Twitter – The Future – A Shift in Power

Twitter’s simplicity make it a kind of Trojan Horse – we take it through our walls and into our lives and then…

I think that when we look back we will see that Twitter was a major force in making our organizations flatter, more transparent, more democratic, i.e., more like networks. For if we are honest with ourselves, we will observe that most organizations are more like Feudal Kingdoms than a modern state, let alone a network.

For many years thinkers have wondered how organizations could become more open. But even though it was clear that being open brought many advantages – more innovation, more speed, better ability to cope with change, better morale, lower costs – the old control system could not be shifted.

Umair Haque feels that this old top-down and manipulative model cannot be sustained and that a new model based on trust and authentic relationships will have to replace our exploitative model:

As our research [...]notes, the fact is: companies who can build authentic, honest, open, collaborative relationships with consumers are significantly more profitable (and sustainably profitable) than companies who treat consumers deceptively, antagonistically, and manipulatively.

True power isn’t the power to manipulate. It’s the power to create. There is a world of difference between the two – that orthodox economics has yet to understand.

Many know this but still have not been able to change. Even the advent of other social tools failed to take. The old culture was just too strong.

We, the Fast Blog team, think that Twitter may be the best starting point for any organization to open up and become more democratic. We agree with a cause that our colleague Jon Husband has long championed: that we have to go to Wirearchy.

The working definition of Wirearchy:

a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology.

We can see this already in place at Zappos, the pioneering e-commerce site that has used Twitterto enable a very different type of relationship structure throughout their organization.

Zappos Twitter

Everyone at Zappos has a direct connection to each other and to CEO Tony Hsieh. They also have Twitter connections to their suppliers and to their customers and are very responsive to customers and those interested in the company via Twitter. I, for instance, noticed that soon after I posted about them, their CEO started following me.

The new News Cycle – Zappos and Rob

Last week I joined Friend Feed and noticed an article on Zappos.  I posted an extract and a comment on how Zappos used Twitter on Fast Forward. I noted that the CEO of Zappos was the big Twitter user. Within 2 hours I was followed by Tony. I Tweeted the story and maybe coincidentally, Bryant Park Project interviewed the author of the article, Bill Taylor later that day. Today I streamed the interview. All in 4 days!

So now who is inside or outside of this story? Are we not all inside it? isn’t this amazing?

Talking about news cycles, Twitter is changing how we get news and who we get it from. No longer is news the sole work of professional journalists and media organizations. Mumbai in 2008 was the Tipping Point when it was seen by all that Twitter was THE WAY to follow breaking news.

Tweetgridmumbai

Here is how J P Rangaswami, CIO of BT and an excellent blogger, described it:

Hundreds, possibly thousands, of reporters. Many tweeting live. Many with original material. Many retweeting (RT-ing) others’ tweets, passing the news on at incredible speed. Sharing news of loved ones’ safety. Broadcasting contact numbers, cries for help, requests for resources ranging from contact information to blood. All at a speed that nothing else can match.

It’s of course not just us the citizen who goes to Twitter first but so now also go members of the formal media. The formal media are going to have to get good at using it too and as they do – they will be affected. Twitter will work its Trojan Horse effect on them too.

Tweetdeck

As the search and the aggregation tools like Tweetdeck evolve, an increasing number of people like me are starting their workdays with a look at their Twitter dashboard first. The consumers of news and the producers of news in Twitter are becoming one and the same – this I think presages how we all will access and experience news in the future. These tools enable you to filter the noise –I have a group of my close friends, another for all those that are interested in public media and then I set up special groups for events that I am following. So during the Presidential Election, or the financial crisis in September – I had the full power of Twitter pulling in news and opinion. In addition, the “journalists of the future” may well be you and me as we witness an event and use our phone to add to the Twitterverse.

In a more uncertain world, with bad weatherfires, earthquakes etc, Twitter is proving to be an ideal tool for enabling everyone to cope well with emergencies.

Twitter is becoming an essential part of the formal media with more and more newspapers and stations using it. Informal media” is using it effectively as well. See, for an example, how the Israel Defense Force is using it to get their “story” across in Gaza.

What is clear now is that Twitter is becoming mainstream – it has broken out of the early adopter community.

Twittergrowthsept2008

According to Compete, the growth rate for Twitter was 752%, for a total of 4.43 million unique visitors in December 2008. At the start of 2008, Twitter had only around 500,000 unique monthly visitors. Source: Mashable/Compete, Jan 9, 2009.

Twitter also seems to have solved many of its teething problems – volume use is holding up now.The big question left for the future is what will its business model be. Maybe, as my blog colleagues Bill Ives suggests, its future is to sell itself to a larger entity – what is unlikely is that it will go away.

For the trend is for more democracy and less top-down. Twitter is emerging as the most powerful tool out there to help people and organizations make this huge shift in their mindsets. It is able to pull this off because in itself it is so simple and so LIGHT. It works like a virus gradually installing itself as its value becomes more evident. Its feedback mechanism is so positive that we get drawn in to its ecosystem and get so much value out of it that we stick around.

Maybe like smoking or good scotch, you have to persevere for a bit at the outset until you get your core group in place. But once you know that there is a group out there who care for you – you cannot keep away. Once it is there, then the full value of the Twitterverse is open to you.

And so, a seemingly tiny tool, one that many have reflexively mocked without really understanding it, may prove to have the power to change our world for the better.

I’d love your feedback – feel free to post it to these pages or Tweet me at “robpatrob”.

And, of course, Happy Tweeting!

http://twitter.com/robpatrob

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