The strength of weak ties
I have more than a thousand friends, can tell you what Shaquille O’Neal and Paris Hilton are thinking of right now and got my last job without ever having applied for it. No, I’m not a celebrity or a multi-millionaire. I’m a citizen of the newly ‘flattened’ world [ (Friedman, 2007) ] and an avid user of Social Networking Sites (SNS’s). SNS’s such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are rewriting the way individuals communicate and express themselves. With the help of Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, mashups and other social websites, new and creative ways of communication are being developed, transgressing geographic and cultural boundaries (Fu et al., 2007) [ (IBM, 2007) ]. So, what are social networking sites? Boyd and Ellison (2007) define them as web-based services that allow individuals to construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection and view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. Aided by the proliferation of laptops, erosion of the traditional concept of office hours and working from home, these SNS’s are having a major impact on business networking, marketing, human resources, customer relations and even employee motivation and loyalty! [ (MessageLabs, 2007) ] A review of existing academic research suggests that since the advent of SNS’s, majority of the research is focused on defining what SNS’s are, how they are structured and why they exist. Very little research goes beyond into the realm of analysing a SNS and discussing its possible impacts on organisations. The purpose of this research is to analyse a specific SNS – Twitter, which has garnered a lot of attention in the popular media. Its phenomenal growth since its inception suggests that it has the potential to make a huge impact on organisations worldwide and through this paper, I aim to discuss how organisations can capitalise on its potential and grow themselves further. Twitter
Twitter is a microblogging service for those who’ve always wanted to share their lives with others but didn’t have the time or inclination to write a wordy blog. The simplicity of Twitter lies in its limit of 140 characters (hence, the term micro-blog) which users must abide by when posting a message. Messages can be sent via a variety of mediums – online, mobile phone or even SMS (Short Messaging System). Users are required to register with a unique username and can then choose to post messages (a.k.a ‘tweets’) at their leisure. Users (a.k.a ‘Tweeters’) can decide which fellow Tweeters they want to ‘follow’ i.e. get regular updates from. The default setting on Twitter is public and one can follow another person’s tweets without seeking any prior authorisation from them. Another interesting thing to note about Twitter is that the person who you are’ following’ is under no-obligation to return the favour. This makes for a uni-directed mode of communication. As mentioned above, Twitter differs from the traditional concept of blogging in two ways. Firstly, it fulfils the need for a faster mode of communication through its 140 character limit. This limit also helps reduce the amount of time and effort required for content generation. Secondly, where a keen blogger may write a post once a day, a Tweeter may tweet several times a day. (Java et al., 2007). Over the last four years, Twitter has grown immensely. As of mid-April, it had a 106 million registered users, increasing at the rate of 300,000 new users every day, together posting 55 million tweets every 24 hours [ (Sullivan, 2010) ]. This phenomenal growth has obviously attracted a lot of attention from organisations worldwide as they are interested in the huge marketing potential and prospective customer base. It has also been embraced by news organisations and government services to send and receive updates during...