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Twitter Takes Center Stage At Enterprise 2.0

Twitter is the social driver of building a social business. I've been watching as the use of Twitter during keynotes has evolved from providing a running commentary of a keynote's value to becoming the keynote itself. At Tuesday's opening sessions of Enterprise 2.0 Boston, a UBM TechWeb event, Twitter and keynotes became deeply intertwined.

You can go back and look at the keynote stream--and the rest of the conference stream--at #E2conf, but consider these examples of how Twitter is now integrated with the keynote. The Twitter commentary and photos have become a quick and entertaining way for the audience to get to know one another. Using tweets as keynote slides was demonstrated by Nathan Bricklin, senior VP and head of social strategy for Wells Fargo wholesale services. And Twitter as a scientific tool to measure activity and interest was demonstrated by Michael Wu, principal scientist, analytics, at Lithium Technologies.

The use of Twitter in keynotes is a good metaphor for the use of social network products in the enterprise. Remember when Twitter was berated as too short at 140 characters, too ephemeral in its lifespan, and just too silly in content to ever be considered a serious enterprise product? Many of those arguments were also used against Facebook-like social interaction, Yammer and Chatter-like discussion, and Pinterest-like image streams.

The social network attributes so popular in the consumer world have not changed their makeup as they enter the corporate space, as much as the corporate world is changing to adapt to the social environment. At Enterprise 2.0 (and its sister program, Mobile Connect, held in the same venue), the corporate-oriented social network capabilities of security and privacy were emphasized more than in their consumer realm, but the ability to share, inform, and educate via the social nets is clearly changing the business structures of old.

[ See our special report: E2 Social Boston 2012. ]

In many ways, old business structures--command and control from the top down--have not kept up with the social-aware corporation. Businesses are now made up of dispersed companies with mobile workforces comprised of full-time, part-time, and contract employees. The ability to motivate and manage these new organizational models are beyond the capabilities of the top-down business models and have moved corporate social network strategies from a "nice to have" to a "must-have" category.

Here are some the other highlights I observed at Enterprise 2.0 Tuesday.

-- Gamification at FedEx. Step one: do not call it gamification, warned Bryan Barringer, manager of enterprise collaboration implementation at FedEx Services. However, the use of badges and--let's just call them game-like activities--has the capability to bind employees and generate new ideas that is unmatched by more structured corporate activities.

-- Measuring social influence has always been a difficult task. Michael Wu's comparison of social influence measurement to Google Web searches makes great sense. Google uses pages, connections to those pages, and the value of those connections to develop a page rank for Web searches. Substitute people for pages, links to people, and the value of those links, and you have the basis for a true measurement of social influence.

-- Social networks can change lives. Year Up! is a non-profit organization designed to close the digital divide by providing disadvantaged youth with training in technology skills. This might sound like just one more training program until you meet the graduates. I was fortunate in being able to meet with four students that translated their training into careers. A social network that can change lives may be the most valuable social network of all.

New apps promise to inject social features across entire workflows, raising new problems for IT. In the new, all-digital Social Networking issue of InformationWeek, find out how companies are making social networking part of the way their employees work. Also in this issue: How to better manage your video data. (Free with registration.)