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Should you encourage your employees to tweet?

It doesn’t surprise me that I’m only now learning about – and figuring out – Twitter. 

When it comes to technology, I’m laughably behind the rest of the world.  I was still listening to cassette tapes long after all of my friends converted to CDs (and no way have I ever been cool enough to pull off the excuse that I’m “retro.”);  I spent years rolling my eyes at friends who asked me, “How can you not have a cell phone?” before I finally gave in – and began subscribing to the same belief; and for way too long, I put way too much faith in my disposable cameras from Walgreens, trusting that one shot would come out decently the first time, every time – for 15 bucks a pop. 

But I’ve gotten significantly hipper in recent years (people say “hip,” right?), and while I may not own the latest version of every gadget out there, I try to maintain a general understanding of what’s new and how it works.   After all, I’m a blogger, so knowing my way around new technology probably comes in handy.  

Twitter, described as a “micro-blogging” site, is one of the fastest-growing and most popular new social networking sites.  What does that mean for you? Well, it could also be a great business asset.  How exactly? Well…people are still figuring that out, actually. 

With Twitter, users sign on and post mini-status updates (140 character or fewer) to update their “followers” or check on the latest “tweets” from those who they follow.  (Fortune better explains how it all works here.) 

Twitter itself has yet to reign in a profit, but companies like Zappos have begun using it not only to boost their business (read about it here on PCWorld), but their employment brand as well.

Perhaps the best example is online retailer Zappos, whose employees are all encouraged to have Twitter accounts, keeping them engaged by enabling them to check in with each other and interact with management.  Even better perhaps, is that it gives them a platform to reach out to potential employees.  They answer questions regarding the culture of the company for job seeker “followers.” 

Zappos might not be able to attribute its high retention rate to Twitter alone, but the adoption of this social networking tool certainly hasn’t hurt the company.  Certainly, there’s always a risk with giving your employees the kind of freedom that allows them to freely discuss their opinions and activities, but if you’ve created a company culture that treats its employees well, what better endorsement could you ask for?

Admittedly, Twitter isn’t for everyone (perhaps even me),  but it might be worth checking out.  At the very least, it would give you a conversational topic, should I ever get stuck in the elevator with Jon Stewart; at the very most, it could prove to be just one more employee engagement and retention tool. 

What do you think?  Have you tried Twitter – or perhaps another social networking site – as a business tool?  If so, has it worked for or against you?

Mary Lorenz

About Mary Lorenz

Mary is a copywriter for CareerBuilder, specializing in B2B marketing and corporate recruiting best practices and social media. In addition to creating copy for corporate advertising and marketing campaigns, she researches and writes about employee attraction, engagement and retention. Whenever possible, she makes references to pop culture. Sometimes, those references are even relevant. A New Orleans native, Mary now lives in Chicago, right down the street from the best sushi place in the city. It's awesome.
2 comments
Scott Helmes
Scott Helmes

I always find twitter confusing. It seems like a standalone version of facebook's status... which begs the question. If my employees are to use facebook to help promote my employment brand, then jump to our rockin' myspace page before commenting on our corporate blog all while inviting their friends to join through our corporate referral program... when will they have time to twitter.... or work for that matter.

Jonathan Stegall
Jonathan Stegall

Great introduction, Mary. For what it's worth, many people find Twitter more practical to use by downloading an application that connects to the service, so they don't have to keep visiting twitter.com. Many of these apps work on cell phones, but ones like twhirl run on one's computer like an Instant Messaging program would, and work very nicely. There are lots of choices; but picking one can be very useful.

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