 is an incomplete basis for considering participation inside the enterprise. In reality out on the web, participation levels for a typical site are more aptly described by the pyramid below:

true-rates-of-online-participation1

Of course, this is a fairly useless graphic for the consumer Web. Obviously, the vast majority of users don’t visit any single site. Tell me something I don’t know.

Inside a company, this graphic becomes critical. Consumers can live with splintered participation on various websites, be they Web 2.0 or Web 1.0. But this approach is terrible inside companies.

For instance, assume there’s a major initiative underway inside a company. Some employees are using the company wiki, but others never visit the wiki. They use email and PowerPoint decks to trade information and ideas. As things progress, some employees think to check the wiki for new items. Others never check the wiki, and exclusively head out to Google to find information, even if the same or better information has already been added by colleagues to the wiki.

Splintered participation. Out on the consumer web, it’s a personal choice. Inside companies, it’s inefficiency.

For companies to get full benefit from the social productivity tools deployed to employees, participation has got to look better than 99-0.90-0.09-0.01.

Improve Tools Visibility

A recent blog post by Oliver Marks on ZDNet examined integration of Enterprise 2.0 inside companies. This quote hypothesized a cause for low adoption of wikis and blogs in some organizations:

This is why there are so many sparsely populated wikis and blogs slowly twisting in the wind in the corporate world – because they were set up as tentative trial balloons with no clear utility or guidelines for expected use.

The gist of his point is that before you let these apps in your door, know why you want to use them. That’s solid advice, and should be clearer for projects from the start.

I’d like to suggest another way to influence participation inside companies. Wait…let me quote Dinesh Tantri’s idea for increasing participation:

We would need some means of allowing users to carry these services in a virtual backpack. This backpack should be available at all points where users interact with information systems. (Desktop, Intranet, Extranet and probably enterprise apps ). Browser and desktop extensions are one easy way of doing this. Perhaps smarter ways of doing this in a browser/platform agnostic way will emerge. The point is, usability and the interaction design of Enterprise 2.0 deployments has to be high on the agenda of enterprises trying to leverage them.

The idea is embedding social software into the regular tools and activities that employees already use. Dennis Howlett advocates this with the ESME microblogging project with which he works. It’s an idea I like a lot.

If you think about how things work out on the web, awareness grows for tools like Facebook, Twitter, Digg, FriendFeed, etc. as people find about them naturally. There’s no policy prescription for using these apps. They come into view in the course of one’s dealing on the web.

What I like about Dinesh’s idea is that it lets the “99%” crowd, those who never visit a particular site, discover content, conversations and people that are relevant to their day-to-day jobs. This raises their awareness. When you run a search and find out that something relevant to you is already on someone’s blog, or the wiki or microshared, you suddenly have more interest in that tool. That awareness is important for any tool, even more so when its use is not mandated by senior management.

Raising awareness of social software tools, content and users. A critical component of a successful rollout of Enterprise 2.0.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Twitter’s Valuation – More Like AdultFriendFinder or YouTube?

After the recent news that Twitter turned down a $500 million acquisition offer from Facebook, I threw this tweet out there:

Twitter for $500 million..gut says that’s too low. Twitter is the defining platform for lightweight interactions. $1 billion +…

A nice discussion followed on FriendFeed about this notion. A couple counterpoints were made:

“I disagree: their model is no longer unique. Moreover, they don’t offer any particular feature that separates them from other similar models. The best they have to offer is the user base, and the right name-brand shiny shiny with a few choice features would take most of them away.”

“It’s a glorified IM network, only less functional because it’s a centralized platform with an absurd character limit that only the most ADD among us can find usable.”

My gut feeling is based on three factors:

  1. Platform
  2. Growth
  3. Comparable transactions

Here’s where I’m coming from.

Platform

Twitter has established lightweight messaging as valuable and addictive. From the simple roots of “What are you doing?”, people have morphed Twitter into a range of use cases. Open channel chats. News updates. Sharing articles and blog posts found useful. Polls. Research. Updates peers on activities and travels.

Based on tweets, companies find out how they’re doing out in the market. Twitter search yields a treasure of information about subjects. Find like-minded individuals with whom to connect.

The platform aspect is not one to be undervalued. This is a key point – platforms are worth more than any single app. Tim O’Reilly penned a thoughtful piece in this regard. With regard to Twitter as platform, he writes:

Rather than loading itself down with features, it lets others extend its reach. There are dozens of powerful third-party interface programs; there are hundreds of add-on sites and tools. Twitter even lets competitors (like FriendFeed or Facebook) slurp its content into their services. But instead of strengthening them, it seems to strengthen Twitter. It’s the new version of embrace and extend: inject and take over.

Microsharing, as Laura Fitton calls it, certainly requires some change in people’s behavior. There’s no doubt about that. But the concept of microsharing, or as it also known as, microblogging, is powerful. It’s highly flexible and has a variety of use cases.

It’s not just early adopter/social media types that are taking notice of this microsharing trend. Click here to see how often the New York Times has written about Twitter. An article on cnn.com about the Mumbai terrorists included this:

Neha Viswanathan, a former regional editor for Southeast Asia and a volunteer at Global Voices, told CNN, “Even before I actually heard of it on the news I saw stuff about this on Twitter.”

Twitter is transforming in terms of social, accessible and findable updates. True platform companies with reach and highly flexible uses don’t come along very often. Twitter is one of those platform companies.

Growth

Twitter’s early period was marked by some uneven growth. But around March 2008, the service really took off. And it hasn’t looked back:

twitter-compete-graph-oct-2008

It’s fair to say that the network effects are getting stronger and stronger for Twitter. The more people that join, as seen in the graph above, the more valuable the service becomes. Search grows more and more in importance. So more people join, meaning it’s more valuable others to join, and so on…

Don’t dismiss Twitter’s growth either. This post on the Ignite Social Media blog, which shows traffic for 37 different social websites, illustrates how challenging it is for most social networks to maintain growth these days.

Twitter’s got huge momentum right now. That’s valuable.

Comparable Transactions

I researched purchase prices for technology companies in recent years. The table below shows acquisition prices for what I’ll call “market comparables”.

twitter-valuation-comps

Valuations are more art than science. Personally, I’m a big fan of triangulating on a value by looking at what other companies have gone for.

My point with the above table is to put some context around Twitter. Danger and XenSource were important niche plays. AdultFriendFinder was valued at $500 million. Given Twitter’s role in the emerging realm of microsharing, should it have the same valuation as AdultFriendFinder?

I know that there currently is no revenue for Twitter. It’s not like they’ve tried and failed. They haven’t even tried. But my guess is Twitter’s revenue path lies beyond punching up some ads on Twitter profiles or in Twitter streams. Those may be there, but like any platform, there will be other ways to monetize.

And let us not forget YouTube’s (non existent) revenue model when Google purchased them for $1.65 billion.

What Do You Think?

I’ve laid out my thinking here. Twitter is a rare platform play that’s hit a strong growth curve. Previous acquisitions say that Twitter should be able to take advantage of those factors for any valuation.

How about you? Weigh in on the comments below, or just answer this quick poll (RSS readers – click out to take the poll!).

*****

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