by Nathan Egan
on August 9, 2010

Why every company must take advantage of the "University of Twitter"

I was catching up on some reading and had an epiphany about the important role Twitter is playing as a competitive advantage for my company.

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While looking through an in-depth “special report” on social media marketing in an international journal, I found that I was already aware of 95% of the information in the article.

It was not that the magazine had done a poor job on the piece — it was actually quite thorough. My insight was that the reason I was on top of the news was — Twitter.

By surrounding myself on Twitter with a meaningful group of people who are thought leaders in business, sales and marketing, I’m constantly seeing links to the greatest sources of business insight on the planet. I’m being educated slowly but surely each and every day.

For companies, there is an important implication for this constant stream of free information.

What role can Twitter play within the structure of a corporate training department? More than 75% of Fortune 500 companies have some sort of filter in place to keep employees from languishing in Farmville for hours at a time but they’re also missing out on the most powerful training opportunity on Earth — The University of Twitter.

Let’s say I was working at a company who encouraged me to tune in to the social web every day. How would this create competitive advantage over a competitor who filtered this from employees?

  1. I would probably be much be better informed than my competitor
  2. I would know the market and industry information I need to excel in my job faster than my competition
  3. My training and development would be taking place every day instead of in some quarterly meeting
  4. The content coming at me would be extremely targeted to fill my information needs at this precise point in time.
  5. The cost of my daily “training” would be near-zero compared to formal classroom experiences
  6. I can engage in continuous learning during normal down times like waiting for a meeting to begin or even being in a queue at the airport. My training has become ubiquitous and mobile!

So what aren’t more companies taking advantage of this critical opportunity?

The first reason is a lack of understanding of what the social web is all about. Unless company executives are really immersed to the point of epiphany they’ll continue to view Twitter as something trivial and irrelevant. Undoubtedly, competitive advantage can come through understanding!

The second reason is fear. There are a lot of temptations on the social web, to be sure. But there are also a lot of temptations to abuse expense accounts, travel privileges and customer entertainment. How do companies safeguard against those opportunities to abuse? Company policies.

A well-written social media policy should explain both the benefits of engagement and the consequences for abuse.

The extraordinary benefits of learning from the social web is just too great to be ignored. At the speed of business today, every company should be taking advantage of the truly meaningful lessons of daily “training” through Twitter University.

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