Adding Twitter or other micro blogging tools to the AR tool box

icon-social-media-blue.jpgAnalyst relations (AR) has a number of tools available for interacting with the IT industry analysts ranging from prehistoric-based face-to-face meetings to the 19th century telephone to the 21st century TelePresence by Cisco. Social media (e.g., blogs, communities, wikis and so on) represents just the latest technology to come along to enhance the AR interaction tool box. While social media should be considered an opportunity, many AR teams see it as a challenge because they perceive that that cannot add one more item to their to-do list (see Why social media scares the analyst firms and vendor AR teams). However, if approached correctly, social media does not have to be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.

One of the new social media tools that could be very useful is the micro-blog (e.g., Twitter, Jaiku and Pownce). Micro-blogs are easy to learn, simple to experiment with and, best of all, free. Micro-blogs could be a constructive one-to-many communications tool, especially for fast-breaking hot news.

Micro-blogs are a type of communication that enable users to type brief text updates (e.g., 140 characters for Twitter) and post them to be viewed by either anyone or by a limited group managed by the user. It resembles instant messaging in its brevity, but offers one-to-many distribution and message archiving capabilities.

Micro-blogs look like they could be very useful when AR has to communicate with analysts on hot news where speed is of the essence. Examples include:

  • Major merger and acquisition announcement demand fast replies. For instance, during the early hours after the Microsoft-Yahoo! takeover announcement, one or both AR teams could have been using micro-blogs to answer an analyst’s questions in real time while the analyst was on the phone with reporters (and not accessible by phone) or while the analysts were writing their blogs
  • Quarterly earnings announcements often have a multitude of short questions about this number or that number
  • Color commentary on executive speeches during analysts events for both in-person audience members or those watching on a webcast might be better served with a microblog

Because readers can scan past posts quickly, a micro-blog can also become a real-time FAQ (frequently asked questions) stream eliminating the need to answer the same question over and over.

It only takes minutes to set up an account on most micro-blog platforms, so AR teams can set up short-lived accounts for specific events like vendorname1Q08earnings. A quick e-mail to a distribution list can alert analysts about the new account to follow. Non-analysts trying to follow the one-time account can be easily blocked to control the readership. After the event is over, the AR team can make a copy of the traffic and delete the account.

Another useful aspect of the micro-blog is that AR and PR teams can do a postmortem review of questions and comments to improve processes.

One challenge for AR teams looking to adopt micro-blogging is that there are few analysts that are currently reading micro-blogs. As consequence, AR teams will have to educate the analysts about micro-blogging and sell them on the value of reading a micro-blog in specific situations. Do not be surprised if some analysts flat out reject the idea. However, a small number will probably be intrigued and willing to participate. Starting with a small group of the analysts who have the right mindset will permit the AR team to learn how to use this new tool in a non-pressure situation.

SageCircle Technique: Because of micro-blogging’s zero startup cost, short learning curve (minutes) and nearly zero switching costs, AR teams should jump in and start a pilot project to experiment. Steps would include:

  • Sign up for a micro-blog account (Twitter is currently the most popular platform)
  • Follow a few analysts to see how it works (see below for suggestions)
  • Ask your analysts about their current and potential uses of socialmedia to build an e-mail alert list
  • Sign up for a separate account as a test one-time stream and then conduct a trial “event” using colleagues and SageCircle strategists
  • Pick a real event to micro-blog. It should be relatively non-controversial with a topic that is conducive to short entries. Invite a few trusted analysts to participate with the explicit understanding that it is an experiment and will no doubt have some rough spots

Updated 3/19/08 – Added reference to SageCircle’s Analyst Twitter Directory 

Rather than update this post, analyst Twitter addresses are now maintained in a dedicated page called the Analyst Twitter Directory. The directory can be found in the Pages box in the left nav bar.

Analysts that are active Twitter users include AMR’s Phil Fersht and Jon Yarmis, Forrester’s Josh BernoffPeter KimCharlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang, Freeform Dynamics Jon Collins, Monash Research’s Curt Monash, Ovum’s David Mitchell, Redmonk’s Michael Cote, James Governor and Steve O’Grady, SageCircle’s Carter Lusher and The451’s Vishy Venugopalan. BTW, I am always looking for analysts and others to follow on Twitter. If you are on Twitter or know an industry analyst that tweets, please send me the address at carter [at] sagecircle dot com.

AR managers – If you do decide to set up a Twitter account, please add “AR (sage)” to your bio so that I can track then number of AR managers on Twitter. Thanks.

Bottom Line: Because of its short text nature, micro-blogging will never become a primary form of communications. However, micro-blogging can be a practical tool for specific situations. AR teams should start pilot programs to evaluate the relevance of micro-blogs to their situations.
Question: Analysts – Would you consider micro-blogs a useful way to get shorts pieces of information or your questions answered when you are under a time constraint? AR teams – What issues concern you when it comes to adopting micro-blogging?
Are you thinking about experimenting with social media? SageCircle can Help – Social media represents new opportunities and challenges to AR teams. SageCircle can help AR teams by:

  • Providing on-site or distance learning sessions to get AR teams up to speed on social media and how it might be adopted
  • Acting as a sounding board as you brainstorm how to add social media to the AR tool box
  • Advising on how to develop a pilot program to experiment with social media
  • Playing the role of analyst in social media experiments and providing critiques of how the experiment went

Call 650-274-8309 or e-mail info (at) sagecircle dot com for more information. Also follow Carter’s commentary to get a feel for how information is now being transmitted using micro-blogging.

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